Monday, November 30, 2015
(Published on November 28 2015, in Business Standard)
Until recently, thinking of India made me smile fondly or bang my head against the wall, often at the same time. It was complicated, but one could recognise and process one’s feelings and describe them in words. Words were equal to the task. Words worked.
Now when I think of India, I smile fondly, bang my head against the wall, and then double over shrieking and yowling as I physically transform, Hulk-style. When I straighten up, my head has been replaced with a perfectly round, perfectly bald yellow laughing face, with two bright blue tears of mirth spouting from its laughing eyes.
This emoji is so much better than words that it was declared Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year 2015. They call it ‘Face with tears of joy’, but I call it ‘Hahahahaha I’m laughing so hard, I’m crying’.
This week my emoji head erupted when Bollywood superstar and Incredible India! brand ambassador Aamir Khan said that his wife Kiran was scared to read the papers, and she sometimes wondered whether they should continue to live in India, at which point the social media patriot monkeys began to hurl social media patriot monkey faeces at him. The lazier of them uninstalled the Snapdeal app that Khan represents.
My emoji head showed up when a real life lawyer filed a real life sedition charge against Khan in a real life court. I got emoji head when the Shiv Sena, the evil clown act in the right wing political circus, offered a Rs 1 lakh award to anyone who would slap Khan (prompting various wags to wonder whether they meant THE Aamir Khan, or just anyone named Aamir Khan, and whether only the first person to slap him got the dosh, and whether Kiran might pick up the award since she must want to slap him sometimes anyway on account of marriage being a difficult thing.) I got it again when the Shiv Sena’s Lucknow branch conducted a mock funeral for Khan. And again when BJP spokesman MJ Akbear said that Aamir Khan’s statement was ‘a moral offence’ and he was ‘dragging the whole country down’, thus ascribing magical powers to someone other than Baba Ramdev.
Waking up to suddenly find yourself transformed into a giant insect is positively humdrum compared to these levels of absurdity. Kafka’s ghost must be drinking itself into a stupor to numb its feelings of writerly inadequacy.
But then this is Incredible India!, where there is no such thing as ‘it can’t possibly get worse’. Shortly thereafter, Rajnath Singh got up on the floor of Parliament and said that Lord Ram was a true democrat because he addressed his subjects’ concern about Sita’s purity by making her undergo a trial by fire. Now listen, Rajnath Singh is not some gremlin on Twitter. He’s India’s Home Minister. He is among a limited number of people who really can drag the whole country down. When I was done doubling over and shrieking, I had not one but ten bald yellow laughing heads.
In the last many, many months, we have had more than enough demonstrations of how the BJP leadership and its most ardent supporters understand things like ‘democracy’, ‘patriotism’, ‘sedition’, ‘secularism’, ‘development’ and ‘progress’, to know that we really are being dragged down. It’s a form of poetic justice that a party that cravenly yearns for international validation under a pseudo-nationalist cloak is the party that is methodically turning India into the world’s laughing stock, statement by brainless statement. Imagine the whole world looking at India and developing emoji-head.
We should drag Kafka’s ghost away from its glass of spirits. It might be inspired to ghost-write something truly fantastic.
On second thoughts, perhaps that face means: Hahahahahaha I’m crying so hard, I’m laughing.