A shared love for Shah Rukh Khan and Chardonnay

‘The more conversations I have, the more I realise how boringly similar we are — they love their family, crib about work, and considering the cholbe na attitude and frequent strikes, I could easily be speaking to someone in Kolkata or Kochi.’ Durba Dhyani recalls her encounters with the French. 

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com.

Like many others on Facebook, I too overlaid my profile picture with the French flag in solidarity with victims of the Paris terror attacks. A friend wanted to know if I was making a political statement and also supported the bombing of Syria.

To be honest, the complexities of the Syrian war make my head spin like the differential equations did back in school. My decision to drape the French flag wasn’t political at all but personal. A place is all about its people and there are people I’ve come to know and like in Paris. A shared love of Shah Rukh Khan and Chardonnay, can cut across nationalities is what I’ve discovered.

My rendezvous with the French began a few years back when, as a corporate trainer, I started to teach them English. These were telephone or video lessons, and my learners were office-goers, anywhere in the age group of 25 to 60.

I remember wondering what it would be like to speak to strange people in a faraway land. I’d made my first call, not knowing what to expect.

‘Good morning Jean-Michel! How’s the weather in Paris?’ I began uncertainly.

‘Oh! Grey, cold, depressing,’ came the unencouraging response.

‘What about in Bangalore?’ he asked back, trying to be polite.

‘Bright and sunny here,’ I chirped. ‘Sorry!’ I added, feeling apologetic for being so lucky about the weather, if not other things.

‘Aha! I am … jaloux?’ he asked tentatively.

‘Jealous. You are jealous of me.’ I corrected him and laughed.

The ice had broken and my first lesson went smoothly enough.

After a few more conversations, I became emboldened enough to ask my learners some frank or even obnoxious questions. To my surprise, the answers were always candid.

‘Thierry, is it true that the French are quite pessimistic and often depressed?’

‘Yes, it’s true. We like to complain a lot. We don’t appreciate what we have,’ was the disarming response.

‘But you sound very happy and bright, then, for a French. That’s not good,’ I say with mock seriousness.

‘Haha. It’s not correct? OK. I will try to be more depressed,’ and the joie de vivre comes across, despite his words to the contrary.

Over the course of time we talk about Francois Hollande being the most unpopular French president ever, the economic crisis in Europe, the gay marriage act (they cannot believe homosexuality is a criminal offence in India!), the Cannes film festival and the Rafale fighter jets deal between India and France.

The more conversations I have, the more I realise how boringly similar we are — they love their family, crib about work, and considering the cholbe na attitude and frequent strikes, I could easily be speaking to someone in Kolkata or Kochi.

We seem to be in agreement even when it comes to the English language! At first I’d tried to sound like Colin Firth doing a ‘Good God!’ or ‘Have a lovely weekend!’ But soon I dropped all pretence as most seemed to prefer my Bong/Mumbaiyya/Kannadiga/god-knows-what accent.

‘I wish that the English would speak as clearly as you. They’d be so much easier to understand,’ says Stéphanie.

‘The English really need to improve their English,’ I concur, as we giggle conspiratorially.

While I catch a whiff of France, they get a glimpse of India, both equally exotic to the other.

‘India is such a fascinating country! Please tell me more about Bangalore,’ demands Aurore with stars in her eyes.

I control my urge to vent about Silk Board traffic and killer potholes and start with a ‘Well, the weather is quite nice…’

Meanwhile, Nouchine wants to know if I’ve heard Manwa lage — from Happy New Year. She is shocked when I say ‘No’ and declares that I am not as big a Shah Rukh Khan fan as she is!

Learning that I am an Indian, Nabil of Moroccan origin states: ‘Oh! We are just the same!’ What is my favourite biriyani but just the couscous in disguise! And is Paris a romantic city? Of course, but Bollywood is more so, he declares, breaking into an impromptu, Hum ko hum hi se chura lo…

Sometimes we also talk about the pain of divorce, the difficulty of finding true love or losing a dear friend to cancer. Life does not discriminate; neither does a terrorist’s bullets.

