May 27, 2002


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Dilip D'Souza

All Aboard The Mainstream

So I sit here in my Mumbai flat, looking out to sea on a gorgeous May morning, listening to my son playing behind me, and I wonder if we are about to plunge into yet another war. A war in which the generally accepted wisdom -- if that's the word -- is that Pakistan's strategy will be to try nuking major Indian cities, Mumbai in particular. All over again, I'm keenly aware that I don't know if my family and I will be alive or reduced to so many scraps of radioactive waste a month from now. A week from now. Tomorrow. Before I finish this article. This very sentence.

And that makes me very frightened indeed.

The last time I confessed to such fright was three years ago, in a column written during Kargil. "I feel terrified, period", I wrote then. I got my usual share of abuse for saying so. Most came from spots on the planet very far away indeed from Mumbai. Like the University of California, Los Angeles, from where someone wrote me off derisively as a "wimp."

Must have made him feel good, being non-wimpy as he went about his business in LA. I'll stay in Mumbai, thanks, even if I'm wimpily terrified that I'll be nuked.

So since the threat of war has got me so uncertain about what will happen to my world, let me tell you instead about some thoughts triggered by a recent meeting I went to. Bear with me, they may not be as unconnected to war as you may think at first.

Some 20 of us gathered at a friend's home, to listen to a RSS man speak on the RSS view of Hindu-Muslim tensions. He was genial, even-tempered and articulate. He was also certain of a basic thesis: that the tensions are rooted in Muslim refusal to "join the mainstream" in India; that once Muslims join this "mainstream," everyone would live together in peace and harmony.

A fine and simple prescription, don't you think? I do. In fact, I've thought so for years, through countless calls we've heard for non-Hindus to "join the mainstream." All India's problems, the callers tell us, will be solved when non-Hindus think of themselves as "Muslim Hindus," or "Christian Hindus," or "Sikh Hindus," or whatever else the case may be. We must call ourselves these names, we must stop getting our inspiration from outside India, we must immerse ourselves in the Hindu ethos that India is steeped in.

We must join up for the mainstream gravy train, and all will be well.

Such a fine prescription, really! I believe it deserves wider application.

So consider this your invitation, you of the female persuasion. We males -- the majority in India, let's remember -- invite you to join us in the mainstream. Acknowledge that we have a glorious common heritage. Call yourselves "female males." Do those things, and I know I speak for all Indian males in stating that there will then be peace between the sexes. Maybe even love.

Really, take a look at all the problems we males -- indeed, all Indians -- have to put up with simply because women are not men. Your wife nagging you? Having trouble marrying off your daughter? Wish your wife had had the sense and the chromosomes to produce a son, never mind that the concerned chromosomes really came from you? Dowry deaths? Sati? Divorces on the rise?

Well, all that's because females in India want to stay outside the male mainstream. The anti-nationals! Why can't they join us? Why are they different? Why do they want to remain different? Why can't a woman be more like a man?

Take my word for it: that long list of problems will magically vanish as soon as women realise and acknowledge that they share a common heritage -- sorry, I meant a glorious common heritage -- with men. As soon as they begin calling themselves "female males" and join the mainstream.

What's that I hear from you women? You didn't know you were outside the mainstream in the first place? Well, that's just too bad. You are outside, and that makes you anti-Indian. If you had been true Indians, you would have been in the mainstream to begin with. If you had been true Indians, you would have been calling yourselves -- what was it again? -- "female males" a long time ago.

And no, I'm sorry, you cannot question the patriotism, the Indian-ness, of us males. We are true Indians because we defined and appropriated the mainstream and we're in it and we've decided to equate being Indian with being male, not forgetting that we're God's gift to women and humankind anyway. We were born male, and so we are more Indian than you. It's as simple as that. It's the male ethos that governs our lives in this country, don't you forget, and we can't have it any other way.

Got all that? Yep, this is one more call to join the mainstream. And there are several more in the works, depending on your particular mainstream. Personally, I'm issuing this invitation now. But I'm about to send out a couple more. One, from the clothed mainstream to the nudes in the country -- the "nude clothes-wearers." Another, from the cricket-loving mainstream to the hockey-loving minority -- the "hockey-loving cricket-lovers."

And why stop there? You can dream up your own invitations. There are any number of mainstreams in India. I know I am firmly in at least the three above. Doubtless, unknown to me, I am in several others as well. Whatever your religion, or hair colour, or cola loyalty, or kulfi flavour preference -- there's a mainstream, or five or six, to suit you. Lose no time identifying one. Proclaim yourself truly Indian by virtue of being in it, and outsiders not-quite-Indian because they're outside. Then lose no time inviting the outsiders to join. We can get this country started on the biggest mainstream-joining spree it has ever known, and then that will be another one as well. The mainstream-joiners' mainstream.

And while you're sending out your invitations, make sure you blame every problem you can think of -- war with Pakistan, massacres in Gujarat, wimps in Mumbai, drought in Kalahandi, Tendulkar's apparent slump, even imaginary ones -- on those who haven't joined, OK? This is entirely natural. More than that, it is the patriotic thing to do. And it's easy. As you can see with the invitation I extended to women.

In the end, let's understand: mainstreams are what democracy is all about. Abe Lincoln -- that male, let it be said -- defined it so well at Gettysburg: "of the mainstream, by the mainstream, for the mainstream."

Ah, I see there's a reply -- the first -- to my invitation to India's women to join the mainstream. And it's from a female hockey-loving nudist! Can't get much more anti-national than that, now can we? This is how it reads:

"I refuse to join a mainstream that would admit me as a member [apologies to Groucho Marx]."

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Dilip D'Souza

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