Last night I had a terrible dream.
I dreamed that India was facing a pandemic from the Covid-19 virus—which was bad enough—but instead of the Modi-led NDA government, India was governed by the Congress/Communist-led UPA government.
In my dream I was at a press briefing by Mr Shashi Tharoor, Union Minister for Health, Information & Broadcasting. Mr Tharoor was replying, in his characteristic cultured and mellifluous tones, to a question on the role of Tabhligi Jamaat in increasing the spread of the virus across India:
“May I, in the simplest possible words, categorically defenestrate the diabolical diatribes of disinformation, the extraordinarily elliptical propositions, indeed the abominable and abhorrent agglomeration of synchronized ad hominem assaults by a regrettably vociferous section of our public who hilariously profess that they alone represent the descendants of those doubtful ancestors who built the great cities of Harappa and Lothal on the Western Plains, that a certain esoteric ecumenical congregation in the Nizamuddin area of the Capital known as Tabhligi Jamaat have, in furtherance of what is after all only their honest and benign desideration to practice and observe their faith, sown and spread far the seed of the pestilence that we know as Covid-19; I say fie on these craven, communal and cavilling critics, these illiberal worthies of inchoate intellect; to them do I murmur: “Factum fieri infectum non potest”.
It took a large pot of strong, haldi-laced tea and a filter-load of black coffee to replace the feverish trembling of my limbs with calming, caffeine-induced tremors of my whole body.
I don’t know about you, O most worthy Reader, but tonight I shall respond to Prime Minister Modi’s call and light two lamps on my balcony at precisely 9 p.m. I’m a little flexible on letting them blaze for precisely 9 minutes; because my lamps are LED lamps made in China, so by leaving them on for an hour I’m neither going to cause any problems to the power grid not add any additional environmental impact to that already caused by the manufacture of these lamps.
I bought my Chinese lamps from a kid at a traffic signal; his smile was a blessing that no amount of fervent prayers at any shrine, religious or political, can bring.
I’m lighting these lamps as a Pratinandana or ‘Thanksgiving’. Like on the evening of March 22nd , when I stood – well, strode up and down – on the balcony beating away at a metal pan and a Turkish drum.
Like on that day, tonight my Pratinandana will be for nurses, doctors, ward boys, municipal sweepers, drain cleaners, garbage collectors, micro vendors of fruit and vegetables, rickshaw-wallahs, thela-wallahs, head-load workers, truck drivers, police constables, watchmen…. for little kids forced to sell Chinese lamps at traffic signals…for all the countless, forgotten millions whom we see but do not recognize, encounter but do not meet, who live their invisible lives and slave at endless, thankless jobs that ensure that you and I are healthy and secure and well-fed and sheltered and strong enough so that we can all make careers out of criticizing the Politicians, the Government, the System, the Establishment, the Bureaucracy, and a thousand other ‘Others’ and ‘Thems’ for not making our beloved India a better place to live in for these very countless millions.
But I shall also offer a fervent thanksgiving prayer to all Gods and Prophets – secular, communal and communist – for saving us from what I believe would have been a fate even worse than a Covid-19 pneumonia: namely, if instead of the Modi-led NDA, India had been governed by the Congress/Communist-led UPA government.
Oh, just to clarify: I’m not making any political statement by lighting made-in-China lamps. Unlike a large section of our populace (unhappily, most of them highly-educated urban illiterates), I neither believe that China has created Covid-19 to murder off most of the world’s people, nor do I believe that Covid-19 and other viruses are created wearing little molecular-sized kufi caps or vibhuti marks on their heads, or for that matter waving tiny nano-sized red flags and yelling revolutionary slogans.
Sure, lighting these lamps is symbolic. I think symbolism is good.
I believe symbolism is one of the things that distinguish the human from the bacteria and the virus.