After the attacks on 13/11 that suddenly took away 130 young lives, our conversations centre around terrorism.

Laurent, whose office is in the business district of La Defense, a prime target for terrorists, patiently describes the police raid at Saint Denis that morning, struggling to translate words like attack, bullets and firearms from French to English. I in turn, recount to him the events of 26/11 Mumbai.

Taking the local from Dadar to Lower Parel, a few days after the strikes, I remember the feeling of emptiness, the realisation that it could have been me. While journalists proudly proclaimed that Mumbai was back on its feet in minutes, I worried about a city that had no time to stop and mourn.

In Paris, though, the candles are lit and the flags go up.

The chatty and irrepressible Aurore sounds unusually quiet.

‘We are sad in Paris,’ she says heartbreakingly, and I find myself at a loss for words too.

For Muslims there, it is even more difficult. ‘We get strange looks sometimes, as if people are scared and suspicious of us,’ Mohamed tries to put his feelings into words, letting out a deep sigh.

Hollande’s unequivocal decision to wage a merciless war against ISIS has boosted his popularity. On the other hand, the far right party of Marion Le Pen, the National Front, which used to be dismissed once upon a time as ridiculous, is gaining traction post the attacks.

Marie-Laurence shares with me an extract from the New York Times, which has resonated with all Parisians:

‘France embodies everything religious zealots hate: enjoyment of life here on earth in a myriad little ways: a fragrant cup of coffee and buttery croissant in the morning, beautiful women in short dresses smiling freely on the street, a bottle of wine shared with friends… the right not to believe in any god, not to worry about calories, to flirt and smoke and enjoy sex outside of marriage, to take vacations, to read any book you want… to leave worrying about the afterlife to the dead.’

Perhaps France is an idea and there is a bit of France in all of us.

As the historic COP 21 gets underway and nations comes together in Paris to discuss climate change, I tentatively ask Pierre-Jean about the weather.

‘Cloudy but hope it does not rain,’ he says.

‘Yes, let’s keep our fingers crossed,’ I add, going on to explain what that expression means.

And so we pick up the pieces and move on, just as in Mumbai and elsewhere. But who is to say if the croissant now feels less buttery or the coffee a little less fragrant?

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India was a not so happy place, and then along came Modi

What do critics of the prime minister know? India has reached the zenith of its glory under the Modi dispensation, says Durba Dhyani.

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Photograph: Subhav Shukla/PTI Photo

Recently, a dear friend of mine forwarded this article, India was this perfectly happy place, and then came Narendra Modi (external link). Needless to say, I was very upset by this sort of satire and immediately wanted to pen my strong support for our PM. So here goes.

My India….

It was not a perfectly happy place. There was corruption, there was crime and there were communal riots, too, sometimes. Poverty was not unknown to us, and we had almost become resigned to our fate.

Unfortunately for some anti-nationals, those dark days did not last, and something happened! On May 16, 2014, when the world was going about its business as usual, India stood still and celebrated the coronation of Honorable Shri Narendra Modiji as prime minister.

Our very own poster boy of development as well as Hindu pride, made us realise that the Ma-Beta pair, with some help from Aaptards, sickulars and adarsh liberals had brought the nation to ruin. The time for Rahul was over, the time for Vikas was near.

And just look, how my India is transformed today!

Now we don’t know what corruption is and have forgotten the word scam. Why are you asking me about Lalit and Vyapam when I am asking you to focus on Vikas? Where is Vikas, you say? Are you blind? Look around you!

All the black money stashed abroad has been brought home and people have Rs 15 lakh each in their accounts. There is no sign of poverty anywhere anymore!

Our economy has now overtaken China’s! Don’t talk of Moody’s and spoil my mood. Arun knows best, and he says we are doing better than ever.

