When I first saw references on Twitter to Maneka Gandhi’s article in The Print, I assumed it was more of the usual Hindu-bashing, probably by someone who has zero understanding of Hinduism. It even occurred to me that perhaps Maneka Gandhi, even though she belongs in the BJP, is under the sway of the usual array of Left-Lib ideologies that many of us have suffered from at some point in our lives like a disease that refuses to go away generation after generation.
When I decided to write this rebuttal, I finally did read her article and was surprised that her tone was not belligerent but rather carried a sense of pathos, of disillusionment. In effect, it seems that she did not write the article at the behest of some Breaking India force but as a practicing Hindu trying to rationalize her experiences within her religious framework but failing to reach a satisfactory conclusion.
The question arises, why, though she has all the intellectual arguments at her disposal, does she fail to satisfy herself? Why must she look to the work of an obscure European Nazi sympathizer, Savitri Devi, to understand her own religion? The answer to that question lies not in logic but in aesthetics and probably has something to do with events in her childhood. As a girl, Maneka Gandhi seems to have attended Lawrence school, an elite Christian school in the Nilgiris. Many, especially those of us who have attended convent schools, have grown up reading English literature and have absorbed a Christian aesthetic of what compassion is supposed to look like. Christianity tells us that compassion and charity manifest in certain ways only and anything outside of that is, well, apathy.
For practicing Hindus who have unfortunately imbibed a Christian aesthetic, compassion has to manifest as a series of Mother Teresa type actions in order to satisfy our expectation of the “look and feel” of compassion. In the absence of such Christian actions, our hearts feel as if something is not right with the action, like how a person suffering from OCD would feel in an untidy room.
This Christian aesthetic also informs the seed of communist thought, after all Christianity was the world’s first revolution, destroying everything that came before it. I remember, when I was in my twenties, reading a poem by the Cuban revolutionary, Jose Marti, which goes– “con los pobres de la tierra, quiero mi suerte echar”. This roughly translates to “with the wretched of the earth, I wish, my fate, to share”. This is basically Jesus speaking through Marti! It is attractive, but bullshit at the same time. We know what happened to Jose Marti; he tried to start a violent revolution (notice the irony) and was killed within 10 minutes of landing on the beach. What’s important to note, is that this talk of charity and compassion is merely an aesthetic. When it’s done the “right” way by people in white robes dangling crosses around their necks, or by people with beards and long shoulder bags, we read their acts as charitable and compassionate. When the same acts are done by ordinary folk, like have been widely visible during this lock-down, people like Maneka ignore them entirely! This is because like many of us, she has been schooled to see the world through Christian eyes. How is this possible? Take a famous example- the Taj Mahal. We have been schooled to see it as beautiful (and it probably is) but the same eyes find it simply impossible to see the Kandariya Mahadeva temple as more beautiful that the Taj (and it probably is). Our eyes, and Maneka Gandhi’s too, have been hijacked by foreign reference points and we need to be able to see this flaw within ourselves and not succumb to this flaw. What Maneka does in the following paragraph is succumb –
“Millions of Hindus would never interfere to prevent a child from kicking a sleeping dog, or from knocking down a bird’s nest. There are thousands who beat their overloaded bullocks and buffaloes, horses and donkeys, and mercilessly twist their tails to make them walk faster. There are those who carry unwanted newly born kittens away from their houses and leave them on the roadside to “fend for themselves”, and those who have never protested against the torture of animals in the name of science, or the killing of cattle in municipal slaughterhouses in the most barbaric manner. If asked why they show such callousness, they would merely reply that it was so planned that every living individual should suffer the fate determined by the sum of its deeds, and that animals who undergo tortures deserve it because they sinned in their previous lives. This is the consequence of a general belief in mathematical justice.”
What Bharat is she talking about?? Anyone who has ever lived in Bharat knows that each of these observations of hers is pure poppycock. Not that this stuff never happens but to claim that it is the norm is absurd! In Bharat, we don’t kick sleeping dogs. I’ve never seen anyone do that in more than four decades of living. We do not knock down birds’ nests unless we belong to a community that eats birds’ eggs for nutrition. Has Maneka ever had to eat crow eggs in order to live? We do not overload bullock carts if we can help it and do not suffer from poverty ourselves. Has Maneka ever tried to get stuff from one place to another without resorting to a phone call that has a truck show up at her door step with muscular guys to load and unload her stuff? She has the money to pay them of course. We do not twist the tails of donkeys and horses unless that is a legitimate way to communicate with them. Has Maneka Gandhi ever learned the art of horse whispering? Or ridden bareback without stirrups like the Sioux of yesteryear? I guess not. Then on what basis is she making these value judgments? Leaving cats to fend for themselves is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Cats breed faster than the eye can blink and it’s impossible to look after multiple generations of kittens. Will Maneka pay for the milk to feed these kittens at Rs.40 a litre no less! Is it not better for cats to utilize their instincts, learn to feed themselves and live independent (if short) lives? These are not easy questions to answer but Maneka writes as if the answers to these questions are obvious to her readers and it is this that reveals her Christian eyes.
