This is one of those rare
times in our country when our naivete as a young country is a blessing.
It took slavery, indentureship and colonial
greed to launch our East Indian, African, Chinese, European selves into this
spanking new world.
The ensuing knitting together of continents
Travelled too far to carry the burdens of our
various histories. If, back home, they want to fight and kill one another
over religion, race, tribe and region, let them. Let our gift be that of
forgetting. Forget the language, forget the fierce religious bigotry. Itís
no longer our business. Letís instead leave our children scattered rituals,
whimsical associations of their beginnings. This is the way you tie a sari.
This is the way you beat a drum.
Here are rhymes, rhythms and songs. This is
how you bury your dead.
We did as our ancestors bade and forgot. We
forgot how to spell our names correctly. We mixed up words from everywhere,
forgot where they came from and made them our own. We forgot our languages.
We disinherited thousands of dialects from India and Africa knowing that
language is the only gateway to a countryís people. In this way we
irrevocably shut the door to our mother countries.
After independence on these tropical islands
we frolicked like children. We could have gutted the colonial framework and
created our own structures for self-governance but after 1970 we felt weíd
done our work. Our leaders simply stepped into the massaís old shoes.
We could have educated ourselves, made
ourselves independent rather than slaves of oil, palms outstretched for
We could have spent our bounty on building our
cities and towns properly rather than living with the stench of flowing
sewage, disintegrating infrastructure and Band-Aid roads, allowing our real
estate, stock exchange, exchange rate to slide on a treacherous, sliding
But our gift of forgetting has made it all so
This is one time I am REJOICING that there are
over 400,000 people in this country who are functionally illiterateóthat is,
able only to read headlines. If you can barely read, and your religious
history died with your immigrant ancestors, it is almost physically
impossible for you to be a bigot, the kind who destroys murtis in the Hindu
temple by the sea.
Itís much more likely that you are a vandal, a
drug addict rather than a religious fanatic. If we acknowledge desecration
as an act of hate, we will give it momentum.
We try on identities like hats. Our former
East Indian prime minister wearing kurtas in mother India was just dress up.
He would stifle in that rigid society. Our current prime minister wearing an
African tunic here is a nod to our multiculturalism.
But take a country like Pakistan, ripped out
of an ancient country like India both seething with atavistic religious
fanaticism, illiteracy becomes a problem. The million Hindus and Muslims who
loathed one another enough to slaughter one another like animals during
partition must have loathed one another, because their fathers,
grandfathers, great grandfathers loathed one another. Thatís the way itís
been for a thousand years and thatís the way it is. There are 30 wars on in
the world nowóover race, religion and territory.
Itís not our way. We rejected it in 1990 and
now after the desecration of a temple. Our ancestors buried bigotry six feet
deep, shattered it to infinitesimal atoms of ashes. But, what if we fail to
recognise that under some hats, particles of loathing survived the passage
waiting to balloon and blow up on us? Watch for bigots lurking under