Not Arun Shourie, you duffer, I meant Arun Jaitley! And I don’t trust that Raghuram Rajan fellow much either. Another sickular, if you ask me.

So much FDI has been generated by our PM’s travels abroad that not only our economy, even the world economy and tourism are flourishing!

In this paradise, women are so safe, so safe, that all they have to do is yell ‘beef’ when anyone harasses them and a police contingent arrives in minutes. We have successfully managed to ‘Beti padhao, Beti bachao’ — just by clicking selfies with daughters!

India is so Swachh, so Swachh today, that from Delhi to Bangalore there is not even a speck of dirt (forget about the stench of garbage). Anything can happen when you start taking selfies, I tell you!

Our enemies now tremble in fear — Pakistan and China have been completely subdued and even Nepal is not taking any chances with us! Our PM’s 56 inch has scared the whole world!

Mehengai has ended and dal is now so sasta, so sasta, that I am drinking three bowlfuls every day. Again some sickulars say we cannot afford dal nor are we allowed to eat beef. Well, as someone rightly commented, our PM has only delivered his promise of ‘Na khaunga, na khane dunga,’ in that case.

We are taking such giant strides in arts, science and technology, that artists and scientists have all started raining awards on the government, instead of the other way round! Some army veterans, too, want to decorate the government with medals.

What do anti-nationals know about love for the country? Our PM has taught us that the best way to show love for your country is to never be in it.

Some people consider Modiji a wily politician, I don’t know why. He is a wonderful human being and an actor who has always remained true to his craft. As a child, too, he excelled in plays. That passion has made him a performer par excellence today and people are simply jealous of his success!

Our magician Modiji can appear in any part of the world in no time and wow everyone with talk of Digital India. Back home, he can immediately transform into a gareeb ma ka beta, even a backward class boy who understands the ‘mann ki baat‘ of the poor.

From Kashmir to Punjab to Kanyakumari, peace and communal harmony prevail everywhere. We tried to implement the Gujarat model even in Bihar, but unfortunately the Biharis could not appreciate this.

We enlightened citizens know that Modiji is personally responsible for the Achche Din that we are blessed with today.

In fact, India has become a paradise and if it gets any better, celebratory firecrackers will surely start going off in Pakistan!

Durba Dhyani is a Bengaluru-based corporate trainer.

From foreign national to sickular anti-national – a very personal journey

A few days back, I had penned my anguish about the Dadri Lynching. Following this, I happened to receive a few endearments from some of those who had been kind enough to read it — presstitute, sickular, libtard, commie were some of those. This led me to introspect deeply and ask myself some existentialist questions — like ‘Who am I?’ ‘Where am I from?’ and most importantly, ‘Where was I when…?’

Well, it all goes back a long way. Perhaps to the time when somebody first threw the seemingly innocuous question my way:  ‘Where are you from?’ Now, this bouncer can be trickier to handle than you imagine.

I think the conversation went somewhat like this:

Excuse me, hope you don’t mind me asking, but where are you from?

– I’m from West Bengal.

Ah! A Bengali 🙂

-Quite, but not quite. I’m very Bengali but only because I’ve lived in Bengal for most of my life.

I see. So where are you originally from?

-You could say I’m from Assam, though I haven’t really lived there.

Ah! An Assamese, of course! I knew it from your features! Lots of similarities between the Assamese and the Bengalis, no?

-You are so right again, but I’m not exactly an Assamese, I’m a Bodo.

Silence…..

-It is one of the many tribes of Assam. (Me, trying to help).

Yes, I know I know. The Bodo militants. Fighting for statehood and all.

-Er…not all of us are militants, fighting for statehood. Most of us are quite peace loving and content with the current state of things, as long as we get our glass of ‘jou’ (rice beer) after a hard day’s work.

Interesting. Most interesting…..

The good thing in all this, was of course the fact that that others were absolutely certain of my identity even when I wasn’t.

