January 27, 2012

On being secular

Everyone wants to be secular these days. The newspapers are full of important people who are anxious to let everyone know how important it is to be secular. “The minorities are such a maligned lot. They cannot take care of themselves. It is up to us – the enlightened majority, to take care of them. How else will they survive?” Why, the other day, an important secular man married a minority woman to drive home his point. Now, I hear that he is writing a book to let us know that it is working well.

This has all been very heart warming for me. A tear rolled down my cheek when I heard our Law Minister bravely breaking the law and demanding special quotas for minorities. “We will give the minorities exactly the importance they deserve!” he thundered. “What selfless bravery and nobility”, I thought as I reached for my handkerchief sobbing like a child. “Why can’t the others be enlightened too”, I cried, alarming my ten year old who was busy with her homework essay on Why it is important for all Indians to celebrate Christmas. The bad guys just don’t seem to get it. Rather than understand how special our minorities are, they seem to suffer from the delusion that all of us are equal.

On a flight back from Delhi, I was seated next to a prominent secularist. I shook his hand vigorously, thanking him for showing all of us the way. “Why don’t the bad guys get it? It is so obvious”, I protested. He looked down at me over his spectacles, with a knowing smile. “My chap”, he said patting me in an avuncular fashion, “the others don’t want to get it. All they seem to want is for every one to be treated equal. We are not all equal, you know”, he lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “Whatever do you mean?”, I asked in amazement with the anticipation of a worshipper about to be inducted into a cult. “The minorities need help. For years, they’ve needed us to take care of them. It is our duty to do so. That is the truth”, he concluded with a flourish. “You mean, we should be such noble people and help them to not take care of themselves?”, I shouted in amazement at the brilliance of the idea. He nodded and smiled like a Buddha.

“Why, it’s so simple. We can do even better. We should give them special laws so they don’t even have to worry about the constitution. After all, the constitution was probably written by a bigoted majority chap” I shouted, besides myself with the joy of having discovered the ultimate truth. “I know’, he said, “and we already did”, he clapped his hands, “They have their own laws”.

“Wait, I have a brilliant idea. The problem is that they are a minority. I say we let them convert all of us by paying us money. Then, they can become the majority”, I screamed, dazzled by own genius. “Done. Next?”, he cut me short. Crestfallen by my inability to come up with an original contribution to the secular cause, I tried again, “I say we make one of them the President”.

“Where have you been, boy? That started in the fifties. You’ve got to do better”, he chuckled. Gasping for a lungful of air, and desperation mounting, I cried “ Let’s pass a law that says that anyone who proclaims that all Indians are equal will be jailed. That ought to really shut up the bad guys”.

“Hey! wait a minute, we never thought of that”, said the important man. As he got into his chauffeur driven limousine, he handed me his card. “Give me a call. I think you have the makings of a great secularist, my chap”

This satirical piece was written by me in 2006. It is being published in What Ho! with minor changes from the original piece with permission granted to me by myself. Have you read What Ho! ? If you didn’t know, you’re already here at What Ho!

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