Like a good Indian, on Independence Day, I went to the local stationery store, purchased two Indian flags that were made in China, and put them up outside our door. The family and household staff for once, instantly approved of the placement instead of giving me conflicting bits of advice about how I could have put them up better. As I went about my work for the day, I saw that our neighbours had outdone us by not just putting up flags but also balloons in clusters of orange, white and green. They even had little India map-pins pinned to their dress.
I was briefly upset that they were proving to be better and prouder Indians than me. And then I logged into Facebook and realised that nearly everyone was a better and prouder Indian than me. They were sharing inspirational videos, posting salute-selfies (what better way to honour the army), and unverifiable news items such as “Jana Gana Mana voted best anthem by UNESCOâ€¦India RockZZ man!” Runners were running for India, artists were painting freedom fighters, and Amitabh Bachchan had not just tweeted one but two pictures of the flag. Even Flipkart was sending me cutesy emails saying â€œAppyâ€ Independence Day. I could celebrate by buying discounted TVs, hair straighteners or something called the Grand Jet 350-Degree Spin Mop for just Rs. 2399! (but only on the app).
In a panic, I looked up Salman Khan’s–sorry, BEING Salman Khan’s–Twitter profile and was relieved to find that he hadn’t yet posted about Independence Day. But Salman Khan had appeared on a talk show about Geeta, the Indian woman stuck in Pakistan (Geeta Awaits Her Bajrangi Bhaijaan! #SalmanForGeeta!). He was a guest of honour guest on the show because, you know, he saved an impossibly cute Pakistani child just last month. He spends so much time BEING human like that. Not to stop there, Salman Khan was also a Hanuman devotee now. One of his tweets said, “Promise kiya tha . Overseas fans ke liye Official Bajrangi Bhaijaan pendant. Ab Dubai mein avlbl at PNG Jewellers, Meena Bazaar”.
This was getting really annoying. Salman Khan was not only more nationalist than me, he was more Hindu than me.
Even the official Facebook account of Param Shradhey Shri Radhe Maa had posted a saffron-coloured Satyameva Jayate logo, below which devout followers had written things like: “Jai Hind, I lov u @Radhe Ji.”
I decided to just give up on the competition. I resignedly deleted the picture of my polyester flags and sat down to watch some daytime TV. There was some American detective show running. The cops were pretty, funny and had perfectly coiffed hair, unlike real-life cops. It’s like nurses on TV. On TV, if you’re in a hospital, nurses will chat you up about your love-life or theirs, crack a joke, and then bring you a cupcake while the entire nursing staff bursts into an inspirational pop song. In real life, they are mostly talking amongst themselves in Malayalam while jabbing you with a needle.
Anyway, on this show, the cop character was interrogating the suspect. He smirked at him and said “Shitty situation youâ€™ve gotten yourself into pal. “. While I was watching this idly, I noticed that the subtitles were saying something else, “Crapty situation youâ€™ve gotten yourself into pal.â€, it read. There was more to come.
Suspect: â€œTo hell with you!â€
Subtitle: â€œTo nonsense with you!â€
And so it went on. If you turned down the volume, youâ€™d be watching a completely different and arguably more humorous show. I switched channels again and found more. The subtitles on a cooking show read, â€œOnly use the best quality b*** for Sus*** style steakâ€, while the chef said, â€œOnly use the best quality beef for Sussex style steakâ€.
It was a whole new world of censored TV, and as I kept watching, I felt slowly cleansed of all immorality. I may not have won the proudest Indian competition on Facebook, but I had received enlightenment on Independence Day.
Yesterday, good people, the s***** fell from my eyes. I realised there are people hard at work protecting you and me from terrible dangers such as c****** in hotel rooms, b*** recipes on TV and mini-s***** on female gurus. As they say in the W**t, the sh** has hit the pro****ial fan. But fear no more, citizens. B** Brother is watching you.
[This is a version of my column that appeared in Deccan Chronicle/Asian Age on 16th August 2015. ]