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.