Like the time in Kolkata, when a lady exclaimed, overhearing my Bengali, ‘Wow! These Nepalese have started speaking such good Bangla these days!” — never for a moment doubting that I was a Nepali.

Or the time, when I visited the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary in Rajasthan, with my husband, and the ticket seller demanded Rs. 450 — 50 bucks for his ticket and 400 for mine. When my stunned husband wanted to know why there was such discrimination, he was told, ‘Madam toh Korea se hain. Foreigner ke liye alag rate hai.’ Needless to say, this was nothing short of a revelation! While I’d been under the assumption that I was an Indian, turned out that all this time, I’d actually been a Korean all along! Good to know, and better late than never, I thought. At least the question of my nationality was now resolved.

But then, on the first day of my job as ‘Announcer’ at All India Radio, Delhi, I was asked by one of the Duty Officers, ‘China mein toh aap log sab kuch kha jate ho, nai?’  My new found Korean nationality seemed to be already threatened. Was I from China in reality, after all?

New Delhi is of course the US of India — the world begins and ends with it and there are no geographies beyond. So it came as no suprise that Delhiites confidently gave me whatever identities they liked – Thai, Burmese, Naga, anything that would suit their fancy. If I tried to explain that the North East actually consisted of several different states, with their different cultures, I would be promptly dismissed with a  ‘Haan, haan, sab ek hi baat hai.’ I was glad to know there was no need of specifics. So then I could just say, ‘I am from the North East’ and be done with it.

This seemed to be working well, until recently, when it was revealed to me that I was not from the North East – my address was actually Left of Centre. Sickular, leftist, presstitute, aaptard, communist were some of the identities I was given, leaving me with the even more confusing question, ‘Who, really, was I?

From belonging to an endangered tribe myself, somewhere along the line, I had turned into a dangerous species, a lying, scheming traitor, capable of great harm to the country! In short, my transformation into an ‘anti-national’ was now complete!

Before I could wrap my head around such an evolution or mutation, depending on how you look at it, another googly began to be frequently thrown my way — the dreaded, ‘Where were you when.. ?”

For example :

-“Where were you when Kashmiri Pandits were being driven out of their homeland?”

-“Where were you when Mohd. Ghori invaded India?”

-“Where were you when the milk was boiling over?”

-“Where were you when…

I don’t mind these questions in the least bit — if not from the North East, I am happy to be from the Left of Centre (isn’t that where the heart is supposedly located, after all?).

But then, I might just be offending some people by refusing to take offence. These days, I’m told, you are not a true nationalist unless you are easily offended.

I see that I am testing your patience and can already sense the next question coming: What are you doing here?

Indeed, as pointed out by the honorable minister of state for parliamentary affairs, Shri Mukhtar Abbas Naqviji, honorable member of Parliament Shri Giriraj Singhji, respectable Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattarji and others, I and the entire beef-eating North East better be packed off to Pakistan without delay.

But will they accept us, pork-eaters, as their own? Perhaps not… and so my quest for nationality continues.

Will Pakistan accept a beef-eating Indian who also eats pork?

My article @ Rediff

From belonging to an endangered tribe, somewhere along the line I had turned into a dangerous species myself: A lying, scheming, traitor, who had let the country down, says Durba Dhyani.

lllustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

A few days back, I had penned my anguish over the Dadri Lynching. Following this, I happened to receive a few endearments from some of those who had been kind enough to read it — ‘presstitute, sickular, libtard, commie’ were some of those. This led me to introspect deeply and ask myself some existentialist questions — like ‘Who am I?’ ‘Where am I from?’ and most importantly, ‘Where was I when…?’

It all goes a long way back, perhaps to the time when somebody first threw the seemingly innocuous question my way: ‘Where are you from?’ Now, this bouncer can be trickier to handle than you imagine.

I think the conversation went somewhat like this:

Excuse me, hope you don’t mind me asking, but where are you from?

I’m from West Bengal.

