Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Yogi Redefined

The new Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, is someone who has given an entirely new dimension to the word ‘yogi.’  People like me belong to a period which saw yogis as ascetics, people who dwelt in a world of spiritual contemplation, who established a profound relationship with the entire universe based on understanding and compassion.  But I realise that the universe has undergone a sea change.

We have a lot of yogis, babas, sadhus, and what not, along with their female counterparts who have redefined the nomenclatures. Take our latest hero, Yogi Adityanath.  He has been elevated to the highest post in the state though a traditional yogi would not have touched such a position with a barge pole.  His supporters in the state shouted slogans such as: “If you want to say in India, you have to chant ‘Yogi, Yogi.  Those who refuse to say it will not stay in India.”  So we have an entirely new yogi who is dividing the nation into two clearly disjoint groups: pro-Yogi and outcasts. 

“If they kill one Hindu, we will kill hundreds of them,” Yogi Adityanath declared in one of his many incendiary speeches.  One of the prime accused in the 2007 Gorakhpur riots, the yogi faces many criminal charges including defiling a place of worship, attempt to murder, arson, rioting and criminal intimidation.  If this man can call himself a yogi, then you and I can consider ourselves gods.

Words, however, acquire the meanings we give them.  A sizeable population of UP has given the word ‘yogi’ a new meaning.  Yogi Adityanath is a leader who can decimate perceived enemies with the ease of digging up a barren land with a bulldozer.  One of his chelas urged a crowd to dig up the dead bodies of women belonging to a particular community (the dominant perceived enemy in UP) and rape them.  The yogi sat on the stage listening to that speech with the indifference that only yogis who have acquired the highest degree of enlightenment can. 

But callous indifference is not the detachment that Lord Krishna wanted Arjuna to learn though we are soon going to have that advice taught to our children as the Gita is going to be prescribed as a compulsory textbook in schools.

Heroes do not make history, as historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto pointed out in his classical book Civilizations. History makes heroes.  India stands today at a crucial juncture of its history.  There is not a single leader with a great vision for the country.  Left to themselves, people made their own idols out of the vacuum.  Out of sheer chaos. 

The easiest solution for any problem is to blame someone.  Leaders like Yogi Adityanath did just that.  Many other leaders of his party who had already done just that went on to occupy eminent positions in the country.  Secondly, the rabble love violence.  Violence is the most facile means of exorcising the inner demons.  Every frustrated man would love to kick at least his dog if not his wife in order to feel more at ease with himself.  The frustrated rabble love to assault and rape, rape even the dead-and-buried bodies.  When the looting, arson and rapes are carried out like a religious ritual with a yogi leading the purification ceremony, the devotees can sit back and think that the enemies are vanquished and that they can begin anew now.  Tragically, no such new beginnings went far at any time, in any place, in history.

Far-reaching vision belonged to yogis and other great ascetics as well as philosophers.  Not to conquerors.  Conquerors inevitably suffer from myopia.  They have all been marauders of one type or the other.  India at present perceives itself as a conqueror.  Conqueror with a difference.  The real difference lies in the new meanings that old words have acquired. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Baba ban gaya CM

A fairy tale without fairies

Once upon a time Babas were confined to hermitage and holy things.  Those were the days of fairies and mermaids, tree nymphs and water sprites. Then one day a disease called sickularism entered the forests and rivers.  Sickularism spread like wildfire or plague or TV ads.  The fairies and mermaids fell prey and died one by one with apparent vengeance.  They became extinct.  So did the nymphs and sprites. 

The Babas were starved of nymphs and sprites.  So they migrated in search of the steroid of inspiration.  Political slogans spiced up with the right measures of patriotic herbs and nationalist leaves and cultural roots brought them ecstasy and heavenly bliss.

The bliss spread like an exhilarating amrit and the nation became spiritual.  Sickularism was declared the national disease.  Schools were converted into ashrams in order to deal with the national malaise.  Textbooks were rewritten.  The new knowledge intoxicated the whole nation.

Pappu lost his job as school teacher like many others who were found not qualified enough to continue in the job on account of being sickular.  The manager and the principal of his school summoned him to the office.

“We regret to inform you that you are not wanted here anymore.”  The manager said with her characteristic curtness which was accentuated further by neo-nationalism and neo-patriotism .  Her silver hair fluttered in the gentle breeze of the fan and caught Pappu’s attention. 

