There is an echo here in the placid towns of America – an echo from the nationalist fervor gripping the homeland, – an echo that has sprouted new organizations, stirred the pots of older ones, and brought the tricolor to our lives along with its lustrous aura. Hence, old diaspora networks enabled by the country club coterie of lawyers, businessmen, doctors and other money bags have had to co-opt the rebels. And like the good old dynasty, they are not all happy.
Hence one fine day, in one beautiful city, a stylish lady interrupted the meeting of nationalistic Indians, with questions on cow slaughter. It’s a question Hindus feel strongly about, but generally are unable to offer an explanation. Someone responded that the cow was like a mother figure, and killing animals is not healthy. Another said that it was a belief that is part of our DNA and enshrined in the constitution.
Chhaya, the lady in question, was well known and well connected to the levers of power in the diaspora and knew many of its movers and shakers. She also had connections with the media, and had been involved with a few charitable organizations. The professional Indians, intimidated by her popularity among the VIP’s, were defensive and their explanation was vague and not enough to deter her aggressive stance as she kept hammering them with questions.
Questions such as – why only the cow is sacred but other animals were not? Why other animals can be eaten, but not the cow? She was belligerent, and as usual the professionals did not want to be blacklisted as agents of Hindutva and discreetly made their exit.
Then one woman sitting quietly at the back spoke. She introduced herself as Nilima. “I am a housewife,” she said, “and would like to say something.” Nobody had noticed the silent woman clad in a simple sari. While all the educated and the well-dressed flaunted their glowing credentials, the quiet lady sat by herself. She did not seem to have the looks or the affluence of the glib talkers. Nobody talked to her. Yet, when the time came, she spoke up clearly defending the cow abandoned by the educated strawmen, the pompous intellectuals and by members of the “cool and the connected.”
“I have an American friend, Jennie,” began Nilima. “She has a dog which she loves more than life itself. The dog loves her too. One time, Jennie talked about cows and why they are not allowed to be killed in India. Then I asked her if Americans would ever kill their dogs. She was horrified.”
“No way,” she said, “It is part of our family.” I then explained, “Cows are the same to the Indian family especially in rural areas. They provide fuel and milk which is used to sustain the family and also provide income – a golden goose for the community. In addition to their economic utility, they embody the timeless symbol of piety, and selflessness.”
Jennie mentioned that she had never heard that explanation before, and it all makes sense now.
“When Americans would never stoop to kill their domesticated dogs, why should Hindus stoop to kill the docile, domesticated cow?“ asked Nilima. After a pause, she asked Chhaya, “Would you question an American about killing a dog with the same ferocity that you use with your own countrymen regarding killing a cow? And if you do, can you imagine how he would react.?
For a moment, Chhaya had no answer. In the meantime, other Indians suddenly found their voices and buoyed by the spirit of the no-nonsense, simple, sari-clad lady, they responded angrily and raised a furor. Chhaya left the room in a huff, angry and upset.
As soon as Chhaya left, there were recriminations from the cautious, fence-sitting apostles of “freedom of expression”. “It is not fair to Chhaya,” they cried. We should have convinced her instead of arguing and drowning all logic.” But the new spirit roused by a simple lady with giant convictions took hold and several voices spoke up against the nerdish grumblers. They rallied against the values embodied by the likes of Chhaya – chic desi appearance armed with a two-faced universality, consistently batting for a Dynasty with a forked tongue.
Had the quiet housewife not spoken up, it would have been more of the same story. The grip of the old Boys network, the timid professionals avoiding the culture enthusiasts, and the anything-but-Hindu gunslinger going ballistic would have set the stage for a re-run of the past 70 years.
Fortunately, those days are gone. The tide has turned. A nation scarred by skewed History has woken up to tap into its deep, historical reservoirs of wisdom, retrieve a wealth of answers, and enable a resurgent Nationalist narrative.