Guns N Roses

A restarted, and perhaps soon restopped, Delhi –  Lahore bus service could not do it.

The Samjhauta Express train service through the Wagah-Attari border crossing could not do it.

Shimla and Agra accords could not do it.

Handshakes at Davos and the UN could not do it.

Having a PM on one side and President on the other, born in territory on the “other” side, could not do it.

Yet, the unthinkable has happened. Catalysed by an unexpected event.

Extreme right-wing groups, that comprise most of the relevant population in each country, the ones supported by democratic governments, the ones who know what is good for everyone else and do not hesitate to intimidate others into agreeing with them, in antagonistic neighbours India and Pakistan, are now fighting for a common cause.

Can you believe it?

It is apparently a cause worth fighting for. After all, in a modern society, do you really have a cause, that will be supported by the democratic government of the day, if you do not intimidate others into agreeing with you, for their own good of course?

It passed this litmus test of worthiness.

No, it is not Kashmir that we are talking about.

Not even Baluchistan.

We are talking about Valentine’s Day celebrations.

The Islamabad (capital of Pakistan) High Court has banned Valentine’s Day celebrations at public places in Pakistan acting on a petition claiming it to be un-Islamic.

Apparently, it was important that it was banned because it was providing enjoyment for youngsters without throwing bombs or undertaking suicide missions while celebrating. Not even intimidating others into joining their celebrations.

It was important it was banned because businesses, without threatening or intimidating customers, were managing to sell everything from roses to cars to houses to salt to mobilephones to shoes to vegetables to floor tiles to butter to light-bulbs. This could only lead to greater economic activity and economic liberation. Who has it ever helped? 

It was important it was banned because in a modern society, often claiming to be democratic, only expressions of hate are to be allowed in public places, especially when backed by tactics of intimidation.

It was important it was banned because youngsters were spending their own time and money on the celebrations and letting others live. Who in a sane, modern society can call this a celebration? Especially if you are a leader of some sort who knows one can celebrate only when one gets to spend other people’s money.

Though initially stumped by the verdict as it took away the primary reason for their existence, of Pakistan-bashing, groups on the Indian side of the fence have displayed their maturity by applauding the decision and calling upon the Indian government to consider meritorious judges of the Pakistan High Courts for the many positions lying vacant in the Indian High Courts. As the request was backed by violent demonstrations and looting and arson, the government has agreed to consider the request sympathetically.

In deference to the secular nature of Indian society, these groups have refrained from calling Valentine’s Day celebrations un-Islamic or un-Hindu, plumping for a secular un-Indian instead. They have also identified it as an insidious western ploy to capture the minds and hearts of our responsible, intelligent, sensitive youngsters. Our responsible, sensitive and intelligent youngsters do not know what is good for them, one of the main reasons we allow them voting rights. We do. We will not let western culture corrupt our youngsters, debase our religions and denigrate our culture.

We know how. As do our political leaders.

We will shamelessly pander to rich companies in the West. We will change rules to make it possible for them to come and invest in our country and create opportunities for them to bribe decision-makers. We will raise a hue and cry when a western society seeks to reduce the number of Indian job-seekers and immigrants. So that our youngsters can get more jobs in western companies and promote Indian culture.

We will continue, year after year, to go to Davos and other destinations outside India that claim to be solving the world’s problems, on taxpayer money, to be clicked with the rich and famous and get our children admitted to Ivy League colleges. We will continue to send large delegations to western countries, especially in their pleasant summer months when it gets very hot in India, to learn about things that we will never implement here. 

We will not let our youngsters be corrupted by western influence.

We wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day.

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Game Of The Name

Because it is a myth, silly boy!

The event was a meeting of the town council to select a new name for their town where the “silly boy”, one of the younger prticipants, had been chastised for asking a logical question. At important events logical questions have only one logical response, round chastisement of the “asker”.

A new name for the town had become a necessity after it was realised that there was no earthly reason to change it.

Tempers at the council meeting had been frayed as finding a suitable name had been an uphill task. Council members had read and re-read all known epics, and some unknown ones as well, to locate a suitable name. The elders knew that if the name did not emerge from a myth, there was no way it would be recognised as a historical fact by the central government.

Not finding a name to their liking, the town council had finally decided to invent a name. And not wishing to leave a job only half done, they had also commissioned a set of popular writers to conjure up a new epic, flowing with the valour and wisdom of the ancestors of the current ruling dispensation so that the text could soon be recognised as historical fact.

