“I think the society management team should cancel the DJ (loud blaring music that needs to be heard by people not participating in the event the DJ is playing in) during the Holi party that has been planned, as a mark of respect to the martyrs,” beeped the message on our housing society’s WhatsApp group.
The reference, for the uninitiated, was to the terrorist incident on 14th February this year when a suicide bomber rammed an explosives laden car into a convoy of vehicles carrying security personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in the Pulwama district of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which resulted in the death of over forty personnel of the CRPF apart from the attacker.
And Holi, which falls on the 21st of March this year, is perhaps the most widely celebrated festival in India, after Diwali.
Though the tension has since eased off, for a few days, the nuclear powered neighbours had stood eyeball to eyeball, primed for escalation of hostilities. Ably led by politicians who, protected by hundreds of armed elite security personnel, were fulfilling their constitutional duty and ratcheting up the patriotic ante by making angry, threatening speeches and sending other people’s children to die in a blaze of glory for the nation.
Ably supported with minute by minute strategic guidance to the armed forces provided over WhatsApp messages to each other, by a vast populace just as willing to send other people’s children to die in a blaze of glory in the service of the motherland. Their job made twice as difficult by having to continue pursuing their regular money-making professions of selling flavoured, coloured sugar-water or a revolutionary, newly invented shampoo, in the service of the nation, even while providing this strategic guidance to the armed forces and telling them to “kill them in their own lair” and “they should know we will hit back”. All so brave. From the confines of their bedrooms and warmth of their kitchens.
And then, as soon as the situation had escalated, it eased off. Perhaps you can send other people’s children to die for the nation only for a few days at a time. Perhaps the untimely death of forty security personnel can only fuel patriotism for a few days at a time.
But the dovecotes had been set aflutter. Once more.
“Why only DJ?. If we want to pay a tribute, we should cancel the entire party,” came the riposte.
A hush fell on the group. The bar had been moved up in a flash. “Sorry for the late response. Just got back after celebrating my husband’s fortieth birthday with some friends over drinks in Cyber Hub. Why Holi? I think we should cancel the Diwali celebrations. Would that not be more appropriate?” came the next message.
The bar had been moved higher yet. Diwali was at least seven months away. But it was the biggest festival.
“And Eid and Christmas too.”
“Why leave out Budh Purnima and Gurpurab?”
How much higher could the bar go?
“Hey guys. Have you heard about the shooting in Christchurch? Over forty feared dead in a gun attack in peaceful New Zealand. What does the society plan to do about it?”
Till I received the message I had not realised that it was our housing society’s responsibility to do something about the terror attack in New Zealand.
“But that happened in faraway New Zealand. Why should we cancel the DJ for that?”
By now apparently it had been accepted that cancelling the DJ would become the society’s main method of honouring the memory of the deceased.
“You mean if our soldiers die in battle in Africa, you will not cancel the DJ for them? And I believe there were several Indians among those killed.”
“I agree. We have to get over our parochial mindsets. A life is important. We should show solidarity with the global community.”
“What about casualties of the civil war in South Sudan. Over a hundred thousand people have been killed in the conflict in the last four years. I think we should show that we care for them.”
“But we cannot cancel the DJ for both Pulwama and Christchurch, can we? Would that be the right way of honouring the memory of people who met an untimely death at the hands of a deranged fanatic?”
“Sorry I had to travel to Bangalore for an important meeting. I think we should take out a cycle rally to honour the memory of those killed in Christchurch. I will be in a business meeting but my thoughts will be there with the cycle rallyists.”
“Guys, guys, guys, why are we not thinking of a candlelight vigil?”
More silence. Possible struggle with internal shame for not having thought of a candlelight vigil to honour the martyrs’ memory.
“What about the Mumbai terrorist attack in November 2008?”
“What about it?”
“Why don’t we cancel the DJ to honour the memory of those killed in that attack?”
“But that was more than ten years back.”
“So? You mean the people who lost their lives became irrelevant to us after a month? Or two? Is there a cut-off date to honour the memory of martyrs?”
“Have we already forgotten that at least nine CRPF personnel were killed when Maoists blew up a vehicle with an IED in Chattisgarh just a year back? I don’t recollect cancelling a DJ ever for that incident?”
“You want to cancel a DJ for nine CRPF personnel killed? Nine? Do you realise we may need to start honouring every two or three or four poor people on the footpath run over by expensive SUVs driven by drunk drivers?”
“IS THERE A MINIMUM THRESHOLD IN TERMS OF LIVES LOST THAT QUALIFIES FOR RESPECT AND HONOUR?”
The all Caps had its impact. “I am sorry. Did not mean to offend. Just wanted to clarify. I agree. We need to cancel the DJ to honour the memory of those nine brave CRPF personnel.”
The management committee of our housing society, I believe, has decided to book ten different DJs for the planned Holi party and then cancel them to mark different terror incidents.
Like religion, what good is patriotism if it cannot be made a show of or foisted upon others.