Saturday, August 26, 2017

No country for columns

I’m only doing this out of duty

(Published on August 19, 2017 in Business Standard)

I’m tired and grumpy and I almost didn’t write a column at all, because my plan for the day was to lie under the dining table under a blanket, with my thumb in my mouth and my face in a sack of salted chips and a glass of something comforting. I’m only writing this out of a tiresome sense of duty, and to annoy the people who hate self-indulgent columns. I figure I’ll just list all the reasons why I’m tired and grumpy—literally list them—so that we don’t have to have a great whacking discussion about any of it, because I'm all discussed out, and so terribly sad about everything that I don’t know if my heart will recover, except that it always does, the stupid masochistic thing, usually just in time to get broken again.

Anyway, here goes, in no particular order:

Dozens of children died in a hospital in Gorakhpur because the hospital hasn’t paid the oxygen supplier’s bill despite multiple reminders. After first denying that the hospital had anything to do with this, the BJP public relations machine decided to look decisive by going after various hospital staff members who actually tried to make things better.

Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari’s term came to an end after a speech or two in which he said several true things about how Indian Muslims feel. His exit from office was marked by a pack of BJP-RSS leaders and writers gracelessly snapping at his heels with speeches and articles drenched in contempt, communally-charged insinuation, and gloating.

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar’s Independence Day speech was blacked out by Doordarshan and All India Radio on Prasar Bharti’s orders because Sarkar refused to “reshape” his speech to cut out the bits about People Who Weren’t Involved With the Freedom Struggle and the bits about a danger to the secular democratic fabric of India. When the story broke, the BJP public relations machine first spent a day flatly denying it, and then said Okay, we did it, but gravity of the nation sanctity of the occasion blah blah.

The Supreme Court called in the National Investigation Agency (NIA)—the guys who work on counter-terrorism and other national security issues—to get to the bottom of an interfaith marriage between two consenting adults.

A woman in Rajasthan was beaten, whipped, made to eat faeces, dragged by her hair, made to lie on a bed of embers, blinded by embers shoved into her eyes, and accused of witchcraft, by her relatives, over property. She died of her injuries. The police at first refused to register an FIR.

A pedestrian hit by a car in Delhi lay on the road for twelve hours before someone took him to the hospital. Many people approached him meanwhile, but only to rob him. One passerby gave him some water but took Rs 12 in return because, he said, nothing comes for free. 

I won’t say a word further, even though there is no shortage of things to add. This brief list suggests to me that it is a far, far better thing to lie under a table in a foetal position than to write columns that do nothing to slow down the acute case of political and social ebola that we currently seem to have. 

Nope, columns do nothing. What we really need is an Opposition. So I’d be grateful if it would kindly move from under the table, where it is taking up all the thumb-sucking, foetal position space. That’s my spot. 

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