There was no time to lose. Who was to say that the criteria for granting “Smart” status to a city would not be the number of times the city had changed its name without reason. Or its name being drawn from a popular myth.

It was under these extraordinary circumstances the “silly boy” had displayed the effrontery of asking for the logic behind the selection of the new name, and had been roundly chastised.

The floodgates had opened on 12th April, when the Haryana government took the decision of renaming Gurgaon to Gurugram.

The last couple of decades have sped past as our leaders have methodically gone about the task of uplifting our collective esteem by changing colonial-era names to, well, non-colonial-era names. Time flies when one is having fun.

But, as Bombay made way for Mumbai, Bangalore for Bengaluru, Calcutta for Kolkata and Madras for Chennai, there was an increasing sense of disquiet in the common man.

Would the good times soon come to an end? Are we running out of colonial-era names to change? Would we have to go back to the days when political leaders had to at least try to govern instead of changing names? What would they do once these names had been changed?

But we need not have worried.

In corporate circles they say a capable employee will always deliver value to the organisation.

So it is with able politicians, as has been my learning these past few weeks. Elect a capable leader and leave the worrying to him. He will always deliver value.

As we have perhaps seen in the case of great corporations, each business has evolved from a human need. But once that need has been satisfied, they have kept on creating unneeded needs and the common man has kept responding, by desperately needing those unneeded needs, and buying.

So is the case with the government of Haryana, that has found ways of delivering value, as is expected of able governments working for the welfare of the common man. If changing of colonial-era names is done, what stops us from changing non-colonial-era names to, well, different non-colonial-era names? Which other state government had the foresight to offer this welfare scheme to the common man of their state? Separates the men from the boys, doesn’t it?

And it is no ordinary change. It is a change dripping with historical significance. Because it is based on a mythological fact. In Mahabharat, one of the great Hindu epics, Yudhishtir, the eldest of the Pandav princes, had gifted this site to their teacher, Guru Dronacharya. Hence its original name was Gurugram, which, translated, means Village of the Teacher, to which it has been rightfully restored. We know this since it is a mythological fact. Case closed.

Delving a little deeper into the story, sorry historical fact, Guru Dronacharya was the one who refused martial arts education to Eklavya, a child of low birth. The guru who, a few years later, astounded by the prowess of the child who he had once refused to teach, asks for his thumb as guru-dakshina (offering for the teacher) so that he could never compete with the princes he was instructing. How was the guru to know that democratic and fair winds would be blowing in the 21st century, calling upon all human beings to be treated equal. How could he have envisaged that? Hence it is important that we name it after the guru and not after Eklavya.

The sigh of relief across the nation is palpable. Yes we can. We can change the names of places. Whether colonial or non-colonial.

It follows, therefore, that we will be able to dodge nuclear missiles and hydrogen bombs from hostile states.

Bareilley to Barasat and Mandu to Meerut, each self-respecting village, taluka and town is voraciously reading up historical myths to find a suitable name that will lead them to everlasting happiness. They don’t want to be left behind.

The Haryana government, it appears, even after taking this momentous decision, was humble enough to acknowledge the role the common man has played. “This has been done because of a demand from the people”, they have graciously acknowledged.

Now we know why potholes in roads have not been filled. Why electricity supply is erratic. Why there is no street lighting. Why loudspeakers are allowed to operate beyond 10 PM at night. Simply because there has been no demand from people. What other reason can there be?

But this humble acknowledgment has confused the common man. If it was a demand from the people, how many were killed and how many billions worth of property destroyed, they have demanded to know. After all, the last demand from the people in the state was for reservation by the Jat community a couple of months back in which several were killed and property worth billions destroyed, and rape allegations pertaining to which are still being investigated. When did this, the name-change, demand come from the people?

The government has clarified that for a demand from the people to be accepted by the government, it needs to be made on the night preceding the night of the full moon, at a time that is neither prior to 7 PM nor later than 8 PM, on a day when an earthquake of an intensity of at least 6.5 on the Richter scale has struck with an epicentre that is not more than a thousand miles away, the Chief Minister is wearing a pink kurta and had consumed three idlis for breakfast alongwith cold milk, and within 24 hours of the 75-year old Governor having run 100 metres in under 10 seconds.

If the above conditions are not met, then, to be successful, the demand from the people, whether made or not, will be for an ideology based decision the government has been dying to take.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, argued Juliet in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. But that was her opinion. We have ours.

Party Hall

My favourite people are at it again.

No, I am not talking about politicians.

I am not talking about business-people either.

And, neither am I talking about spiritual leaders.