The Christian worldview is simple – good-bad, black-white, us-them…its total rejection of complexity is the source of its attraction for simple people but also the reason for its rejection by people who have had some time to think about the world (such as the Europeans who have now abandoned their churches). Notice also that the minute Christians have met with complexity they have reacted with violence. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to cover up the inner hypocrisies of their theology. They have done so since the days of the slaughter of the pagans of Europe all the way up to our very own Goan inquisition whose legacy is carried forward by the leading light of Fraco Mullakal in Kerala today- “I preach love but I will kill and create cover-up propaganda. I preach celibacy but I will practice sodomy and create cover-up propaganda.” This attitude is endemic to the Christian aesthetic. In fact, we recently read about the Missionaries of Charity selling orphan babies to the highest bidder- “I want to save you and for that I will sell you!”
Take that Maneka! Out-do that!
Let me remind you, since you bring up cow slaughter (of all the possible arguments). Cows were not slaughtered in Bharat, chickens were not bred in factory farms in Bharat. All of this is happening now in modern India. Modern India is not Bharat, modern India is a liberal outpost of debased European values that has nothing, nada, zilch, to do with Hinduism or Hindus. Do not lay the problems and viciousness of modern India at the doorstep of Hinduism and Bharat.
From my Bharat, yet untouched by the cold hands of modern India, I share with you four personal anecdotes-
At the infancy of my career as a building contractor, we were digging a foundation for a house. As the crowbar struck the earth it sank without resistance in to the ground. My man immediately stopped digging and we got out our spades and slowly cleared out the area to see what was underneath. We unearthed a large termite nest. My man immediately cleared out the earth around it till its base, lifted it up carefully and buried it outside the perimeter of the building in the earth. This is Bharat.
More recently, close to where I live, a coconut tree on a farmer’s field was struck by lightning and the next morning I was awakened by the sound of a bell ringing. My neighbor was performing an aarthi to the tree! He had sanctified the tree with an alankaaram of flowers and with turmeric and kumkum. I joined him as he gave thanks for the decades of coconuts that the tree had supported his family with, before cutting down the tree and offering it to the village cremation ground to be used for another man’s funeral. The stump of the tree still stands with the turmeric and kumkum marks fading in the sun and the rain. This is Bharat.
And since you talk of inter-connectedness, it brings to mind a couple of incidents that touched me. The first happened on a bus. I was with my children travelling to a neighboring town when the conductor arrived to distribute tickets. I paid for the three of us but he gave me only one ticket in return and returned the rest of the money. I looked at him in surprise but he looked instead at my children and joined his hands in a Namaste and walked away. This is Bharat. The second happened in the death ambulance that was taking my grandmother’s body to the crematorium. I had lived in Bharat for 4 decades by then but my Christian eyes had simply not noticed what happens in public around a Hindu death. As the loud speaker on the vehicle blared verses from the Gita, I looked out of the window and saw absolute strangers in peak traffic stop their bikes and bring their hands together in a Namaste and mutter a prayer. Overwhelming! This is Bharat.
And let me finish, because you are some kind of environmentalist, by reminding you of Mata Amrita Devi and the 363 Bishnois who gave their lives protecting Khejri Trees 290 years ago. This was centuries before any Christian anywhere in the world had even a hazy conception of non-violence, animal rights or environmentalism. The Bishnois’ actions that day came from an understanding of the divine connection between all of us and the world we live in. This, you recognize very well but you fail to correctly recognize and diagnose that the death of this connection in modern India is a function of a khichidi liberal culture held on life support by a khichidi liberal state and laws that are neither for the people, by the people or of the people. We will never be as American as the Americans. We will fail in our attempts to foist upon 1.3 billion people the Liberal and Christian values that the elites so venerate. But most pathetically, when we fail, our elites will fail to recognize the root cause for our failure. They will continue to blame the very culture that once brought us success in all spheres of life including the environmental and spiritual. They will continue to blame the very culture that gave the world the deepest doctrines on compassion and the most committed and long-lived human experiments in ahimsa and vegetarianism including Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.
And all this, only because they continue to see the world through their Christian eyes.
This lock-down has seen incredible examples of people helping to feed total strangers, of ordinary people and Hindu temples and mathas contributing to the Prime Minister’s Fund , of people helping migrant workers get home, of people feeding monkeys in temples, dogs on the streets and cows in the goshalas. This is the truth.
Featured Image: The Print
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