Originally published in Himal South Asian, here
I had always assumed ‘getting screwed’ to be a good thing. In fact, most of my teenage years were spent in fruitless pursuit of this goal. However, as I grew, and my concerns became more cerebral, the term assumed new connotations, none of which were in any sense even remotely positive. ‘Getting screwed’ began to mean something nasty (though not in the way you were thinking), which your professors or seniors (basically people who are supposed to guide you) did to you.
Of late, I have noticed that India is going through such a dreadful phase of getting screwed by people left, right and centre. Obviously these people are none other than those for whom we soil our thumbs with ink once every five years, our dear politicians and leaders. For a seemingly disparate group, they have shown remarkable consensus on their cherished goal of sucking the nation dry, albeit using different techniques and methods. Some use their perverted ideologies, some oppose for the heck of opposition, and some simply rob us.
Let me first begin with those who always think that they are ‘right’. And yes, you guessed it; I am referring to the mother of all parivars, the Sangh Parivar. With their twisted ideology and their warped notions of macho nationalism, they have ensured that an 800 million strong stays in perpetual fear of its (imagined) enemies. Not satisfied with ideology alone, some ‘Swami Unlimited Joy’ probably thought that having a ‘blast’ was a more worthwhile idea. Now that his cover has been blown, the self righteous brigade probably thought it better to deflect attention by launching an ‘Ekta Yatra’ (loose translation: Trip for Unity), which ironically has divided the country more than uniting it.
Moving on from the right towards the centre, Lord Buddha had always stressed on the middle path and avoidance of extremes. However, I think he couldn’t have envisioned that those in the so-called ‘centre’ would have such a devastating impact on Indian politics. Headed by a famous economist, one of their ministers, affectionately called ‘King’ has mastered the art of siphoning money to such insane levels that one can only exclaim “Gee!” (Twice). Whoever knew that one could make so much money through cell phones?
Another annoying trait of the followers of the middle path is their advocacy of sycophancy as a legitimate means of advancement. Now historically, Indians have been firm believers in the philosophy of ‘Vasudeva Kutumbkam’, which means that ‘the whole world is my family’. Unfortunately, through some mistranslation of the original Sanskrit, members of this party inferred the motto to be ‘the Family is the world’. What a pity!
Lastly, I shall talk about those who are left behind. Before saying anything further, I should specify a few things. First of all the ‘left’ in the contemporary context has probably less to do with ideology and more to do with being a ‘fashion statement’ of sorts amongst a strange sect who otherwise call themselves ‘intellectuals’ (the writer of this lousy article being one). By this I refer to those people who, after giving a few speeches on Marx and talking about the proletariat, quickly slip off into their air-conditioned homes where ‘daddy capitalist’ earns enough to support their misplaced idealism. Apart from these pseudo leftists, there are those who still haven’t bought new calendars since the late eighties. A random stroll through the streets of Kolkata on any given day would be a good way to see members of this species up, close and personal.
Apart from the ones I have described, there are other specimens in the subcontinent who are just as colourful and interesting. However, due to constraints of space and time, I haven’t been able to do justice to this veritable ecosystem. Breaking the barriers of caste, creed and race, they truly are symbolic of the unity in diversity that is India. Omnipresent and omnipotent, they have become interwoven into the fabric of this great nation. Probably a sher which my father told me sums it up rather well,
Har Shaakh Pe Ullu Baitha Hai,
Anjaam-e-Gulistaan Kya Hoga?
(An owl sits on every branch,
What fate befalls this garden?)