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February 6, 2009                                                                                                                 

Happy Valentine's Day, Mr.Thackeray


I am a proud Indian. Not only in the context of the interesting times that we live in, when we seem on the verge of becoming a global superpower, but also for much of what it has stood for down the ages. Though admittedly, I do not share the imbecile pride of the uninformed who believe that we are the font of all civilization & that had it not been for us the rest of the world would still be walking around sans knickers. In the middle of all this heady & contentious pride, let's stop for a moment to consider just what made my great-great-great-grandpop, & yours, tick .


They were bright, progressive & resourceful. What other kind of people could have INVENTED the zero, numerous grand architectural styles, besides finding the time to compose some of the world's greatest literary works, among other things?


They were also opportunists. Here I beg to differ from those who think of opportunism as a four-letter word (Jeez! Learn to count!), because to me it simply denotes the ability to know a good thing when you see it. Now I know that you are not supposed to pocket every good thing that you lay your eyes on (though you can certainly try it at your own peril), but when it comes to concepts & ideas, we can hardly be accused of plagiarism if we make a good thing our own (The entire world uses the decimal system. Doesn't it? And have we ever complained??)


Stitched-clothing came to our part of the world with the coming of the Muslim invaders, & all of us ,including Mr.Thackeray, wear stitched clothes. Right? Gun-powder was invented by the Chinese ,& along with the rest of the world, we too make extensive use of it without bothering about its origins. Right? Mr.Thackeray can't seem to do without those humungous glasses perpetually perched on the bridge of his nose, & he also seems to love his cigars & his beer, but does he know that these were not invented locally? Now most of us have no qualms using any of these, but someone really ought to inform Mr.Thackeray. I'm sure he'd like to swap them for something that was invented by his great-great-great-grandpop, or mine (May I offer you a beedi & tharra, Mr.Thackeray? Or maybe I should first confirm if we've always owned the patent on those either). And does he know that Hindi is the bastard child of

Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic & a whole lot of other tongues? Coming to think of it, he probably does. He probably believes that his great-

great-great-grandpop, & mine, used to chat in Marathi when they were still swinging from trees.


His professed world-view seems to suggest that we had a perfect past, & that the present leaves a lot to be desired. But coming to think of it, weren't the practices of Sati, Child-marriage, Thuggie, Dev-dasis, etc., etc., a part of this glorious past of ours? And is it not a fact that had it not been for our forced encounter with the west, education would have remained the sole preserve of the privileged? I guess the list can just go on & on, but please don't think that I am trying to project our truly glorious culture in a bad-light. I wouldn't do that because I'm too proud of it; but the best part is that I couldn't do that even if I tried. Like any human-being, a culture too has its moles, warts & scars; but they can not take away from it its essential goodness ,or rob it of the credit it deserves for the achievements of its people. The only point that I'm trying to make here is that the reason why our civilization has survived & flourished for so long is that it has managed to stay relevant. Always. We may never have been without our flaws, but we have always had the flexibility needed to improve. If something makes a person happy, & doesn't cause any harm to the other members of the society, he should be able to just go ahead & do it. Eg. if two people of any sex happen to fall in love, they should be able to live their love regardless of the view taken by others; but then that has never been acceptable to the homophobic Mr.Thackeray, who feels that homosexuality is un-Indian (or atleast un-hindu), regardless of what the Khajuraho temples & the Kamasutra might suggest. But hang-on,  perhaps we going too far overboard in assuming that Mr.Thackeray has ever visited Khajuraho or read the Kamasutra?


So our wise forefathers, without much ado, took to wearing stitched clothes, wearing glasses, speaking English & traveling across the seas (which, incidently, was considered a sin till not too long ago) realizing that society is a growth in time. So, much as Mr.Thackeray might like to believe otherwise, our culture did not flourish by sticking to a bunch of rules put together on day-one, but by forever aligning itself with changing circumstances.


Holi, Diwali, & all other festivals, are little more than well-thought out reasons to break the monotony of our lives. They provide us with a reason to make merry, even if our own lives may not quite furnish us with a reason to rejoice at that given moment. Valentine's Day is hardly any different. It offers the young ,& the not-so- young, a chance to express their affection for the ones they love. Now I hope that Mr.Thackeray hasn't classified us as a loveless people, because that's the last thing that we are. As for "remaining true to our culture",as defined by Mr.Thackeray, I'd love to see him explain the now-extinct practice where the entire village was treated as one family, with all men enjoying equal right of cohabitation with all the women. Since Mr.Thackeray doesn't seem terribly well-informed, he might like to know that this practice existed even in post-independence India, in parts of Ladakh, Bastar & among the Santhals.


Just as every individual needs to grow up, so does every culture need to come of age. If a sixty year old man chasing teen-age girls looks ridiculous, so would a four thousand year old culture trying to stick to the practices that it had spawned in its infancy. Isn't that what makes Wahhabism such a scourge for the entire world?


And you know what? In my opinion Mr.Thackeray isn't even sincere in his self-appointed role as the protector of our culture. He's an aging man who is addicted to the lime-light. So as long as a thing can help keep him in the news, anything goes. The way he sees it, while he continues to get his jollies issuing insincere "fatwas" against all & sundry, no one loses too much since the issue is allowed to fizzle out any way in a fort-night or so. He's done it on countless occasions in the past, & he will continue to do it until everyone is able to see him for the one-trick-political-monkey that he is. The sad bit is that the youth of this country is being made to pay a price for having been born in the same land as the sound-byte-crazy-charlatan. The young are mostly too timid to fight it out over their right to love as they please. And can you blame them? I mean, what good (besides martyrdom) can come off fighting against Mr.Thackeray's goon-squads? One would logically expect the state to step in to curtail Mr.Thackeray's menace, but the state has already exposed its impotence by not daring to arrest him despite his being indicted for inciting communal-violence.

 I think Mr.Thackeray  went on record saying that no "company" will be allowed to dictate to Indians on how to express love. Well even if Valentine's Day is a Hallmark conspiracy, does anyone really care? Atleast it makes a lot of people happy! But I guess that is not something that one can logically expect Mr.Thackeray to understand. After all, all of his life's achievements have resulted from his ability to incite fear!


Having vented my spleen on Mr.Thackeray's busy-body nuisance, let me now come to a theory that I can't stop smiling about. I don't think that anybody's ever "loved" the poor sod, in any commonly accepted meaning of the term. And like the Grinch who hated Christmas-cheer enough to steal it, Mr.Thackeray has assembled a small army of similarly love-deprived individuals (The Shiv-sena) to do his bidding. My heart goes out to him & his kind.


It would probably be too much to expect any sane individual to actually fall in love with this unfortunate lot who have been singled out by evolution for weeding, but charity isn't beyond us. Is it? So ladies & "gentlemen" (You never know what might work ;) ), let us all make a point of sending Valentine's Day greetings to Mr.Thackeray, just so he'd know just how good it feels to feel wanted & loved. I'm fairly certain that the year after that Mr.Thackeray will be at the forefront fighting any other demagogue who might speak against love & all that helps the cause of love.


As for the "Great Indian Culture", its glorious march down the ages will continue unabated .Even, & specially, without Mr.Thackeray's unwelcome assistance .

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