I am talking about the faithful; the followers of the spiritual leaders.

They were there when a geriatric spiritual leader was accused of rape and forced confinement by two young women.

They were there, with their infirm and frail, thronging to the retreat of the spiritual leader who saw visions of some 15th century mystics, raised a private army and used children hostage as he kept law-enforcement agencies at bay with firearms.

And they are there, in thousands, at every townhall meeting held by another spiritual leader, popular on TV, who randomly imagines objects associated with a memory or experience a suffering devotee has shared; it could be a tree, a stone, a cow, or anything else. Anything. If the devotee is able to see the object imagined by this guru, the cure involves him doing an act suggested by the leader that he has not done before. If he has done that already, the cure requires him to stop doing it, or undoing it. In case he fails to see the object, which is rare, the burly security guards help him see the light.

I used to often lie awake at night, worrying for this leader. Since rape and firearm brandishing had already been taken, I would wonder if he had any means still at his disposal to distinguish himself in this crowded space.

But I needn’t have worried. Spiritual leaders will find a path.

The latest path laid out for my favourite people leads to the World Culture Festival being organised in Delhi. By yet another organisation run by yet another renowned spiritual leader. They will be there. In millions.

Because this is a private function, the army, funded by taxpayer money, has been called in to erect pontoon bridges over the Yamuna to make the venue accessible. And not without good reason. After all, as a ministry spokesperson has explained, do we want a rusty army to protect our borders? What better practice to keep them in shape than working like daily-wage labourers to construct a pontoon bridge for a private show. The shape that guarding the borders in frozen Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield, or working as part of a multinational Peace Keeping Force operating under the UN banner in Africa, and many others, could not give them.

In addition, of course, to “in public interest”, that most transparent and explicit of terms.

To do their bit for the highly respected forces, patriotic citizens are sending invitations to the army to come and fix their light-bulbs and mow their lawns. What if I cannot guard the nation’s borders. I can contribute by keeping the armed forces in good shape. And because it will be “in public interest”. Such patriotism never fails to move me.

And because doing so has been banned by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the function is being held on the flood plains of the Yamuna, facilitated by No Objection certificates from several agencies. And because it is such a sensitive subject, the only other structure allowed to come up is an ancient temple constructed fifteen or so years back.

Apparently flood-plain destruction could lead to floods. But how is a spiritual leader, or anyone else, to know? Did anyone know that topography alteration and unchecked human activity on the riverside, could make the Uttarakhand floods a few years back so devastating, before the devastation happened? Could anyone know that haphazard construction along the banks of lakes, blocking channels which would have normally allowed rain water to drain out, would cause unprecedented floods in Chennai, before the floods happened? How is anyone to know that flood-plain destruction could lead to floods, before they actually happen?

The spiritual guru, himself, has spoken about how 100,000 volunteers had been releasing eco-enzymes into the Yamuna to improve the river’s water quality and the improvement could be gauged from the fact that water buffaloes, which had shunned the river in the past, had now come back to it. Since these enzymes have neither been tested by any scientific body for their efficacy, nor has the organisation asked for permission from the Central Board of Pollution Control before releasing them, what the guru is saying must be true. Moreover, these eco-enzymes are so effective that they do not appear to have been used for cleaning-up and other major river system.

Moreover, now the Central government has also given him a character certificate and clarified that his intentions cannot be doubted as he is committed to protecting the environment. They know.

In all fairness, the Delhi government has responded to the questions asked by NGT and washed its hands off the controversy, citing conflict of interest. They come into the picture only if there are floods, they have clarified. They have no role to play in preventing floods. And it is logical, they say. If they were to prevent floods from happening, how would they ever get to discharge their duty in the event of floods as there would be no floods.

Even Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has objected to being unfairly targeted by NGT. “We have only issued a No Objection certificate. It does not mean they start building. Where in our certificate does it say they can go ahead and build?”

Answer that.

The Prime Minister and President have been slated to participate as is a private function. Like they participate in private functions of the common man. The President, since, appears to have withdrawn.

An NGT bench has directed the organisers to pay Rupees 5 crores as environmental compensation, down from the 120 crores apparently being considered at one stage, and permitted the event to go ahead. As can be expected from a spiritual organisation, it does not appear to be facing any difficulty in paying this fairly substantial amount, even though it says it is considering an appeal in the Supreme Court against this order. So that my favourite people, with perhaps many political leaders, bureaucrats and business leaders in their ranks, can go and benefit from the spiritual experience that starts today.

