Of boycott, bigotry and better Indians

Is it 'woke' to be a nationalist now? Is patriotism equal to hyper-nationalism? Do we really have to hate others to love ourselves? Is it mandatory to demean our fellow Indians...

Published: 23rd October 2022 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st October 2022 09:17 PM   |  A+A-

On a recent flight from Jaipur to Mumbai, an elderly group of Haji men and women, seated at the rear of the aircraft, dressed in their regional attire, suddenly found themselves being accused of being smelly, as a Hindu passenger raucously proclaimed, "Oh, it smells like someone’s taken a s**t at the back."

The other passengers laughed, knowing fully that the juvenile comment was, in fact, a camouflaged racist, bigoted attack. The entire flight kept watching.

A bank commercial starring Aamir Khan and Kiara Advani recently went viral as its subliminal message promoting gender equality was seen to be anti-Hindu and against age-old social and religious traditions by invisible custodians. Soon, the call for 'boycott' emerged on Twitter. It joined the long list of ads that have been targeted in the past -- Tanishq, Fabindia and Dabur India. Would these custodians have boycotted the commercial if, instead of Aamir, the ad had starred a popular Hindu actor who likes mangoes?

An old Muslim man once asked me, "Beta, why do they tell us to go back to Pakistan? Don't they realise that we could have done so in 1947, but we didn't; we chose India. We are Indians by choice, not accidental Indians by birth."

Gandhiji's Three Wise Monkeys supposedly have received an OS update as Big Brother and his minions decide what we can see (ban the ads), eat (nine-day meat sale ban and momos cause cancer), hear (which musical artists we can listen to) and speak (oh, this one is a long list).

On September 18, people in Leicester, UK, watched in alarm as masked South Asian men clashed on the streets. "Have they come to take back the Kohinoor and empty out the British Museum, now that the Queen is dead?" the Leicesterians wondered.

A minister in the UK blamed it on the recent influx of hardline, Right-wing migrants from India. The others said it was due to a cricket match. Some Indians must have looked out of their windows and for a moment thought that they were back in North East Delhi, Ahmedabad, Baduria or Bhagalpur, and said, "It’s just like home," before going back to watching desi serials.

While this new India evolves, shedding off its secular avatar, and hatred becomes openly acceptable, a flipside of secularism holds on for dear life.

In Kolkata, a puja pandal was built by the Muslim community of Alimuddin Street for the two Hindu families who live there. In Kashmir's Bhaderwah, the Muslim residents joined in to help carry six idols, each weighing 500 kg, to help instal them at the recently renovated Shiv Temple on a hilltop at Kursari.

Is it 'woke' to be a nationalist now? Is patriotism equal to hyper-nationalism? Do we really have to hate others to love ourselves? Is it mandatory to demean our fellow Indians to call ourselves better Indians? Who decides who is better Indian, anyway? The ones who chose this country or the ones who were born in it?

Anirban Bhattacharyya is an author, actor and standup comic. He can be reached at anirbanauthor@gmail.com

India Matters


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