Notes about some patriotic activities of mine over the last few years:
Back in 1993, the Shiv Sena got upset because Bombay's unthinking suburban railway authorities decided to paint Andheri station green. If you can imagine. Green! That antinational colour! The Sena wanted it repainted, and damned right too. I decided to do my bit as well -- for God, country and the paint companies. Found there was a whole raft of patriotic things I could do to express my displeasure with green. Here's a list.
1. At the time, BEST's minimum fare ticket was printed in green. Travelling home from the station is minimum fare for me. But there comes a time when we all have to ask what we can do for our country. Which I did. I started paying 50 paise more for my fare, so I'd get a blue ticket. Sure, I had to walk back from two stops further down the road, but I figured it was the least I could do to support my non-green country.
The minimum fare ticket is no longer green, but I figured I should keep doing my bit for the nation. So I went on paying the higher fare. Then they made THAT ticket green! So now I'm paying another Rs 1 more and am walking back from six stations ahead.
2. Postboxes come in two colours: green for local letters, red for all others. I boycott the green ones. Any time I write a letter to someone within Bombay, I deliberately and scornfully walk past the green box and stick the letter in the red box. Trouble is, this way very few of my letters reach their intendeds. Also, I was not too happy when a letter to an aunt in Santa Cruz ended up in Santa Cruz, California. But again, I figure this is the least I can do to support my country. And after all, a previous letter to Belgaum had gone instead to Belgium. So why quibble when it comes to patriotic things to do?
3. I refuse to set foot in the nearby park. It has a green lawn! Shocking. Paid a visit to the authorities, asked politely that they spray-paint the lawn. Offered to do it myself, suggested that saffron would be a fine substitute. They laughed at me! Nevertheless, I'm maintaining the boycott. I will not step into that park until they change the colour of their lawn. I've gone corpulent with the lack of exercise, but as they say, it's in a good cause. Besides, I am getting that extra exercise by walking back from six stops ahead.
4. Too many vegetables are green! I've stopped eating them all. Spinach and karela [bittergourd] were OK, I don't like them anyway. But giving up okra, broccoli, cucumbers, lettuce, french beans and many more was hard. My bones are starting to ache, my teeth are falling out and my eyes have sunk deep into their sockets. Classic symptoms, I believe, of scurvy -- comes from the lack of fresh green veggies in my diet. But so what? What's a little pain when you're being patriotic?
5. Threw every single Rs 5 note -- horrid green things -- I had out the balcony into the street below. Nevermore will I pay for anything with one! Though I noticed there was chaos downstairs, all kinds of people chasing down the fluttering notes. To think they would actually be so vile as to use them!
6. Whenever I see a 'Clean Bombay Green Bombay' slogan, I throw my garbage onto the street.
7. Stopped paying attention to green traffic lights. I wish though that someone would explain this patriotic act to the police. They keep fining me.
My protest against antinational green. Applause expected. Seven different measures!
Last year, I got a fresh chance to do my bit for the country. Leaflets circulated in Gujarat calling for a boycott of Muslim businesses. 'Give the traitorous Muslims a taste of patriotism by boycotting them socially and economically,' said one, issued by Chinubhai N Patel of the VHP in Ahmedabad.
OK, I don't live in Gujarat, but I thought this was an excellent idea indeed. Decided to follow it here in Bombay too. And I managed to think of some related things, to go along with the boycott. Here's all I've been doing.
1. The fellow who brings me bread every morning is Muslim. But he comes too early for me to wake up and abuse him. So what
Anyway, after feeding the crows, I would go down to the corner store to buy bread for the family -- have to eat, you know. But then I found the guy who runs the corner store is Muslim. So now, I go down, take a rickshaw to the market, buy bread there and return in the same rickshaw. Rs 26 for Rs 2.50 worth of bread, and it takes me a good half an hour during which my son goes frantic with hunger. But hey, you gotta make sacrifices for patriotism. Right? Though I wish my wife would stop muttering about our finances going haywire.
2. I've put masking tape over those portions of my television screen where Muslim characters have been appearing of late. You know, fellows like Zaheer Khan and Mohammed Kaif as they play cricket for India, film stars like Shah Rukh Khan, politicians like that Iraqi Information Minister Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf. But you know what? These chappies don't have the decency to stay behind the tape. They keep popping out. Masking tape now covers all but a tiny space at the top of my screen. Yet they pop up there too! Think I'm going to get me another television. And lots more masking tape. I'll show them!
3. I'm shunning anything that contains a Muslim name in it. For example, no more will I attend lectures and exhibitions at the Coomaraswamy Hall in the Prince of Wales Museum -- please note the name spelt by the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th letters of 'Coomaraswamy.' And I'm not speaking to my friend Amrapali any more, because the last two syllables in her name spell... no, I won't fall for that trap, I'm not going to write it! My big burly milkman used to greet me each morning with a cheery 'Jai Bajrangbali ki'" Because of the same two syllables, I've stopped buying milk from him.
I could use some advice, though, about my friend Sallie in Australia. Does her name qualify, for the same dual syllable reason, even if it's not spelled quite the same way? And hey, hey, wait a minute! What about 'Australia' itself -- look at what the 6th, 7th and 8th letters spell! To think I almost missed that! No more mentioning that sneaky country near me, OK? Meanwhile, my sister better move out of California, those letters again. About time she behaved filially for a change. But hang on, those syllables show up at the end of 'filially' too...
My participation in this splendid boycott. Thanks for the applause. You'll notice I managed only three measures. When you're already doing several, it gets hard to find still more patriotic things to do. So when Raj Thackeray of the Shiv Sena announced that we patriots of Mumbai must start boycotting non-Maharashtrians, I was a little nervous about finding more measures; but resolute nevertheless in my determination to do what needs to be done. Here's what I came up with.
1. I'm done with Hindi films. I mean, what is all this? Rekha? Tamil Nadu. Bachchan? UP. Mangeshkar sisters? Goa. Danny Denzongpa? Sikkim or somewhere. Yash Chopra? Punjab or somewhere. On and on! I'm not seeing anything any of these people are connected with any more. Come to think of it, the language itself, Hindi, is from way up north. Enough of it.
2. Stopped eating dosa, kulfi, tandoori, mishti dahi, many more. Gave up lassi too. Put together with my earlier fullstop to green veggies, this means the scurvy is really acting up. What's left for me to eat? Dry bhelpuri, day in and day out. Nothing else. The sacrifices I make for my country, does anyone appreciate them?
Have any more ideas? Because I can't think of any. If you can, bring them to me in my home, but only if you're Maharashtrian. See, I don't want to run into the non-Maharashtrians out there, so I'm not stepping out any more. But it's getting sort of tiresome in the house, chewing through yet more dry bhel, peering at this masked-up television through scurvy-ridden eyes.
But hey! I'm a patriot. Applause, please.
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