Friday, May 19, 2006

India First - An illustrative example

As was bound to happen, at a discussion the whole Da Vinci Code business and religion playing censor and all that, the name of a certain Hussain cropped up. Yea, the same one who shares his initials with Samuel L Jackson’s favourite 12-letter word. Anyway, his depictions of Saraswati and other goddesses came up. The whole goddess topic is a topic for another day. But what I want to focus on is what came next. As expected, his depiction of Bharat Mata came up. And not just was She included in the list of goddesses, but the question was also asked if it was “insulting to Hindus?” and “what do Hindus think?”. That my Motherland is nothing short of a goddess, I agree. But what’s with the “Only Hindus should take offence” thing?

Now, unless I am drastically mistaken and the meaning of these words have changed, Bharat Mata in Hindi is Mother India in English. Our land. Our mother. And since when did the personification or the term for our Motherland become a Hindu thing? Unless I am drastically mistaken again, no matter if you are a Hindu, Christian, Parsi or anything else, people of this land are all Indians. Hmmm…or is that not the case?

All this raises certain uncomfortable questions in my mind:
1) Should only Hindus take offence at an insult to our Motherland? And if she is depicted obscenely? Why? Why did not one member in that television audience (which is not saying much) have the sense to point this out? Should not Indians who are Christians, Muslims and Sikh be equally incensed? Or are you not Indians? I am not insinuating that only by being incensed at hussain’s depiction of our Motherland can you prove your Indian-ness, but it would help don’t you think? Especially when you were a member of the audience and supposedly have a brain and a voice. C’mon, in today’s times it’s the “minorities” that can claim anything and have more power. Use it for the best.
2) Shouldn’t everybody have said, “what do you mean Bharat Mata is an Hindu goddess?” I am not a Hindu, but I do think I respect my country and my country is as much mine as anybody else’s?” Or do you not think this, people?
3) Or are you agreeing that India is a Hindu country (which it ceased being a long time ago). It is not now. Not least in the way we use the word Hindu nowadays. We are “secular” now aren’t we? So in effect, you agree your duty lies with your faith first and your Country and your Motherland much later? For one, I think we are and should be Indians first.
4) Is the media and the so-called intelligentsia muddying the waters by equating Saraswati with Bharat Mata? I might even in some weird fashion reconcile myself with his other depictions, but not Bharat Mata. Because I see a basic distinction between Saraswati and Bharat Mata. Or is it just me?
5) More disconcerting about all this is the fact that by keeping quiet and not thinking, and not speaking when given a chance, this is will only give credence to the fact or the truth in some (fanatical) minds that at the end of the day people of other faith are “outsiders”. At this point, I do not think it amiss to mention one of the things that Hitler had against the Jews (whether true or misguided is not the question here). What he felt was that “The Jews are Jews first and Germans later. Not the other way round. The Jew is always a German Jew, not a jewish German.” You get the point. Are we walking down that path? Why feed the flames people?

Thus, in the small and little ways, we are letting ourselves be whittled away when it comes to national identity and a common object of pride and joy. This whittling away will not just erode our sense of unity, but also pare down our feeling of one-ness, and grow our minor distances into an un-crossable chasm. But by then, it will be too late to build any bridges. Let us nip these small things in the bud. Let us not let our narrow mindedness distract us from the larger issue. Let us oppose those people hell bent on creating differences among us, and are anti-national. Let us learn from our history before it’s too late. We don’t need another partition – either in our hearts or in our land.

So there you go, whether you are angry at or appreciate the art of depicting Hindu goddesses is your personal prerogative. But no matter which faith/religion we belong to Bharat Mata is still our Motherland, and even if it pleases your aesthetic sense, I think we should oppose his depiction of Her, which I must say even by itself is cheap, publicity-oriented and a piece of worthless crap. She is our Motherland, and let no one get away with insulting her, even if it supposedly happens to be one of us.
We may have enough chances and reasons and grounds to curse and kill each other based on our differences, but when the opportunity to rally behind a common love and to stress our inherent unity presents itself, let us grab it with both hands. And oppose Hussian's depiction of Bharat Mata. Now and later, even if we're disagreeing about something else.

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