A leading businessman, meanwhile, seeing an opportunity that only successful, seasoned businesspersons can, has applied to DDA for holding his daughter’s birthday party next month on the Yamuna flood-plains alongwith a request to the Army to serve drinks at the event, to keep them in shape and “in public interest”. At Rupees 5 crores (approx. USD 750,000) for 3 days for a space of 48 acres, that could be illegally expanded to cover a thousand acres, it sounds like a great bargain. The Yamuna flood-plains could become the most sought-after Party Hall yet.

What’s the beef?

Unequivocal.

Unambiguous.

In keeping with the stature of his office, the Prime Minister has ensured that the above two words cannot be used as adjectives for the message he has sent out.

The message he sent out was to senior ministers in his government, who were seen to be making unequivocal, unambiguous statements, to keep the communal pot boiling, as is the responsibility of senior ministers. If they don’t, who will?

These senior ministers had been forced to take the responsible, mature stand they took, owing to a man being lynched just outside Delhi, the national capital. Apparently because the man was eating beef. Or planning to. In 2015.

The PM sent out the message, not directly, but through a trusted aide, who went and whispered into the ears of these senior leaders. The message whispered, as he informed the media later, was that those leaders should not make a fool of themselves and embarrass the party. This, as is clear to everyone, means that they should encourage communal harmony, peaceful co-existence and sensitivity for each other’s faith, beliefs and way of life and come out strongly against the perpetrators of violence.

The message was so un-unequivocal and so un-unambiguous, that most of the leaders whispered to, had come out with clarifications within twenty-four hours, that no such message had been whispered to them.

The trusted aide also clarified that the PM did not need to make a statement on the issue, as law and order was a state subject, and that the state government, where the lynching happened, run by a different political party, had to deal with it. He further clarified that only senior ministers in the central government, and senior leaders from other states, where the government was formed by the party in power at the Centre, were bound to make statements, as per the moral code binding all politicians, as they had nothing to do with the issue.

But we are losing the thread of the story. Of the incident.

“What were we supposed to do?” An existentialist question had been asked. By the group claiming to be responsible for the lynching. The gathered luminaries, among them representatives of the police, the judiciary and the media, were speechless. Feverish cross-talk broke out among them.

What is a group of people, claiming to represent the sentiments of a billion Hindus, like millions of other such groups, all claiming representative rights for the same billion, supposed to do in the face of a perceived slight to what they consider to be “their belief system”?

Of course, as is the case with all intellectual debates between a large mob and a smaller one, even as small as one, the debate ends in a consensus with the smaller mob getting its member/s killed mercilessly. As is the case in civil societies, in countries proclaiming to be secular, with a Constitution guaranteeing, among others, the right to freedom of religion and speech, and where the rule of law prevails, for the most part.

In this case, the “belief system” that got violated was veneration of the cow as sacred. Many Hindus believe in this.

And, of course, if you are a Hindu who does not believe in upholding the cow as sacred, you do not count, because you cannot be considered to be a Hindu if that is what your belief system is. Further, if you are a beef-eating Hindu you run the risk of being cast out of the religion. By one of the millions of small groups claiming representation rights over the same billion. A beef-eater cannot be a Hindu. Period. They know. They know because an intolerant, bigoted, hate-filled group always knows. Knows what others should do. Knows how others should behave.

And, being a Hindu no longer, your beliefs will not count. How can it be possible for anyone who is not a Hindu to have a belief system?

A senior politician, of a different political party, has waded into the dispute by calling out this elephant in the room. He has said that many Hindus also eat beef. As all reasonable statements, which could be true, and militate against the illogical beliefs of some, must, he has been forced to retract his words and clarify that what the words meant is not what he meant by those words. Clear?

The Chief Minister of Delhi, which is contiguous to the state where the lynching happened, displaying his pure, apolitical intentions, blamed all other politicians for weighing in on the issue for the purpose of getting political mileage whereas he was weighing-in selflessly.

Unseemly and unfortunate though the lynching incident is, it has led to a lot of dirty linen being washed in public, bringing clarity to a host of issues.

Non-believers have been asking if it is only Indian cows that are sacred or is it all cows.

One of the millions of small groups claiming representation rights over the same billion has clarified that the status of cows will be determined on a case-to-case basis. It has already been determined that cows in a few other countries, particularly the US and Japan, are in the “veneration-exempt” category because these nations supply us with important religious implements, such as iPhones and flat-screen TVs, which are important tools for propagation of the Hindu faith. For a continued supply of these goods, it is necessary that people in these countries continue to consume beef as it is a part of their diet. Leaders in these countries have expressed a sigh of relief and thanked the one of millions of small groups claiming representation rights over the same billion issuing this clarification.

