The Republic of Cowrashtra

Ours is a nation which imagines the mother in the cow and the nation in the mother. I wish to disintegrate through this article the dual concepts of Bharat Maata (Mother India) and Gau Maata in light of the recent events happening across the nation.

Why I don’t have a Bharat Maata

The symbol of a mother is often used to identify a nation. This is in view of the analogy that women can conceive and land can sustain the lives of its denizens. This kind of an analogy essentially leads to a very patriarchal kind of nationalism which necessitates women, the incarnation of the Bharat Maata to be protected. Who are going to protect them? The answer is one that history has time and again implied in various ways- men. Men who are the soldiers and martyrs of the nation are supposed to protect Mother India’s honour from being violated by outsiders.

Implications of the woman-nation analogy

The nationalist and patriarchal agenda converge at this point. Both either implicitly or explicitly suggest that women, the weaker sex, need to be protected by their stronger counterparts (?) men. This takes away considerable amount of autonomy from women who, under these agenda, are seen as potential mothers and caregivers. It seems to be almost natural that women are destined to be mothers. Hence, some feminists have called this a ‘protection racket’.

Moreover, the nationalist agendum of protecting the mother from outsiders who may squander with her assets (honour thought of as the most valuable asset) is loaded with its own exclusionist implications. It views as the other anyone who does not protect cows- a nationalist symbol of motherhood.

Towards a Cowrashtra

Cow protectionism is not new to us. Even when our ancestors were fighting the freedom movement, this issue created quite a communal rift. Little has changed over the centuries. The Rashtriya Swayamshatru (yes, that’s what I prefer calling it) Sangha (RSS) has made sure that everyone who is involved in the consumption or production of beef, is treated as the other. This other includes not just the Muslim who is otherwise the eternal other of India, but also the Dalits whose occupation is to skin dead cows. What can objectively be called brutality has been meted out to these people while an otherwise vocal leader of the nation has chosen silence as golden when it has come to this issue.

There is of course no problem if a particular religion attributes motherhood to an animal. It is, however, problematic when the Hindu identity is conflated as the Indian identity and Indians across other religions are homogenized as Hindus who should not consume beef.

Forced Nationalism

A similar kind of forced nationalism was witnessed when the Supreme Court ruled on November 30, 2016 that everyone needs to rise when the national anthem is played in theatres. This indeed is nationalism and I dare say that it may be jingoism as well. Patriotism cannot be forced. Nationalism does not necessarily culminate into patriotism. If it’s a matter of individual discretion as to whether or not one would watch a movie, it is also a matter of patriotism that one feels towards their country which determines whether they would stand during the national anthem whose lyricist himself dreamt of a time

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls

I have elucidated earlier that modern-day nationalism has started to take the role of a religion per se. This is one contribution that India seems to be successfully making to the rest of the world, especially the United States of America. If Indian nationalism is a religion, it is increasingly being coloured saffron to the exclusion of minorities. It is up to us whether at this crucial moment in history we choose to be just bhakts or Desh bhakts.


Featured Image: “The Saffron Queen”- Janine Shroff’s reinterpretation of ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ for Elle India Nov

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Letter to the Woman I’ve Never Met

One of the few poured-my-heart-out posts on my blog to wish a happy twentieth to my fitness-flavoured Pun-dora’s box.

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Dearest ma’am

Love, as I have come to know, is most victimised by the whims of poets. I have woken up on numerous days to coffee table reveries brimming with how love looks, how it sounds in the lyrics of my favourite songs, how it smells in red flowers, how it tastes in the tongue of another person, and how it is described in the most romanticised nuances of language. I have had a lot of expectations about love. However, I have lately realised that this emotion loaded with myriad connotations is a mere process of rationalisation. You choose a vessel because you like how it looks, sounds, smells, tastes and also because of how others feel about it. Then you decide to look for magic in it. You keep doing so till the point when even if the bullets you had ticked on the check-list before signing up for love are detached from the vessel, you still can shower your passion upon it. It is a matter of consciously making yourself accustomed to a habit. Thank you for my best habit.

My habit of keeping one person in the subconscious did not start as an our-love-was-made-for-movie-screens kind. It began with the most mundane affair of all- coordinating with a photographer for a blogpost. This habit has taught me to breathe out of the quotidian; we have listened to our forever songs under a sky which made the stars look like disco lights, we have walked in seemingly ceaseless Calcutta rains under one umbrella, we have shared little infinities under the sun, and have with our cumulative youth, transformed closed spaces into celestial spectacles. (I doubt if things really were as magical as I claim them to be. Probably I have concocted all the magic simply because he was around.) It has also taught me to look at routines through the eyes of a new-born. This habit has been my only air on days reeking of steel elevator-like claustrophobia.

This habit is the newest one because I have spent only two months and a half with it, yet it is the oldest too because of all the calendars gone into the trashcan while rehearsing for it.

Love is mundane, banal, difficult, clichéd, repetitive, pretentious and what not! Mine has been all of these when I woke up in the middle of otherwise peaceful nights to complete unfinished poems while he was asleep, and I swear those poems now look like fresh paint on a palette tainted with colours which had dried up. In a world which has stigmatised the display of affection, lasting promises and honest “I do”s at the cost of relentlessly keeping up with the clock, my habit and I stand against the tide. I have not seen the future and I am aware that habits can change, that they are not immune to rust. I do not know if this is a permanent habit, but I am selfish enough to cling on to it with all my life. My habit tells me that you are the best that has ever happened to him; I am sure you are. Your happiness lights him up. I am grateful that you exist. I wish a happy twentieth to your motherhood.

Sincerely,

The woman in love with your son.