The interconnectedness of homophobia, sand mafia and lungis.
It is said that everything in this cosmos is fundamentally interconnected. Is there a deep relationship between the possibility of alien life in the Andromeda galaxy and the non-linear nature of auto meters on the planet of Rigel VII? Perhaps yes, but while that might make a good premise for a Malcolm Gladwell book, I will concern myself with purely earthly happenings and dig deep with the fine blade of history, anthropology, science, the folk-philosopher Senthil and, in large measure, the ability to ignore measured reason and common sense while sitting in my armchair deconstructing recent events for you, the reader. And all I ask from you is a willing suspension of disbelief, a respectful taking off of the footwear of sanity outside the Temple of Speculative Fantasy.
If you open a random Wikipedia page and click on the first hyperlink you encounter and keep doing the same thing, you will eventually reach the Wikipedia page for “Philosophy.” Isn’t that wonderful?
A little bit of knowledge might be a dangerous thing, but a little bit of knowledge augmented by the ability to navigate links on Wikipedia is the armchair theorist’s paradise.
We shall start our meanderings at the doorstep of one of the oldest institutions in the world; an institution that, in the 10th century, split from the Greek Orthodox Church in what historians call, “The Great Schism.”
A while back, Pope Francis shocked the conservative Catholic world by announcing that he thinks it’s a good idea for religion to stay out of people’s bedrooms. Then the establishment tried to do damage control by attempting to add nuanced subtitles to his “We have no right to judge gay people” sentiment. They presumably got in touch with the same folks who translate Chinese movies into English because pretty much every interpretation of the simple “Gays are people too” statement turned into things like “My honourable master says that marriage and family honour must be protected at all costs because if gay people get married, my heterosexual marriage will fall off the heights of Mount Tai Shan.”
Speaking of mountains, where mighty rivers originate, eroding rock into fine, fertile silt that is then deposited on the banks of flood plains from where the Sand Mafia have exclusive ATM cards to withdraw as much sand as they want to construct environmentally unsafe buildings in hill stations that are then subsequently destroyed by the very same rivers mildly peeved at this sort of brutish human behaviour.
Occasionally, the Earth Goddess will conspire with 24x7 news channels to unearth someone fortuitously named Durga Shakti who will go “Excuse me guys, I am not sure this wholesale de-sanding of river banks is a good idea” and get suspended for it.
This unleashed a torrent of nationwide support in the form of Facebook pages, tweets and TV debates about the impunity of the Sand Mafia, most of whom are still busy running a business carting off sand while staying off Facebook, Twitter and TV debates. Those who do not vote, outrage on TV and the Internet. Those who commit crimes don’t pay attention to TV and the Internet.
TV is busy analysing if the lungi in “Lungi Dance” came from Erode or Nagercoil and the Internet is busy searching for the next thing to outrage about.
Ah, the Lungi dance. That most slick representation of Bollywood’s long-pending realisation that Tamil people are a demographic worth making money off by paying continuous homage to Rajnikanth. I enjoyed the song, although the accent was a bit off. It is understandable though — a Hindi movie with a Tamil feel starring a Kannadiga heroine wearing clothes from Kerala is, despite the general gloom and doom of regional politics and corruption, startling proof that we are able to achieve national integration through the focussed undoing of local differentiation. Perhaps this is why we are pretty good at mathematics in general.
And that brings us to the only culture not represented in Shah Rukh Khan’s Symphony of South Indian Stereotypes. Telugu, which I think has decided to take revenge on Bollywood’s slight by deciding to split itself into Telangana and Seemandhra thus adding one more item to the rich taxonomy of Madrasi Hindi speakers will have to now remember.
So that brings us to the end of this week’s journey. Greeks, history tells us, had no problems with homosexuality. But the sands of time are often appropriated by the sand mafia thus leaving behind the unfortunate detritus of homophobia. The Greeks wore a plainer, whiter form of the lungi as well and they too were culturally separated into Athens and Sparta, like Andhra and Telangana. And Greece is now a troubled nation, which brings us back to where we started.
It’s all connected.