People in other countries, which do not produce any tools that are useful in the propagation of the Hindu faith, have no need to consume beef, as they don’t do anything that is of value to the human race. As such, cows in these countries are equally sacred and should be protected. If these countries, with whom we have no material trade ties, don’t agree to veneration of cows, we will stop trading relationships with them, was the hard stand taken, rooted in faith and ideology.

Moreover, with clean water and air in some places, as well as wholesome, abundant nutrition, available to bovines, many countries are not able to produce cows of the same religious intensity and fervour as in India. With their diet of plastic and trash, frequent run-ins with street dogs and urchins when let loose by the owner, cows in India are on an altogether different plane. Hence, in order that the quality of the stock is not diluted, it is best cows in some nations stay off the venerable list.

Meanwhile, cows in the US have gone on strike. They want better working conditions and a more meaningful life. They have appealed to the President to arrange for H-1B visas for them to work in India where they can live in misery and be used by one of the millions of small groups claiming representation rights over the same billion, for justifying their actions. They want their whole existence to be useful to someone. Not merely their body.

Many of the millions of small groups claiming representation rights over the same billion are hurt by the accusations of intolerance levelled against them. In all fairness, they say, they have always been flexible.

After all, did they prevent recent occupiers from the West from consuming beef? Did they prevent earlier occupiers from West and North Asia from consuming beef? Even though they had no power to stop them, they did not. How can they be called intolerant? Even today, do they prevent tourists from eating beef? Tourists bring money. Money is useful in pursuit of religion.

Another group, smaller than the group against consumption of beef, and hence more representative of the entire religion, has decried the consumption of any meat, be it fish, chicken, or anything else, and have proceeded to hack down dissenters.

Yet another group, smaller than the second, and hence the most representative of the religion, has decried the consumption of sense-aggravating items like onions. In keeping with the peaceful philosophy of their faith, they have proceeded to hack down dissenters.

As per laws of the land, the only way to settle an intellectual debate is by hacking down of the weaker by the more populous.

Large corporations, as always, have been quick to react. Life insurance companies have revised their application process and, just after the question “Do you have any existing medical condition” and before “Are you a smoker”, have added ““Are you fond of eating food that could get you killed by people who find it objectionable?”. Premia for people responding with a “Yes” have been revised accordingly. Many airlines, as a preventive safety measure, just after “Has your check-in baggage been packed by you?” and before “Are you carrying anything on behalf of someone else?” have added a question “Are you fond of eating any food that could get you killed by people who find it objectionable?”

Lest this article convey the impression that the millions of small groups claiming representation rights over the same billion, seek to create inter-faith disharmony, I apologise. These millions of small groups claiming representation rights over the same billion are impartial dispensers of justice, the kangaroo court way. In the last couple of years, several “rationalists”, Hindu by birth, advocating objective beliefs over myths in pursuit of faith, have been killed by one or the other of the millions of small groups claiming representation rights over the same billion.

As a result, the state apparatus has asked the common man to be sensitive to the belief systems of others. To the belief systems of small groups claiming representation rights over the same billion. Naturally, this has been done for the benefit of the common man.

The bravery of these groups is infectious. They never identify themselves. They never square up for a debate. Their bravery in the face of odds when faced with an enemy, much fewer in number, unarmed, without any history of being aggressive, is inspiring a whole generation.

What should we call them? Cow-ards?

Con-science

Do you want more evidence?

The words were spoken calmly. Each syllable clearly standing out, much like the character of Professor Snape in the Harry Potter movies enunciating his lines, speaking to a young, disbelieving Harry. The voice was soft, barely audible. But they had the effect of a thunderclap on the listener.

A hush descended over the audience.

“Nnnno”, came the feeble reply, as soon as he came to. But for the audience the matter had already been settled.

The speaker of “Nnnno” was a renowned scientist. In a panel discussion on the existence and usage of an Access Control System superior to the ones used today, he had dared to question the veracity of claims made by a prominent leader of a political party, who had produced arguments in favour of the fact. The fact, as the leader had knowledgeably articulated, was that there were, indeed, Access Control Systems superior to the ones used today, that were commonly used. 

After some light debate, while patronising the lack of knowledge of the scientist and hoping he would back off and avoid a public embarrassment, the political leader had finally got irked and, rising to his full height, said, “have you not heard of the ‘Laxman Rekha’?” which had produced a stunned silence in the hall, to break which he had calmly queried, “do you want more evidence?”

