Sometimes you got to live with your mental problems. This is what Bart Simpson was saying. Loud and clear with his trademark smirk on, day in and day out, from a poster I drew for my work bench that I share with another fellow Indian. Until, the colleague of mine vandalised it. Mutilated it, with tasteless plasterwork aided by the most unattractive form of sticker tape available, disfiguring the poster. He left a signed note on it too, lest I credit the bartification of my Bart to Mr. Nobody or the aliens who land each day to pick up some of my other co-workers. But naturally, I was offended by this brute show of power, albeit faceless. I sulked, at my inability to give back in the same coin, and at my helplessness to defend what was mine. It took me a full 24 hours to realise how wrong I was in sulking, and how easy the solution to the whole problem was!
Yes, I was wrong at sulking. I have no right to. For my fellow Indian found my work of art offensive, and chose to mutilate it. In the society I inhabit today, this is how dissent is expressed. This is how differences of opinion are sorted out. This is how issues are thrashed out. What my colleague did was perfectly normal and in the limits of accepted public behaviour. I was a fool not to have realised this, for the signs are all around me.
The sena disagrees with something Shah Rukh says, they express their dissent by vandalising theatres playing his films. It is immaterial that what he said was his personal opinion, and as a tax paying citizen of India (SRK topped the tax payers list for full 6 successive years last decade!) he had every right to think, and speak it out in his own personal capacity.
Mumbai manoos suddenly wakes up to realise his city is no longer his own. He disagrees with the others that it is a shared empire of zillions. And what does he do? Thrash their already shanty abodes, kicking them out in hordes. Completely legitimate constitutional means of dissenting in a modern day democracy. To make things more civil and the protest more humane, the government turns a blind eye. After the entire oppressed majority needs a valve to vent out the pressures the minority is putting them under! That these minorities make the arteries of the mega city that sustains the lives and times of the oppressed majority is but a mere inconsequential detail in the sordid saga. Bombay mght have ben up for grabs, Mumbai isn’t my dear friend.
Muthalik and co. find jeans clad college going educated tequila guzzling girls in Bangalore offending; they have all the rights to bash them in public and teach them a lesson. That the girls were of legal drinking age, caught in a legal licensed bar is something that can be easily thrown out of the window. The moral propriety of the majoritarian India is at stake after all. Just so the minority like me raise a meek voice of protest at this anarchy in Bangalore; we are reminded namma bengaluru doesn’t tolerate deviations.
Hussein paints gods and goddesses in obscene poses. It offends our religious sensibilities. So burn his work, disrupt his exhibitions, torture him out of the country, never to let him in and flash the content smile of a job well done when he laments at having to accept refuge in another country. After all he insulted our gods! It’s another matter that nudity, sex and religion in India went hand in hand since time immemorial. It’s another matter that Husain never forced us to go see his work and get offended. To hell with the ideals of creative liberty and freedom of expression. A swami nityananda found seducing young girls on candid camera? Sure. A M.F. Husain recreating something that always was amidst us? Now that is an assault on Hinduism.
So it was that I had been a real jerk in thinking of hitting back at the very civilized and democratic way of expressing angst at my indiscretion and uncivil expression of a tormented demented psyche my parents gifted me with that my righteous colleague chose. I was an imbecile to have thought we were sharing the place, for it clearly belonged to someone else, I was merely tolerated till I remained in my set limits. What I should have done instead, is to apologise.
Apologise for free thinking. Apologise, for my creativity. Apologise for my right to beautify my work bench just so I could spend a few minutes smiling as I peep around in between a busy workday. I should have apologised. For choosing to express myself knowing full well that I am a minority, and in a free republic like India, it is against the law to do what the majority doesn’t like. Say sorry, for I offended the sensibilities of the majority. Remorse, for I forgot that freedom in India was a privilege and not a right.
Sadly, like the shah rukhs and hussains and Bihari bhaiyyas of my nation, I refuse to apologise. I refuse to say sorry. And I would gladly commit the same crime again and again. I am not sure for how long though.
Shah Rukh saved his film with a luncheon meeting. Husain opted refuge with another country, the Bihari takes heart in the hope that nitish might in another half century turn his own state into a mini Mumbai. All this, while I, type an application to my manager to change my bench, as atonement for the sins I committed, so that my creative indiscretions are no longer an inconvenience to my fellow Indian.
We, the free thinking, free speaking minority, are indeed a lunatic lot. And every time, we just got to live with their mental problems.