This writer turns to the Gita to process recent developments.
This past week, there was an unholy fracas over which Indian movie deserved to go on and not win an Oscar award this year. This is not surprising because Indian culture requires us to focus on the process and not on the outcome. The ends do not justify the means because we believe in averages. As the Gita once said, there are no outliers, only liars who are standing out instead of being outstanding. Not really, although I am willing to bet that you believed me for just a little bit. What the Gita actually said is that fruits are sources of unhealthy fructose that will make you put on weight and therefore one must stop using karma and take the cyclema instead. The Gita is a veritable treasure of symbolism. One must not expect the fruit of understanding Sanskrit when reading it. It is one’s duty to interpret it according to one’s own dharma and limited linguistic skills.
When Arjuna stood transfixed on the battlefield, unable to move his feet, it is said that Krishna asked him to stop being a Sehwag and showed him a life-size cut-out of Virat Kohli and asked him to move his feet and play in the V, where the V stood for Vaishnava. V for Vaishnava. Voila. In view, a humble cement veteran cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of the BCCI. It is one’s moral duty to get elected unopposed and not expect the fruit of clean conduct and no conflicts of interest. But, as a viewer, I now have a conflict of disinterest. I am struggling to choose which Champions League T20 matches I should not watch. I am not going to watch any of them but the process of choosing what to not watch is more important, as the Gita clearly tells us, than eventually not watching anything.
The good pope, John Paul XVII (pronounced in Hindi as Jean Paul Sartre) elucidates this tricky bit of philosophy with the following anecdote. He is said to have visited the Saravana Bhavan in Paris and ordered a coffee with sugar, but no cream. The waiter took this down in triplicate and, after some deft manoeuvring involving carbon paper and pens ensconced behind ear lobes, told our man that the kitchen was all out of cream, but they did have milk. Therefore he could have coffee with sugar, but with no milk. You cannot not want something that doesn’t exist because like Gita’s first cousin sister, it’s all maya. It’s a false choice. It’s the illusion of choice, like the belief that an Indian movie will win the Best Foreign Movie Oscar if we get the selection process right.
Would you rather have a lunchbox or good roads? The coalition dharma chapter of the Gita tells us that one must arrive at a consensus by not satisfying any stakeholder. Satisfaction through Inaction. Machiavelli recommends fear as a strategy and Chanakya recommends packets of biryani, but coalition dharma suggests thinking along the lines of mutually assured discombobulation. Does one not need good roads to deliver lunch boxes? Perhaps, but the Dabbawalas in Mumbai use trains so an ideal solution to dissatisfy all stakeholders satisfactorily would have been to send a movie about Dabbawalas to the Oscars.
The other interesting aspect of this controversy is that it was fought on the dusty plains of Social Media, that holy place where people who don’t vote complain about problems they don’t face and don’t help solve by not bothering to give anyone the benefit of any doubt because re-tweets are not endorsements. Indian social media is the grand temple to the First World problems of people in the Third World. While religious people like archanas, social media enthusiasts do archanas for likes.
And while we worry about these trivial things, there are folks in Haryana busy upholding Indian culture by killing their own children for choosing a spouse who came through a different roll of the ovarian lottery. Sometimes I feel that we spend way too much time upholding Indian culture; that it is high time there was research into a Viagra pill that will uphold Indian culture firmly while we go about doing more useful things like not winning Oscar awards and not arguing about non-problems on Social Media.
Perhaps time travel will help us get past these difficult times. The Gita has this to say about time travel — Time does travel. It travels forward at a steady pace. If you think otherwise, you may want to have your watch checked.
Some will tell you that, where Brahma lives, time travels quite slowly but there is nothing mystical about that. It’s just Bangalore traffic. So time is not an illusion. Lunchbox time at the Oscars, however, is doubly so.