O achcha, Bangali!

Quite, but not quite. I’m very Bengali, but only because I’ve lived in Bengal for most of my life.

I see. So where are you originally from?

You could say I’m from Assam, though I haven’t really lived there.

An Assamese, of course! I knew it from your features! Lots of similarities between the Assamese and Bengalis, no?

You are so right again, but I’m not exactly an Assamese, I’m a Bodo.

Silence…

It is one of the many tribes of Assam. (me, trying to help).

Yes, I know I know. The Bodo militants. Fighting for statehood and all.

Er… not all of us are fighting for statehood. Most of us are quite peace-loving and content with the current state of things, as long as we get our glass of jou (rice beer) after a hard day’s work.

Interesting. Most interesting.

This exchange, with small variations, was oft repeated in the course of time. The good thing in all this was, of course, the fact that others were often absolutely certain of my identity even when I wasn’t.

Like the time in Kolkata, when a lady exclaimed, ‘Wow! These Nepalis have started speaking such good Bangla these days!,’ never for a moment doubting that I was a Nepali.

Or the time I visited the Bharatpur bird sanctuary in Rajasthan with my husband, and the ticket seller demanded Rs 450 — 50 bucks for his ticket and 400 for mine. When my stunned husband wanted to know why there was such discrimination, he was told, ‘Madam toh Korease hain. Foreigner ke liye alag rate hai.’

Needless to say, this was nothing short of a revelation! While I’d been under the assumption all this time that I was an Indian, turned out I’d actually been a Korean all along!

Good to know, and better late than never, I thought. At least the question of my nationality was now resolved.

But, then, on the first day of my job as an ‘announcer’ at All India Radio, Delhi, I was asked by one of the duty officers, ‘China mein toh aap log sab kuch kha jate ho, nai?’ My newfound Korean nationality seemed to be already threatened. Was I from China in reality, after all?

New Delhi is, of course, the United States of India — the world begins and ends with it and there are no geographies beyond. So it came as no surprise when Delhi-ites confidently gave me whatever identities they liked — Thai, Burmese, Naga, anything that would suit their fancy.

If I tried to explain that the North East actually consisted of several different states, with their different cultures, I would be promptly dismissed with ‘Chill yaar, ki fark painda.’ I was glad to know there was no need of specifics. So then I could just say, ‘I am from the North East’ and be done with it.

This seemed to be working well, until my recent reluctance to Modi-fy some of my views caused some of my dear friends to conclude that I am not from the North East at all — my address was actually Left of Centre. ‘Sickular, leftist, presstitute, aaptard, communist’ were some of the new identities I was given, leaving yours truly to ask herself the intriguing question: ‘Who am I?

From belonging to an endangered tribe, somewhere along the line, I had turned into a dangerous species myself: A lying, scheming, traitor, who had let the country down. Before I could wrap my head around such an evolution or mutation, depending on how you look at it, another googly began to be frequently thrown my way — the dreaded, ‘Where were you when…?’

For example:

‘Where were you when Kashmiri Pandits were being driven out of their homeland?’

‘Where were you when Mohammed Ghori invaded India?’

‘Where were you when the milk was boiling over?’

‘Where were you when…?’

Now I don’t mind these questions in the least. Also, if not from the North East, I am happy to be from the Left of Centre (isn’t that where the heart is supposedly located?).

But, then, I might just be offending some people by refusing to take offence. These days, I’m told, you are not a true nationalist unless you are easily offended.

I see that I am testing your patience and can already sense the next question coming: What are you doing here?

Indeed, as pointed out by the honorable minister of state for parliamentary affairs, Shri Mukhtar Abbas Naqviji, honorable member of Parliament Shri Giriraj Singhji, respectable Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattarji and others, I and the entire beef-eating North East better be packed off to Pakistan without delay.

But will they accept us, pork-eaters, as their own though? Perhaps not… and so my quest for nationality continues.