Now who has not heard of the ‘Laxman Rekha’, the magical access control system practiced by Laxman who, while going away to look for his brother Ram in the jungle, had drawn a line around Ram’s wife Seeta’s dwelling to ensure nobody could cross that line and harm her? What was it if not access control? Created, not be maniacal data-punching into a computer and issuing plastic cards, but simply by drawing a line with the tip of one of the arrows in his quiver. Activated neither by proximity nor by insertion of the issued card, but by the mere presence of an individual in the vicinity, hence based on advanced bio-technology.

The scientist, clearly, had not researched his facts.

The Prime Minister had set the ball rolling immediately after winning the election and forming a new government, by informing an incredulous crowd at a rally that plastic surgery was commonly practiced in the country in ancient times.

His claim was met with a stony silence. The PM had paused, expecting a thunderous ovation. But he had reckoned without the rationality of the gathered crowd. Sensing the mood, which he was so good at, having only recently become PM, he weighed his options. Based on a long and old tradition, evidence was looked down upon, particularly when one had to provide it. But this was not your usual situation. The credibility of the PM, and of the new government, was at stake. He reluctantly asked, “How do you think Lord Ganesh got the head of an elephant?”

It was a rhetorical question, and the crowd erupted in response. The smoking gun, with fresh fingerprints, had been produced. No other evidence was required.

Soon after, in another rally, the Home Minister informed the gathered crowd that genetic sciences were commonly practiced during the time of the Mahabharat.

The crowd was taken aback. They had heard about the plastic surgery capability that had been revealed to a crowd at another place by the PM, but were not, it appears, ready for another blow to their dearly held beliefs. Displaying traits of an informed, logical crowd, they met the claim with a stony silence.

It was the Home Minister’s turn to be taken aback. After the tough time the PM had faced in convincing a crowd of the nation’s ancient plastic surgery capability, he had expected this disclosure to be met with less resistance. But he had reckoned without the rationality of crowds attending political rallies.

Faced with a similar dilemma as the PM a few days back, he asked, “how do you think Karn was born outside his mother’s womb?”

Once again, it was a rhetorical question, and once again, as only a logical crowd would, it erupted in response. Could this be real? Was it possible to produce two solid pieces of evidence in such quick succession? Who had not watched the serialisation of the Mahabharat on TV only a few years back? How had they missed this crucial part? But they were a generous crowd. They recognised greatness when they saw it. They acknowledged that the Home Minister had been able to rise to his exalted position only because of such powers of observation which he was now sharing with them. They had missed the part as they are ordinary mortals. With these happy thoughts, the rally ended.

The ruling party has been on a roll ever since. Skeletons have been tumbling out of cupboards all over the country.

We now know that we discovered Pythagoras’ theorem, even though we did not even have anyone named Pythagoras in any of our myths. Having had to make a choice between installing Pythagoras amid our pantheon of Gods and Goddesses and lending the discovery to someone else where the name would be more likely to appear in myths, we apparently lent it to the Greeks.

Flying was common. In aircraft alongwith other people, as well as solo. Who has not heard of Raavan flying off with Seeta in the ‘Pushpak Vimaan’? Who dare question that Hanuman flew off to ‘Doonagiri Parbat’ in the Himalayas to get the ‘Sanjeevni Booti’, a medicine, for Laxman, when he was struck by an arrow? Would Laxman not be dead if Hanuman had not flown solo? Even though not required, sketches have emerged of huge rectangular boxes which do not adhere to any of the laws of flying discovered by the modern world. If ancients could make those boxes fly, they could make anything fly.

And can anyone question the availability of nuclear missiles? Who can forget Ram and Laxman, in the televised version of Ramayan, touching an arrow to their forehead, saying a silent prayer, and unleashing terrible death and destruction with the missile? They even propagated the concept of the nuclear switch that has been adopted by modern rulers. Only the top two, Ram and Laxman respectively, had access to launching those missiles.

The Earth is round – this has apparently been stated by modern man a few centuries back. We have always known it. Don’t we know that Lord Vishnu’s Varaha avatar (incarnation as a boar) lifted it out of water to save it from deluge and destruction. Recently illustrated versions of the myth depict Varaha with the Earth on its nose. And since the Earth is round in these illustrations, it proves that we knew the Earth was round even in those times. Even though the story had not been illustrated with a round Earth in the times it had been told.

