I have been receiving whatsapp messages like never before. I am not talking about harmless quotes full of bravado or sexist jokes that make your skin crawl.
Am talking about those very sinister messsages that pounce on you just as you are about to sit with a book somewhere in peace. If there is a god that protects the whatsapp world, he has forgotten me — completely.
I won’t be surprised if my 65 year old mother — while shelling green peas or pleating a saree — sends me a message tomorrow that shouts about Muslim invasions (and demands an answer from me). I won’t think twice if the shy girl next door tosses at me some snippet that makes me ashamed of wanting to read a book; Hindus were forced to bow down before Muslim rulers…how could you be reading love stories!?
I do try my best to choose an apt emoji for these messages (the weeping emoji or the angry emoji or sometimes, even the pondering emoji). With no time to verify these mostly suspicious messages, I forget them in a while only to sense their presence elsewhere on social media.
They seem to follow me everywhere, accusing me of not seeing through the agenda of Muslims (yes, one of my good friends may be Muslim but am I sure he is not a fanatic? asks an innocent message from a former classmate). My blood boils as I read about Hindus being slaughtered in Afghanistan, some enslaved and set on fire. I think about my Muslim friend and his beautiful cat-eyed mother. How could they?
They can and they will, shout the messages. Unless Hindus unite NOW. I have visions of standing hand in hand with all my Hindu friends — even upper-caste Brahmins, lower-caste Dalits, atheists and non-believers (they won’t be spared; they were born into the faith and they will have to stand by it).
Arm yourself and march forward!! shouts a rather terrifying message.
Perhaps I should look for Father’s baton, says my unnerved brain, eager to appease. It was a chilly night in December 1992 when Father, along with many people, stood guard outside our building to protect a Muslim family — wait, what?
I press that thought back and let it unfurl again. Yes, to protect a Muslim family from self-proclaimed saviours of Hindus, who roamed around Bombay with sticks and swords. The riots in Bombay — triggered by the destruction of an ancient mosque believed to be the birthplace of King Rama — took hundreds of lives and left the city in tatters. It brought about repercussions in the form of bomb blasts from Muslim men sitting outside the country. Those blasts wiped out many more lives and brought Bombay to its knees.
I hold my thoughts there because there are more messages, questioning me for nurturing even a shred of empathy, telling me to shut the hell up and look at Hindus massacred in Kashmir, Hindus driven out from Khairana in North India, rising Muslim presence in Kerala, discrimination against Hindus in Meghalaya, and how the rest of the world is viewing Muslims (especially Trump-controlled America).
It’s a good thing for Hindus to be more aggressive; the eunuchs (yes, eunuchs) that are still pleading for peace deserve the same fate as Muslims, says a particularly vitriolic message.
Stupidly but firmly, I raise my bow to target this one; violence can never be a solution, I say in all my arrogance — if Hindus feel wronged, they should go to court. Start discussions, change the laws (what law? I don’t know). I make a strategic error by asking if looting, rape and murders are the solution to Hindu angst. You sickular (read secular) anti-national anti-Hindu cowards are the worst! the message shoots back.
The phone heats up as I get agitated. Go ahead and kill me too, I shout into a message that runs to deliver my fear. Just you wait and see; the new India is coming! We will build it! We will avenge the invasions and reclaim our temples! We will bring back the glory of the Hindu civilization! We will win! bark many messages in a span of a few minutes.
But my attention shifts to my dying phone. I retreat from the battlefield with whatsapp arrows still flying around, desperate to cage me in prejudiced prisons. My Hindu gods in heaven know this is one invasion I could do without!