I don’t like your jokes Mr. World, especially when it is on me.

Mr. World, you are mistaken if you think we will respond to your jokes with a smile. To randomly spot a smiling Indian on a road is like randomly spotting tiger on the road in India. They are very rare. You see, Smiling is not an essential part of etiquette in India and Indians don’t necessarily smile when they are happy. (Most of us are not.) We do not smile unless the joke is explained (ask all the script writers of the film). The attempts to make us smile is a tricky affair as we are generally not very kind to the jokers

Indians don’t like joke. We especially do not like jokes that are not announced first as a joke and then delivered. So we won’t mind the Great Indian Laughter Challenge Show. We in fact like it. We expect a humor, we expect not to be serious, and we expect to be entertained. As long as we know it is not serious, it is just a joke, we can take a nasty poke as pure entertainment, laugh and forget about it before we get down to serious business of being hurt and responding to insults.

We are especially hurt when the joke is on our culture and our history. UNESCO got it all wrong when they started looking for places in India to declare world heritage sites. The MINDS of INDIANS are the true world heritage sites. And we are taking a very good care of preserving our minds locked in those time periods, never mind the actual sites. We don’t believe in that material outlook of preserving buildings and architecture.  Only degenerate cultures do that.

See how Egyptians have preserved the pyramid, but they no more talk about inspiration of Pharaoh in their political, social dialogue today.  Look at Greece, Alexander is no more their hero. They are only concerned about their debts. Look at British, Newton and Shakespeare are no more their national icons, they have lost them to the world. But we are different. Shivaji, Rana Pratap are still our heros, enough to riot if somebody tries any funny joke about them. We are hoping that Lord Ram would reappear as promised and take care of all the mess. We still hold our Vedas, Bhagvad Gita, as our cultural and national heritage that we are not going to lose to the world as world literature. Our Music is our music, our Yoga is our Yoga, so what if tons of foreigners learn and practice it. The  point is that we are far more rooted in our past than any other civilization.

So as we are busy repeating to ourselves our glorious culture and heritage, it is extremely annoying when somebody makes a joke on dirty Indian toilets, late trains, poverty and corruption. First of all, that is not at all US. We are those glorious descendants of even more Glorious culture. So identifying us as the people who don’t mind dirty toilets, delayed trains and mind-boggling corruption is a very one-dimensional way of looking at us.  When one adds great literature, philosophy, cuisine and arts to the above inconvenient three, it creates more realistic picture of us. To say that others also have all that culture-stuff but also have clean toilets, on-time trains and minimum corruption, is a very unfair comparison. It hurts our feelings.

We can tolerate dirty toilets, but what we cannot tolerate is a dirty joke, or particularly a joke on dirty toilet. We don’t think it is very civilized for the world to make a joke on our dirty toilet. If humor is about stating the obvious in most unobvious way, that does not quite work with us.  You see, we are not obvious people. We are special people. We are not materialistic beings to be perturbed by dirty toilets and corruption. We believe in spirituality, and we practice it every day while dealing with dirty toilets, late trains, corruption and the general state of `nothing works’.

So we think it is very frivolous and childish of you, Mr. World to make a joke about us. Your clean toilets, clean roads and good governance do not make you a superior culture. Successful may be. But in the land of nirvana who cares about success?


Why do you have to bother me with free speech?

`I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.’ Voltaire famously said. When Voltaire rooted for Freedom of Speech as an essential instrument of democracy he never realized the likely possibility of its sudden transformation into a naughty tool to insult and hurt sentiments of a group of people.

Lately we Indians seem to be an object of insult and hurt from almost every corner of the world,. So we have Jay Leno from USA insulting golden temple, in the guise of making a joke about a republican candidate. We Indians are very perceptive people; we immediately understood that the joke was on us not on the US candidate. USA is making a big mistake in defending this misadventure in the name of freedom of speech.  I was so offended that, though I do not watch Jay Leno show, I went to the website and watched the insulting clip. I had to watch it three times to realize that, the photo was actually that of golden temple, (it was flashed for less than 2 second). But once I realized that it was so, (as it was clearly explained in the blog below), I was thoroughly offended.  Thanks to the vigilant UK and Indian media and the Indian government that this insult was brought to my notice which would have gone otherwise unnoticed. I made special effort to watch the clip to get insulted. I have decided to watch Jay leno show every day to keep a watch on him, if he gets into any more insulting business.

We were just recovering from the affair of Russia banning Bhagwad Geeta, our sacred text. How can they stifle freedom of speech and freedom of expression of our ancient Godhead? It may hurt sentiments of group of people in Russia, but what about freedom of expression? Shouldn’t the greatest democracy in the world expect and stand by the freedom of speech when it is stifled in post-communist oligarchy in Russia?

When it comes to religion, Indians unite in a rare show of solidarity. If USA thinks that governments cannot work with religious extremist groups to agree on a common agenda, Rushdie case was a case in point. I have not read` Satanic Verses’. I have been taught English in India by the English curriculum that was designed by Macaulay in early nineteenth century. So I know pure English and authentic English literature of the likes of Shakespeare. These new writers like Rushdie have really altered English in its content, subject and style, which I think is very unbritish. So I don’t read Rushdie partly because I don’t understand and partly because I don’t care if I don’t understand. But when somebody says he insults, I HAVE to make that effort to read and understand at least the insulting part. Having to make that effort is annoying enough to feel hurt by Rushdie, the fact that he writes and then that we have to read it to find attempts of insults.  So when both government and the terrorists groups did a united `three monkeys’ on Rushdie that they do not want to see, hear or speak Rushdie in India, I was a bit relieved.

I am all for freedom for speech. My problem is when I am sleeping peacefully, I hate to be woken up and told that somebody spoke to me insultingly while I was sleeping. Then I have to take efforts to seek and understand the insult. I had to dig in the books and read out-of-context those remarks which otherwise I would have gone for many lifetimes not knowing. I had to watch shows which I would have been happily unaware that they ever existed.  And then I have root for rights of foreign people reading Bhagwad Geeta, which I have no intention of reading myself. This all is so tiring and infuriating at the same time. Can I please ignore? I don’t think that will hurt anybody. And if it does, I am happy that I have come up with the most-energy efficient response to insults. So I would like to propose a coup on Voltaire. I want to say that ` I don’t like that you ignore me, but I shall defend to death your right to ignore’.