We are on the lookout for creating more such scientific and undisputable data. These discoveries are even more significant because nobody else believes them. There is a lot that remains to be done. We have to find reasons for claiming that we built submarines in ancient times. We need to find reasons for having discovered remedies to threatening ailments like Cancer that either did not exist in those times or had not been discovered. With the vast array of mythological treasure trove at our disposal, no peak appears too high.

Several noteworthy initiatives are already underway. A path-breaking research has been undertaken at a prestigious institution to prove that the chemical composition of water in the Nile, H2O, is the same as that of water in the Ganga. Does it not prove that Ganga is the font of all rivers in the world?

I am humbled by all these revelations and the ones still to be made. Nay, not humbled, ashamed. I have taken pride in our history and traditions without even knowing the facts. How am I any better than the unthinking masses who I often mock? I need to make amends.

As a first step, I consider it a humble duty to take forward this rich legacy; this rich legacy of writing great stories that have no fundamental logic underlying magical events. So that a millennia later, should some likeness of the magical events be translated into reality thanks to technological advances in the interim, our centuries-old technological prowess can continue to be proven without anyone else believing it.

And, I believe my generation is infinitely better placed than the sages of the past who penned most of our mythological literature, to do so. We have a purpose in mind; of continuing our great tradition of laying claims to technological advances that nobody else believes.

The old sages, in comparison, had no such vision. They did not have such political leaders to blaze the way for them. They were merely writing great stories of which, the two that I am most familiar with, ‘Ramayan’ and ‘Mahabharat’, remain the most relevant, riveting and compelling stories ever told. Cannot but feel pity for the poor sages.

Godman

Who will the common man turn to for curing his incurable diseases brought on not by infection or bacteria or parasite, but on account of the afflicted having incurred divine wrath?

Where will thugs and goons, and others with low self-esteem, congregate and seek solace in each other’s company while carrying out their business?

Who will the politicians woo for putting in a good word for them to swing the popular vote of blind followers in their favour, without having to do any work?

Whose charitable trusts will wives of senior politicians patronise?

Where will religious followers stockpile firearms, petrol bombs, Molotov cocktails and acid bulbs for throwing on law-enforcement officials when they try to do their job?

What will happen to the illicit arms manufacturing industry? Will it impact the growth projections for the economy; as recently as yesterday OECD has projected a 6.6% growth rate for FY 2016?

Where will fanatical followers keep innocent women and children hostage for the protection of one individual?

Who will rich businessmen patronise with the unaccounted for part of their wealth in return for seeking favours with politicians?

Will law-enforcement officials now need to go back to the dark days of relying only on murder and rape cases to get recognition?

Who will the common man blame for mistreatment after having gone inside private property without being invited?

These, and many other, disturbing questions are the subject of hushed conversations all over the state since 9 PM last night when news of the arrest of the latest Godman to capture popular imagination, wafted in through invasive news channels who cannot seem to mind their own business even under physical danger, and reported on the week-long siege of the “ashram” (hermitage) by law-enforcement forces seeking arrest of the Godman, braving armed attacks by the private army of the “sant” (saint).

Being in the same state, barely 200 km from the hub of activity, the seismic tremors felt in Gurgaon are particularly strong. People are conscious that the world, as we have known it, may never be the same again.

But every dark cloud has a silver lining. Such is life.

Difficulty in comprehending the spoken word, inability to articulate a response, a fixed, vacant stare and low level of education being understood to be the primary qualifications for the role of Godman, shivers of hope are coursing through veins of the downtrodden in the state, who see an opportunity for a lucrative career in the space recently vacated. People need Godmen. Many, many of them. One of the important items in the Job Description of Godmen being indulgence in illegal activities, causing them to go out of circulation after a period of success, we need to have others always ready to step into the vacancy.

What they don’t know is that many of them will eventually get disqualified because the position also requires the additional qualities of a thick skin and the ability to act without remorse for personal gain. They may be forced to stick to their honest professions like electrical repairs, plumbing, gardening and cleaning. But then, such is life.

Our Godman claims he saw a vision of Kabir, the 15th century poet, mystic and sage. As we all know, in 2014, that is more than adequate reason for people to throng to him and make him wealthy beyond his known sources of income.

Since last night, there have been reports of visions being seen of Rahim, Surdas, Meera, Tulsidas and Ravidas by people across the state. Competition is heating up. And we are only talking 15th century poets, mystics and sages here, approximating to the period Kabir lived in, whose existence and work is backed by historical records. Step a little beyond history, into the vast mythological space (the line between history and mythology is always thin and constantly shifting), and we have a constellation of over six hundred million and one (remember we added Sachin Tendulkar a few years back) Gods and Goddesses to choose from. Our Gods and Goddesses are suddenly a busy lot, having to appear in visions of over a billion people. At one God to two people, it is a ratio stacked against the Gods. We need more.

