Durba Dhyani gets lessons in patriotism.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
"Lose your TV and keep your sanity," a friend had advised some time back.
She gave away her TV set about two years ago and has been glowing ever since.
"Ignorance is bliss," she croons, whenever asked the secret of her great skin.
Since my refrigerator has packed up and my washing machine is in its death throes, I decided to retain the one thing that still works in the house.
And so I have paid the price -- sitting before the idiot box every evening has led to dull skin as well as brain damage.
For example, I no longer know whether I am secular, pseudo secular, nationalist, hyper-nationalist, a dove, a hawk or what.
I thought people love their country by default, like they love their mother, and did not give much thought to it before.
I did curse it each time I saw a pothole on the road, but never felt any less patriotic.
But now, seeing the nationalistic fervour of some of our news anchors and guests, who seem to be screaming at us to 'Chaaarge!' at the enemy, I feel nervous.
Am I up to it?
Am I battle ready?
I decided to consult an expert -- a retired general, with an impressive grey mustache -- and take some tips from him.
Me: Sir, my question is...
General Saab: (cutting in with righteous indignation): How dare you question the army?
Nationalism is about blind faith, there can be no questions.
You cannot question the Indian Army. That is lesson number 1.
GS: No buts other than the rifle butt.
If people stood up to question their leaders, many historic events would never have come to pass.
Me: Like the Holocaust?
GS: (mustache quivering in rage): What kind of question is that?
Are you with us or against us?
If you are not behind the Indian Army, you will find yourself in front of it.
Me: (duly chastised) I wasn't questioning the army sir.
I just feel that these days there is so much hatred all around...
GS: (impatiently) Says who?
Nationalism is all about love.
Love for the Motherland.
There is no place for hate. All haters who criticise the country should go to hell.
And hell, of course, is Pakistan.
Me: Sir, is it possible to love and criticise something at the same time? Like I criticise my children, but also love them?
GS: I don't know about your children, but what is there to criticise about the country?
This is the greatest nation in the world, if for no other reason, then for the simple fact that I was born in it.
Anyone who thinks otherwise should be sent to Pakistan.
And that is lesson number 2 for you: You must demand that those who have any doubts about the greatness of our nation be sent to Pakistan.
Me: (hesitantly) Sir I've read, 'True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else.'
GS: Who asked you to read?
Me: Er... even great nations are not perfect sir... We too hear about crimes against women, caste-based atrocities, instances of intolerance...
GS: (on the verge of cardiac arrest) Intolerant?
How dare you call us intolerant?
I will not tolerate that.
We are the most tolerant country in the world.
Anyone who thinks otherwise must be shot.
There is no such thing as the caste system, so how can there be any caste-based atrocities?
These are lies manufactured by sickulars, so-called intellectuals, some NGOs and other assorted bunch of anti-nationals, just to show our country in a poor light.
Send them all to Pakistan!
GS: (catching his breath after the tirade) And that is lesson number 3 for you: Be very, very angry.
Be prepared to take offence at everything.
Do not tolerate anyone who questions our tolerance.
That is the hallmark of nationalism.
Me: Some say that is also the sign of low EQ, sir.
GS: Low EQ translates to high NQ, you fool.
Now do you want to increase your NQ or not?
I don't have much time... Have to leave for another TV debate.
Me: I understand that you are in great demand these days sir.
Everyone wants to learn how to love our motherland differently from the way we always have. I love my mother very much.
GS: First love Bharat Mata, then Gau Mata and then your mata.
Me: Absolutely sir.
Should we also love Kashmir, as it is a part of our motherland?
GS: Of course! Kashmir was, is and will forever be an integral part of our country.
Anyone who thinks otherwise should be shot.
Me: But sir, the Kashmiris seem upset with us... They don't seem to love us back as much...
GS: Who said anything about Kashmiris?
People don't matter.
Motherland is mother plus land.
So love and respect the Land.
If people come in the way of land, they must be shot.
Me: Does land also mean the earth, sir?
GS: (impatiently) Land does not mean the earth, or the universe, or humanity, you moron.
That is lesson number 4 for you. Nationalistic love must stop at the borders.
All romantic fools who think otherwise can go to Pakistan.
Me: Some intellectuals say we are becoming ultra patriotic and this is not a sign of maturity.
They say a civilised nation like ours must behave more sensibly than our uncouth neighbour.
GS: (on the verge of another apoplectic fit) All intellectuals are the scum of the earth.
That is lesson number 5. Would they dare to speak like this in Pakistan? In Saudi Arabia?
They are lucky this is a democracy and they can roam free.
They should be hanged, shot, beheaded, bayoneted.
Me: But sir, if we behave like that, won't we become just like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia?
GS: Question the army? What impertinence!
I am beginning to have serious doubts about you now.
Enough is enough.
Are you with us or against us?
Now is the time to take a stand. (Pulls out a gun)
Now tell me -- should we or should we not send Fawad Khan back to Pakistan?
Me: (in fear) Sir, is that the true test of my loyalty? Don't we have bigger issues...
GS: Nothing can be bigger than national security.
Don't dodge my question.
You think you can question the Indian Army and get away?
I will conduct a surgical strike on you.
Me: But I was never questioning the Indian Army, sir.
GS: Answer me. What should be done about Fawad Khan?
Me: How can I do anything sir?
Shouldn't the government take a stand on this?
Only they can cancel his work permit, visa whatever.
GS: Wrong answer. Prepare to meet your maker.
Me: Please allow me to live, sir. Who will watch your TV debates otherwise?
GS: (thinking this over) Okay. Then swear to follow everything I have taught so far.
Me: (very enthusiastically) Of course, sir.
GS: (smiles) You are learning fast.
Keep shouting 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' from time to time. And anyone who asks questions, send them to Pakistan.
Me: But I am not a general like you, sir. People may dare to question me.
GS: Who said I am a general? I only pretend to be one.
GS: (with a wink) Besides, I do have a certificate from the highest authorities... The ones who have a patent on patriotism -- our wonderful news anchors.
Me: But you call yourself a general. What if someone asks for your ID proof?
GS: 'Proof' is a dirty word.
Anyone who asks for it, I have a befitting reply -- I tell them to go to hell. Or Pakistan. One and the same thing.
Me: I salute you. But if we send so many of our citizens to Pakistan, who will watch TV sir? The TRPs...
GS: Hmmmm... well I suppose there would still be enough holy cows around.
I could find gainful employment as a gau-rakshak.
My NQ has really increased since that conversation, and I too hope to be soon certified as a nationalist by our news anchors.
I continue to watch every TV debate closely. My friend says this is self-destructive behaviour.
But Pakistan pressed the self-destruct button a long time ago. So is it time for us now to race towards MAD-ness (mutually assured destruction)?
Kindly note: This is a satirical feature. Readers are requested to take the content with dollops of salt.