Post-Dadri, is darkness upon us?

My blog post as it appeared on Rediff:

Post-Dadri, is darkness upon us?

October 09, 2015 09:23 IST

Image: The family members of Mohammad Akhlaq, who was lynched in Dadri, with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav in Lucknow. Photograph: PTI

‘Today, the target of this rage are the weaker sections of society — Muslims, Dalits, liberal thinkers/writers who challenge its ideology. But tomorrow, it could be anyone stepping out of a pub; reading a book or watching a movie by an artist considered an anti-Hindu/anti-national,’ says Durba Dhyani.

What exactly was it that transformed peaceful neighbours into a ferocious, blood-thirsty mob within minutes?

Try as we might, it is difficult to fathom just how a rumour of cow slaughter could have turned an otherwise peaceable people into killers.

Is it really all about the cow? Or is that animal symbolic of a deeper malaise that has gripped the country?

Was there something else, already simmering beneath the surface of just another ordinary Indian village? Yes, it was politically orchestrated and the venom of religious hatred had been injected. But what was it that provided the breeding ground for a communally charged atmosphere?

Mohammed Akhlaq, a village blacksmith, was doing well for himself. He had managed to educate and send a son to the Indian Air Force, no mean achievement. Perhaps the village should have been proud that one of its sons had ‘made it,’ so to say. But joy at another’s success does not come easy when you have nothing yourself. Rather, a sense of injustice begins to creep in, for having been denied the same.

A few months back, two Dalit boys made news by cracking the IIT examinations, ranking among the top 500. Instead of bouquets, they received brickbats back home. Literally. Their home was pelted with stones by their neighbours, requiring police intervention. Was that deep-rooted casteism, or again, something else that reared its ugly head?

Maybe the same thing that devoured the New Delhi gang-rape victim? Let us remember that she came from the same socio-economic background as her rapists. But she dared to wear jeans, to watch an English movie, to study, to dream of becoming a physiotherapist. Worst of all she dared to look into the eyes of her attackers and answer back, when they wanted to know what was she doing, roaming around with a boy at night? You don’t insert rods into people and pull out their intestines out of lust. That sort of demonic rage can only come from a deep loathing of yourself and your failings.

In a broader sense, it is the entire nation’s failure — to provide jobs to our youth, to secure the livelihood of our farmers, to reduce the socio-economic schism that is wider than ever today.

While a few are set to conquer Silicon Valley, a majority are languishing with no opportunities. While some can afford to blow up money at discotheques, most wonder where the next meal will come from. While some whizz past in flashy cars with trendy girlfriends, others remain sexually repressed and frustrated.

Hunger, of any sort, can lead to blinding rage. The kind of rage that the Hardik Patels of this country can intensify and exploit; a rage into which politicians can inject the poison of communalism, creating a lethal concoction that can be used to manufacture riots and win elections.

A rage that, if not deflected and provided an outlet for, will turn upon the elected leaders. Rather than dwelling on our failings, it is easier to deny them or find someone convenient to blame. We do the former by focusing on either the future (dream of a military, economic superpower, a Digital India) — or the past — (hark back to the imagined glory days, of Hindutva).

In a very Bollywood like manner, we twist reality to fit our dreams. It is when this image is disturbed by present reality — the spectre of farmer suicides, unemployment, power cuts, water shortages, the stench of open defecation — that we become angry and look for a Mohammad Akhlaq to beat up.

Today, the target of this rage are the weaker sections of society — the minority Muslims, the Dalits, the liberal thinkers/writers who challenge its ideology. But tomorrow, it could be anyone stepping out of a pub; reading a book or watching a movie by an artist considered an anti-Hindu/anti-national; enjoying a meal of parota and chilly beef, holding their partners’ hand while walking down the street.

Anything that does not conform to the ‘pure’ Brahminical conception of how society should be, will come under attack. Jealousy, anger, fear and all forms of darkness often find a convenient garb –that of religious righteousness.

