Unbelievably Believer

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Reza Aslan, sir, you do not know me, nor should you ever, but I have been following your work for a while. You come often on television, and whenever you do, I envy your well-accented English and how beautifully you handle questions, and always, and I mean always, I maintain a running count of how many times you declare “I am an expert on world religions”. Your shtick is that no religion should not be treated as a monolith, that we should consider nuance and the overlaying of culture and national identity on the practice of a religion before criticizing it, and that Islam, the subject you are most asked to comment on, is misinterpreted by evil men for their own ends, it is not a fault of the religion or of the concept of religion itself that global Islamic terrorism and ISIS and Al Qaeda exist, and most importantly, anyone who suggests anything else, is an Islamophobe, a bigot, and a Bill Maher.

I am writing to tell you, sir, that there is someone who has stolen your face and even your name, and doing a show on CNN called Believer, that “believer” with a “v” not a “b”. In the first episode, in case you have not seen the show, this impostor goes to India to understand the Aghori sect within Hinduism. Unlike you, though, you being a scholar of religion for twenty years, this man seems to have even his basic facts wrong, which, as any PhD knows (I am a PhD myself), is a no-no for our clan.

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Deconstructing Pictures Posted on Social Media Part 3

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srk

[Continued from here. The second part]

If there is one thing Hindi movies have taught us it’s that the most important thing in life isn’t gari, bangla, rupaiyya, adventure sports or conspicuous consumption.

It’s love.(pronounced lowe)

Which is why when painting the panorama of perfection that is your life on the canvass of social media, one must reserve the most expansive brushstrokes for love.

Remember har kisi ko naheen milta yahan pyar zindagi mein.  And even if they do get pyar, not everyone gets gigantic-sized stuffed toys for Valentine’s Day, or a hand-written note that says “Because you are there for me”  or a new iPhone <latest model number> for their birthday or a dinner for two on a romantic yacht for their anniversary (may be substituted for a surprise “breakfast in bed” every alternate year for that sweet spontaneous vibe) or comments on their Facebook Wall that say “Janooo I love you: your Sanam” even though the Sanam may be sitting in the same room as the Janoo.

Which is why if you are the few who indeed are blessed suchly, you must remember to rub your fortune into the faces of the other denizens of your social media world, keeping in mind that the perfection of your life is contrasted only by the imperfection of the others—-the lonely, the broken, the one whose love only texts her four times a day from work or does the anniversary dinner at a chain restaurant (Burger King) or never “Likes” her photos or forgets to give sweet comments like “You are looking so beautiful” on her profile picture.

crying

Because only when someone somewhere in the world screams, “Why can’t you love me like he does her” or  weeps into a handkerchief ‘Why isn’t my marriage like his?” does your chronic posting of pictures on Facebook find fruition.

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An Independence Day Story

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She:  Dadu, what should Independence Day mean for me?

Dadu (Grandfather): Why this question?

She: I know you won’t like my saying this but, for me at least,  Independence Day means nothing. When I was younger, I used to think of it as fun. Standing in line at school and waving little flags, no classes, coming home and watching yet another rerun of Gandhi. But now that I can think for myself, I find this…I don’t know…

Dadu: What don’t you know?

She:  I don’t know what I am supposed to feel. I don’t see what’s special. I really don’t.

Dadu: Hmmm.

She: I mean, they force it on you everywhere.  As if making you stand every time before a movie isn’t bad enough every day of the year, here is one day devoted solely to standing up and saluting.

Dadu: Well, some might say, that this is a little sign of respect for those that made it possible for you to watch a movie, as first-class citizens in your own country.

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Regressiveness

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Mallika Sherawat recently gave an interview at Cannes. It’s kind of news I guess because, after all, who interviews Mallika nowadays? Well in case you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to do so [video], particularly if you need a good laugh. (And come on, who doesn’t?). Since it is very difficult to remember what she said, after the few minutes you spend laughing or cringing, let me summarize her main thesis—- “India is regressive, I am very progressive” with the subtext being that she is victimized because of her progressiveness. Why does she  claim to be progressive? Because she was the first person to kiss and first person to wear a bikini.

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Regressive Narratives

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As a pop-culture aficionado, I have always been intrigued by how popular media (movies, music, books) influences the way we think and act. Some of this influence is, of course, perfunctory like the “Friend” cap from “Maine Pyar Kiya” or the Amitabh-hair-cut or the Rajani goggles-move. But much of it is insidious and covert, affecting the way we reason about our world and our perceptions of that which is morally justifiable and that which is not.

Hence it is no surprise, that given the tragic incidents in New Delhi and the national conversation triggered over sexual violence in its wake, that Indian popular culture, frequently given the catch-all-label Bollywood, would be the second most popular target of blame (The first being of course the government, an even bigger catch-all-label than Bollywood).

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The Sexual Violence National Outrage Playbook

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1. Not every rape can shock-spark the starter-circuit of the national outrage factory. No sir it cannot. The act has to be egregious in its sexual violence (shock and awe compulsory hain boss), must have occurred in a “decent” area of a Tier 1 metro (smaller cities, villages and metro slums—you are out of luck, the outrage factory cannot empathize with you folks) and the lady in question must have been “innocent” (i.e. no prostitutes please, we are Indians). Remember, if the crime does not pass the sansani test or make you feel that the victim could have been you, or your maa-behen, it will not make it to Step 2.

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