As keeping women and children hostage and using your private army to battle law-enforcement agencies is a stressful activity at the best of times, immediately after arrest he was taken away for a medical checkup.

Rich culture

Stopping his motorcade by the side of the road and hurriedly stepping out to ease himself, per established cultural traditions of the country, the Minister for Tourism has stated in Goa that Pub culture will not be tolerated in the state and the government will only support trends that fit into the Indian culture.

Relieved at having watered the wall of a private home under a sign saying “This is not a urinal”, he got back into the car and his motorcade passed through the crowded thoroughfare with well-fed, well-armed security guards hanging out of the minister’s car, at state expense, threatening the common man on the street, as per our rich culture, to get them to move out of the important minister’s way.

He was a self-avowed culture buff and never let pass an opportunity for practicing it in real life. Such was his dedication to the cause.

Afraid of his efforts at protecting the nation’s culture being misconstrued, he made it a point to clarify to the media that our culture requires us to drink in private so that we can proudly proclaim we don’t drink. “If we drink in pubs how would we be able to hold ourselves up as role models to the young?” he queried a media left dumbstruck by the simplicity of his logic. “Do you have any idea how many young people this country has? Who will the youth look up to? Our country will be bereft of leadership and vision. Drinking in private, away from the eyes of the world, also allows us the liberty of abusing our near and dear ones, both mentally and physically. It is an onerous responsibility shouldered almost exclusively by males in this country, such is our culture”, he said, puffing out his chest, to express solidarity will suffering fellow-males, tortured by the responsibility of upholding cultural traditions of the country.

“Moreover, drinking in pubs brings upon drinking adults the responsibility to behave, well, for want of a better word, responsibly, in public. Responsible behaviour has never been a part of our culture. When we have bigger problems to solve, like changing the education system of the country without any reason, deciding whether people living in the country should be called Indians or Hindus because people living in Germany are called Germans, and many others, why needlessly open up another front and ask the already suffering males to start behaving responsibly?”

One could feel the powerful logic seeping down into the consciousness of the gathered media representatives. One could almost sense mental notes being made by people in the room, especially those given to drinking in pubs, to henceforth only drink in private, to honour and uphold tradition. The minister moved in for the kill.

“In any case, even where, because of cultural traditions, liquor is banned totally, as it is in some states, our culture enables us to bribe officials and create a supply situation that states which don’t ban liquor would be proud of. How do you think this is possible?”

“Because of our rich culture” the media responded in unison.

“How do you think government officials responsible for enforcement of laws are able to make end meet on their meagre government salaries?”

He had made his point. The last question was rhetorical. The gathered media personnel filed out of the room with their heads hung in shame.

The Minister’s bold initiative of restoring cultural traditions has, predictably, created a powerful multiplier effect throughout the country.

The armed forces, always alert for opportunities to improve their capability and preparedness to handle exigent situations, have started training in the use of culturally superior weapons like bows and arrows and maces, with which our ancestors fought invaders valiantly and lost repeatedly. Soldiers are being trained on new techniques of reverentially touching the arrow to their forehead, with eyes closed, to invoke divine powers, which will convert the arrow into a nuclear missile, and launch it in slow motion, for maximum destruction. TV serials are testimony to the destructive power of these weapons.

Multinational corporations, always on the lookout for local traditions in the markets they operate in that they can cater to without doing anything, especially ones that allow them to not spend any money, have started raising Purchase Orders for bullock carts for transporting their senior employees. Some have gone a step further and suspended their email services. Pigeons are being brought back for communication between offices in different locations. Experienced people say this is only the tip of the iceberg. They expect a total revolution in the way business is done in the country.

Meanwhile, the Minister, after the meeting, checked the time on his Swiss-made watch, stepped into his car, made by a Japanese company, wearing clothes made of Egyptian cotton, sporting an Italian designer label, with his retinue of guards carrying Russian automatic weapons, and reached home to recline in his favourite chair, made by a Swedish furniture-maker, open his bottle of whiskey made in Scotland, mix some of the whisky with blackish sugar-water made in the US, and quaff it down in a glass made in Belgium.

He soon fell asleep. Tomorrow was going to be another busy day. Lots still to be done to protect the rich culture.