It is the same darkness that gave birth to Islamic State and the Taliban. Could this darkness devour India too?

IMAGE: The family members of Mohammad Akhlaq, who was lynched in Dadri, with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav in Lucknow. Photograph: PTI

Durba Dhyani is a Bengaluru-based corporate trainer.

Darkness is upon us – my thoughts on Dadri

The country’s conscience has recently been jolted by the horrific lynching of an innocent man in Dadri.

What exactly was it that transformed peaceful neighbours into a ferocious, bloodthirsty mob within minutes? Try as we might, it is difficult to fathom how just a rumor of cow slaughter could have turned an otherwise peaceable people into killers? Is it really all about the holy cow? Or is that animal symbolic of a deeper malaise that has gripped the country? Was there something else, already simmering beneath the surface of just another ordinary Indian village? Yes it was politically orchestrated and the venom of religious hatred had been injected. But what was it that provided the breeding ground for a communally charged atmosphere?

Akhlaq Ahmed, a village blacksmith, was doing well for himself. He had managed to educate and send a son to the Indian Air Force, no mean achievement that. Perhaps the village should have been proud that one of its sons had ‘made it’ so to say? But joy at another’s success does not come easy when you have nothing yourself. Rather, a sense of injustice begins to creep in, for having been denied the same.
A few months back, 2 Dalit boys made news by cracking the IIT examinations, ranking among the top 500. Instead of bouquets, they received brickbats back home. Literally. Their home was pelted with stones by their neighbours, requiring police intervention. Was that deep rooted casteism, or again, something else that reared its ugly head?

May be the same thing that devoured Nirbhaya? Let us remember that she came from the same socio-economic background as her rapists. But she dared to wear jeans, to watch an English movie, to study, to dream of becoming a physiotherapist. Worst of all she dared to look into the eyes of her attackers and answer back, when they wanted to know – ‘what was she doing, roaming around with a boy at night?’ You don’t insert rods into people and pull out their intestines, out of lust. That sort of demonic rage can only come from a deep loathing of yourself and your failings.

In a broader sense, it is the entire nation’s failure – to provide jobs to our youth, to secure the livelihood of our farmers, to reduce the socio-economic schism that is wider than ever today. While a few are set to conquer Silicon Valley, a majority are languishing with no opportunities. While some can afford to blow up money at discotheques, most wonder where the next meal will come from. While some whizz past in flashy cars with trendy girlfriends, others remain sexually repressed and frustrated.

Hunger, of any sort, can lead to blinding rage. The kind of rage that the Hardik Patels of this country can intensify and exploit; a rage into which politicians can inject the poison of communalism, creating a lethal concoction that can be used to manufacture riots and win elections. A rage, that if not deflected and provided an outlet for, will turn upon the elected leaders. Rather than dwelling on our failings, it is easier to deny them or find someone convenient to blame. We do the former by focusing on either the future (dream of a military, economic superpower, a Digital India)  – or the past – (hark back to the imagined glory days, of Hindutva). In a very Bollywood like manner, we twist reality to fit our dreams. It is when this image is disturbed  by the present – the spectre of farmer suicides, the sordid reality of unemployment, power cuts, water shortages, the stench of open defecation – that we become angry and look for an Akhlaq Ahmed to beat up.

Today, the target of this rage are the weaker sections of society – the minority Muslims, the Dalits, the liberal thinkers /writers who challenge its ideology. But tomorrow, it could be anyone stepping out of a pub; reading a book or watching a movie by an artist considered an anti-Hindu/anti-national; enjoying a meal of parota and chilly beef, holding their partners’ hand while walking down the street. Anything that does not conform to the ‘pure’ Brahminical conception of how society should be, will come under attack. Jealousy, anger, fear and all forms of darkness often find a convenient garb – that of religious righteousness. It is the same darkness that gave birth to the ISIS and the Taliban. Could this darkness devour India too?