ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival Blogging Competition Shortlisted Entry
The Freedom to Dream: India at 70
Malika Saint, 33 years, Noida
Â There was a nervous buzz in the clouds. The new Supreme God who had swept to power in the 4th general election of the Pantheon of Nasty Gods was going to begin her first day at work. No one knew what to expect. During the campaign run, her rhetoric included promises that Earth should follow a more random model of functioning, as opposed to the micro managerial approach of her predecessor. She had famously said of the incumbent; “God Smith says he plays his politics like he does his chess; but as we all know, he is spectacularly good at it. He just does not understand that managing Earth is better if you throw dice. Einstein be damned.” The various Cabinet Gods sat pondering this, when there was a hushed silence, and in came the new Supreme Goddess Nikita. The secretary had heard she preferred to be addressed as “Nikki”.
Goddess Nikki sat down at the Cabinet Throne. “Let us begin with an update on the situation on Earth, India in particular”, she said. “God of Chaos, you have been instrumental in shaping the last 69 years of India since 1947. Would you kindly begin?” The God of Chaos was startled by this call to attention. It was quite upsetting. Reports were not his thing.
“India”, he nervously began, “is doing ok. Could have been worse. Their old civilization continued till God Smith shifted the British over there, after which the portfolio was managed by the Loot and Famine ministry for around 200 years. The Indians sort of decided that they liked the idea of Freedom more, so they installed a chap called Nehru to lead them. Quite a dashing personality, really. Intellectual too.” Goddess Nikki looked pleased. “Those are excellent credentials for dictatorship. How did it go?” Uncomfortable silence. The God of Chaos cleared his throat and continued, slowly, “Well… we presumed it would work out given his contemporaries Hitler, Mussolini, Mao and Stalin. Didn’t really go as planned. Turned out he had sound Ideals. Too much influence from that Gandhi chap too.” He paused.
“Well, go on” Goddess Nikki said. The God of Chaos continued; “You see, I tried my best. I got the Indian portfolio in 1947 after quite a while. But they ended up writing a new Holy Book. They call it their Constitution. Chap called Ambedkar. If he wasn’t a genius I could have done more. Quite an obstinate people, really. They won’t stick to pure Entropy. It threatened to look like order might prevail after they patched up some 500 smaller kingdoms. Patel, I think. So I had to personally intervene and call in Pakistan and China.”
“We all know the collateral damage from that decision.” said Goddess Nikki. “Gave them ideas about being a nation, when they should just have had cake instead!” she said, looking annoyed. “Were cute cat GIFs not deployed as a distraction?” asked Goddess Nikki. This was not looking promising.
“Ahem. Well,” continued God of Chaos, clearing his throat which now felt dry, “you see cows…”. “What, cow GIFs?” thundered Goddess Nikki. “Uh, no, they didn’t really have GIFs around this time, they had newspapers. Though these were briefly banned in something they called an Emergency. No one looked like they were in a hurry though. I think there may have been some semantic confusion over the term.”
Goddess Nikki looked puzzled. “What about religion? Never failed before” she asked. “Well, they had a few riots and stuff but they still have national holidays for all religions, so everyone gets a day off…”
“What about language?”
“Not big on listening, these folks, so they legalised all of them.”
“Equal discrimination against everyone.”
“The heavy hand of the Law?”
“Metaphorically speaking, it exists. Yes.”
By now the rest of the Cabinet was slowly backing away from the God of Chaos.
“What about politics? I understand they are a democracy. Surely that should work! Are they fully literate?”
The God of Chaos looked miserable now. “Well… yes. But. Um. They think they vote for what they will get hit with hardest. And the Americans just elected Donald Trump. Senior.” The atmosphere went deathly quiet. India appeared to have outwitted Chaos. It was becoming the dangerous Idea to the world that unity in diversity was maybe possible. The God of Mild Dissatisfaction shook his head, while the God of War looked angry.
“I see.” Goddess Nikki looked solemn. She spoke over steepled fingers after a long silence and chose her next words carefully. “Well, Gods of the Cabinet, we have no choice. India seems to have become a powerful Idea. If we let matters continue, people will eventually start dreaming of things like world peace. The old weapons have failed us. India is still optimistic.” There was a long pause before she continued. The God of Chaos closed his eyes and waited.
“It seems the only idea the Indians have not tried yet has been nationalism. Let the dice be rolled. We will see if they still have the courage to dream.”