(The originally appeared in the Sunday Guardian)
Bring out your bell-bottoms and unretire your hippies because we seemed to be re-living the 1970s again. Just like in those days, there were rumours of a coup on the streets of New Delhi, a member of the Gandhi family has undue influence on the government and people were actually reading something the ancients used to call a ‘newspaper.’
Another throwback to a previous decade was branding those who were raising uncomfortable questions with Orwellian terms. ‘Traitor’ seemed to be the new ‘CIA agent.’ Not that anyone believed those hilarious reports anyway, yet some members of the establishment thought it prudent to go on an all out offensive against those allegedly ‘making mischief.’ Suddenly, everyone seemed to have discovered their deep love for the troops. Slavish news anchors nodded continuously while defence experts--who seemed to have walked straight out of a PG Wodehouse novel--insisted that no one had the right to question the armed forces, forgetting that the “Don’t criticize me, bro!” directive is only for people currently serving. We don’t really need our army chiefs to decide for us what we can and cannot speak about. Army chiefs should be like a trophy spouse; best seen and not heard from.
We need to stop feteshizing government institutions because all of them are riddled with problems and we don’t help by ignoring uncomfortable questions. Living in this country is like a choose-your-own-holy cow-which-no-one-can-slaughter adventure. You can’t question the judiciary, because they are our only saving grace! You can’t question the army because apparently, we are now living in a JP Dutta movie. You can’t say anything against Parliament because the right to watch porn--as some jackass goes on and on about the plight of farmers--is sacrosanct! You can’t question Narendra Modi because he is the Diego Maradona of chief ministers and therefore does not need to be penalised for his ‘hand of god’ goal.
We can blame our ‘leaders’ but let’s first admit that all of us aren’t keen on discussing a lot of issues either. We love banning, clipping, censoring, bleeping, burning, tearing, destroying and beating. Our first reaction to any article we don’t agree with is ‘why did this publication print this?’ We seem to only appreciate people whose opinion and worldview coincides with our own. You mean to say if we just pass this little law here then all our problems will be solved? ZOMG! You complete me! And then we question someone’s patriotism as soon as they take a position we don’t seem to agree with. Hey, what are you going on and on about false democracy and crony capitalism? Somebody try this person for sedition, stat! Jingoistic patriotism seems to be the most popular ‘soup-of-the-day’ in our country. The real test of democracy is tolerating people you vehemently disagree with. Let the ‘free market of ideas’ determine the validity of the discourse. I may think you’re talking with you head up your arse, but I will defend to mild discomfort your right to make a fool of yourself in public.
We need to start treating each other as adults. Otherwise the only thing we’d be left to talk about will be the weather. But, wait, isn’t that controversial too, these days? Thanks to some people who believe that global warming is actually taking place. They don’t realize that Mother Nature is just Al Gore in drag and the weather is just going through a normal cyclical phase. Melting polar ice caps, disappearing glaciers and shrinking winter seasons are just part of the normal weather pattern, right? Who needs those icebergs anyway? Those damn things keep sinking our ships and killing all our handsome young men named after medieval painters.
Wait, if we can’t even talk about the weather then all we are left to discuss is our feelings and stuff?
Uh-oh. Beam me back into your time, Scotty.