Krishna Shastri Devulapalli | Will the coming days be better?

The Asian Age.  | Krishna Shastri Devulapalli

Opinion, Columnists

Exploring the absurdities that define us, from ritual obsessions to our undying love for sentiment and image.

A satirical reflection on the idiosyncrasies of Indian society, questioning our blind spots and cultural rituals. (Image: Krishna Shastri Devulapalli)

To fulfil my monthly commitment to this space, I began writing the kind of piece I’m known for. It featured two Indian writers, a satabhishekam and a distant aunt named Lopamudra, all coming together in a gut-wrenching climax. But midway through my piece, I stopped, and asked myself “What kind of writer are you?” As we hit the refresh button, wasn’t it my duty, I told myself, to write a piece that displeased a larger section of the country than my usual pieces do?

Whether our precious country rediscovers its sanity or will be vanquished yet again by vanity, we will know soon enough. But given below, in my middlebrow opinion, are the reasons why we got here in the first place. And where we will continue to remain if we don’t do something about it.

Congenital blindness

No one is blinder than the average Indian. We suffer either from Dhritarashtric blindness, unable to see the reality around us because we are born truth-blind or we suffer from the Gandharic kind, blessed with perfectly good vision but refusing to see the reality around us because of self-administered blindfolds. We look at the past, look for a guru, look up, look down, look up our own orifices, look anywhere to avoid looking at what is right in front of us.

An addiction to ritual

No nation holds its rituals in higher esteem than we do, whether pilgrimages, pujas, homams, melas, first-day-first-shows; we must follow them. Famine, earthquake, war, pandemic, alien invasion: nothing can come in their way. And let’s not forget the modern-day rituals of the middleclass – bi-annual visits to exotic foreign lands, monstrous weddings, vulgar birthday celebrations, no-onion-no-garlic cruises, weekend golf, Saturday bar night... Try stopping someone on their way to one of these.

Blaming is our birthright

In this land of ours, everyone is completely innocent, blameless, nay, perfect. We never renege on our duties and responsibilities. None of us is ever the perpetrator. We are all victims. The Brits, Nehru, the Mughals, father, mother, wife, children, next-door Mama – they are the ones at fault. A man caught holding a knife he’s just plunged through someone’s heart is not a murderer. He’s a martyr, silly. The now-dead perpetrator kept landing on the knife repeatedly, can’t you see?

We are never wrong

We are always right. Our guru, our doctor, our profession, our club, our caste, our faith and our favourite hero are never wrong. They are the best. Always correct. A hundred instances proving we are comprehensively wrong about something makes us even surer we are right. Everyone is wrong. Except us. Try telling anyone in our ancient land, from our beloved leaders to the guy on a bike coming at you in the wrong direction on a one-way street, he is wrong. We will never change, say sorry or accept defeat, so there.

We can never be equal

In our glorious land, we are always someone’s grand superior or someone’s abject underling. We don’t get equality as a concept. Our vision is not comfortable being level, eye to eye. We can either look up reverentially or look down condescendingly. We are all fans or want fans of our own.

A love for hate

No one hates like we do. Whatever the cost. If you check the antecedents of guy who cut off his nose to spite his face, you’ll find he has an Aadhaar. Hate trumps everything here. We wake up in the morning with hate in our hearts and go to sleep with hate in our hearts. Most likely for someone or something that did us no harm. We even show our love for Ajith or Pawan Kalyan via our hate for Vijay and Mahesh Babu respectively.

Sentiment is king

Our land is the largest manufacturer, user, abuser, exporter, purveyor and worshipper of empty sentiment, that poor, lazy, disingenuous cousin of emotion. Sentiment is a WhatsApp forward. All sentiment requires is tears, platitudes, chest-beating, ululating and grandstanding – basically, everything other than real work. Unlike emotion – an alien concept to us – which is real, and makes you go in search of how to make things better.

Image is everything

Everyone should think we are the kindest, wittiest, bestest, most prosperous, most peace-loving folk in the world. Our home could have been burnt to a cinder, our family could be begging on the streets, we may be clubbing our neighbour to a pulp but as long as everyone thinks we are beautiful and wonderful, Jai Hind.

Looking forward to seeing you on the other side, with yet another pointless piece, whatever the outcome.