“There are many organisations doing charity works for treating the sickulars,” said the principal trying to ameliorate what she interpreted as shock while Pappu was still admiring the manager’s fluttering silver hairs.  In spite of the silver hairs the manager’s face reminded Pappu of some nymph of his imagination. 

“Are you all right, Mr Pappu?” asked the principal.  The question brought Pappu back to the reality at hand.  The reality of the world without nymphs and fairies.  With patriotism and nationalism. 

Having absorbed the harshness of the situation with all the equanimity he could muster, Pappu said, “Before I leave I’d like to say two things.”

Manager and principal stared at him.

“One, you’ve ruined one life mercilessly.  Two, Pip-Pip.”

Manager and principal looked at each other as Pappu walked out of the office calmly.

“What’s Pip-pip?” Manager asked.

“Pip is the hero of Great Expectations, Dickens’ novel.” Principal explained sounding pedantic as usual.

“So he is going with great expectations.”  Manager muttered and laughed as if that was the joke of the year.

When Pappu came out of the campus to the street, a victory march was going on celebrating the election of a Baba as the new Chief Minister of the state.  Having nothing else to do, Pappu joined the march and repeated the patriotic and nationalist slogans.  He felt very relaxed.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Absurd Equations


Amit remembered his math teacher speaking about absurd equations as he lay on the street beaten black and blue by the moral police.  (a+b)(a-b) = a2-b2-1 is an absurd equation, for example, the teacher had said.  It has no valid solution.

No valid solution.  Amit mumbled to himself as he sat on the roadside looking at the bruises on his body inflicted by some upper caste men who claimed to be defenders of Bharatiya culture. 

The colours of Holi concealed the bruises. 

What wrong did he do?  He had just put a pinch of the Holi colours on Shyam, his boyhood friend.  They were classmates in school.  Long ago.  He used to help Shyam with mathematics.  One of those days, years ago, as children, they hugged each other on the occasion of Holi.  Shyam’s father slapped Amit for that.

“You filthy untouchable!  How dare you hug my son, the son of a Brahmin?”  Shyam’s father thundered.  His eyes burnt with hatred.  It was just a day after the math teacher had spoken about absurd equations. 

Amit was a brilliant student and the teacher was fond of him.  The teacher was a Brahmin too.  But he never wore the sacred thread of the Brahmins.  “Mathematics is incompatible with Brahmanism,” said the teacher when Amit asked him once about it.  He was a kind man, the teacher.  Unlike other teachers.  And most unlike all the Brahmins Amit knew.

“Why did god create Dalits?” Amit asked the teacher one day.

The teacher patted his back gently and smiled.  “God did not create anything.  Man did.”

Amit passed high school with brilliant marks.  He got job as a sweeper.  His father could not afford to educate him further.  The family needed money for food.

It was twenty years later that Amit met Shyam.  He had just got down from a huge car.  When Amit saw his old friend he forgot everything else.  He rushed to him and rubbed a pinch of Holi colour on his cheek.  Shyam was a little stunned but he smiled.  It was then the group which called itself the moral police approached them.  They started beating Amit with the sticks they were carrying.  “How dare you?”  That’s all what they asked while they beat him again and again.  Shyam had vanished from the spot when it was all over and Amit lay on the street with bruises all over his body and the Holi colours smearing the bruises.

“Poverty is the biggest crime.”  Amit remembered his math teacher telling him once.  “If you are rich, your caste won’t matter.  Nothing will matter.  Not even the crimes you’ll commit.”

The people in the moral police were not rich.  Amit knew it.  But they could commit crimes too with impunity.  It’s not about riches.  No, there’s something else that gives such power to these people.

Absurd equations.  “Why did you write minus one, sir?” Amit had asked.  “Couldn’t it be minus anything?  Any number?”

“One by one,” the teacher said.  “One by one is how the elimination will take place, my boy. One by one.”

Amit did not understand that. But it sounded ominous.  The way the teacher had said it made it sound ominously prophetic. 

Amit woke up from his thoughts by the sound of an uproar from the roof of the mosque that stood a few yards away.  Some people had mounted the roof with saffron flags.  They were shouting slogans which hailed the BJP.  The party had just won the state assembly elections. 

One by one.  Amit saw the gloom in the eyes of his math teacher. 

“Yogi Aditynath is likely to be the CM.” Someone was telling his companions as they walked towards the mosque.

Yogi Adityanath was a math graduate, Amit knew.  The yogi was a master of absurd equations, Amit knew.  One by one.