Tuesday, 20 September 2011


An open letter, the kind that a certain lady from the South wrote to a Delhi Boy recently, is like streaking in public. It is intended to provide voyeuristic pleasure to a number of people: media, who start salivating at the first promise of increase in TRPs through a flaming controversy; readers, who look forward to someone streaking in public since India is a semi prude society where porn and sleaze are not freely available; finally, commentators who like to share some of the popularity that the streaker suddenly obtains.
Through an open letter you not only seek fame, as a streaker would, you hope to get people to support your cause of putting the target of your letter in his place. "Idiot Delhi Boy ji; see you are reduced to a minority in your own territory. Most people are lapping up the absorbing stuff that I am dishing out."

An open letter is also an invitation to others to participate in the orgy. However, should you land up in a position whence people call you what you are - a racist - you cringe.

To many of us including me the Open Letter was a rude shock. The first reaction was that its openness was only in the modus operandi of exposing; else, it was the product of a closed mind. The rude shock was because of our fervent hope that the scourge of parochialism in India would be set right by the younger generation. Indeed, in a flight from Rajamundry to Mumbai last year, when I had argued with a fellow passenger that rampant communalism was sure to divide a divided India further, he said that fortunately the younger generation was rising above it and didn't seem to care for caste, creed, and the region of their birth. Alas. I only hope that he was right and that the Madrasan is an exception.

I am also amused at the way Madrasan has been slighted by having been called that; something similar to a man from Pakistan taking slight to being called a Paki. I doubt if a Punjaban would feel offended being called so.

Chances are that all of us who feel that my God or my region is better than others, do believe in oneness of God and that He (or She) made us all in His/Her likeness. I am sure even those who gave their state the moniker of 'God's Own Country' don't necessarily believe that the others were made by or have Devil residing therein.

All of us privately believe that every man or woman on earth is a variation of the same essence that makes us. However, so intense is the desire to score brownie points over fellow humans that we are prepared to set this fundamental 'Truth' aside for the times when denigrating another human being becomes expedient. Could the Delhi boy that the Madrasan seems to calumniate so passionately be made by another God; perhaps not the God who made His/Her Own Country one of the smallest in India?

Our Religion is a serious thing as compared to the derision that we so light-heartedly subject all those who feel differently. Our great temptation to succumb to jeering (both unprovoked and provoked) is similar to what Kauravas did to Pandavas and before that Draupadi did to Duryodhan. How many more times we want Draupadi to be disrobed in public because of such continued attempts at mockery? Do we want a war to sort this out; another Mahabharat because a lady from the South has been called a Madrasan? I doubt it. We want the ridicule to serve our immediate purpose (of earning popularity) and then retreat into believing in oneness of God and every human being made in His/Her likeness.

What does the Religion say about how to respond to Evil or Bias or any other negative feeling? Simple: hate the Evil and not the Evil Doer. If the Delhi Boy has hurt your sensitivities, the best approach is not to do exactly what you accuse him of doing. For then, how do we decide which one of you is worthy of our empathy? When opportunity arose, both of you acted exactly in the like manner; he in his pompous style and you in your supercilious writing. Would you have written such a vitriolic and distasteful article if you had discovered, just prior to spitting venom, that he is related to you in some way, perhaps his grandparents were/are half Tamil/Malyalis?

Some of the finest Indian literature has come from Punjab, just as it has come from the South; some of the bravest Indian soldiers are/were Punjabis, just as some of the best Generals have been from the South. A Punjabi feels totally at home taking his friends out for Dosa and Coffee just as a Tamilian responds to the Punjabi hip-hop.

I did not know about India's first freedom fighter Kattabomman until I commanded an establishment by that name near Tirunelveli. Similarly, people from the South probably have no idea of the sacrifices of, say, Guru Teg Bahadur. Is there a competition? Is there a race? Shouldn't we be happy that both were Indian. Let me use your characteristic style Madrasan to make this point, "Do you know India? Indians? For your information, it is country where Delhi boy and you and others live and prosper whilst each one of you is hell bent in proving that India is only you and the Delhi boy with all your malevolence." Hurts? Well, your characteristic style will always hurt.

By the way, I am a Punjabi married to a Tamilian. Both of us are convinced that your angry rejoinder to actual and perceived racism of Delhi boy and his family is no less racist. I maintain that all racism is bad; both original and rejoinder. My regards for the good in South India is not conditional on your finding something good about me. Similarly, I don't hate you simply because someone from your part of the world has taken it upon herself to set right people from my community. My community is your community.

Here is what I read about Raag Shahana:

"However, a word of caution; this raga requires many years of experience at both performing and listening to other artists to master. Though singing the raga may seem simple, perfectly rendering the many subtle, delicate phrases and gamakas calls for a more practiced hand."

I think it is same with knowing people from other regions and communities. Perhaps, Dear Madrasan, you should also read Harper Lee's 'To Kill A Mockingbird'. Most people, as Lee wrote, are really nice when you finally see them.

One last thing: do you think the Delhi boy is now suitably sobered to regard you as the last word in intellectualism; that your writing has changed his life forever; that he has finally seen light through your article? No? Well, I leave you to think then as to what the article has achieved.

Perhaps it has ignited controversy. Is that a big achievement in a country where we have never solved anything through controversy? Remember Ayodhya? Ram Janambhoomi?

In the end, Dear Madrasan, here is something from Kabir that you may like:

Avval Allah Noor Upaya Qudrat Keh Sub Banday (God Created Light Of Which All The Beings Were Born)
Aik Noor Keh Sub Jag Upajiya Kaun Bhale Ko Mandhe (From The Same Light, The Universe Was Born. So Who Is Good And Who Is Bad?)

1 comment:

I welcome all your comments as long as these are not vituperative, use obscene language and are communal