Friday, April 12, 2013

Why the Immortals of Meluha is evil

Strong words? Perhaps, but the only ones that would suit.

The nightmare that many Indians of my generation wake trembling from is dominated by a single image. This is that of a hundred, a thousand, 'kar sevaks' tearing down the Babri Masjid. A teeming mass of men, clad in saffron and waving trishuls, screaming 'Har har Mahadev' and 'Jai Shri Ram'. The cries which were one merely praise for God, now forever twisted into slogans of hate. The reek of self-righteousness that oozed from them as they sought to 'rescue' a supposed birthplace. The exultation in them, the fear in the rest of the country. An archaeological monument was destroyed. A town once known for its peace remains a conflict zone decades after the event. People died. People are dying still because of the hate that this event created. The Ram Janmabhoomi issue is directly responsible for the Godhra massacre.
Babri Masjid, 2002
And now let us consider the climatic event in The Immortals of Meluha.

An army of men, all devotees of Ram, are fighting to reclaim their 'Ram JanmaBhoomi' (yes, Amish Tripathi uses the same politically-charged term) from the enemy kingdom. The heroes of the novel are guided by Shiva, who designs and mass-manufactures tridents. He also gives them a war-cry- Har Har Mahadev! This phrase occurs repeatedly throughout the chapter. 'Jai Shri Ram!' is insistently repeated throughout the entire novel till it resonates in your head.

Criminal exulting in a massacre/Melhuan: Gujarat 2002

The heroes are saffron-clad. The emblem of this enemy kingdom is a white crescent.
I wish I was making this up. I am not.

The book is nothing more, and nothing less than rabid hate-filled propaganda.
It is  layered in a veneer of gender-equality (the prime minister is a woman! Sati is a warrior!), and of the exploration of myths (Shiva as a cool-dude-tibetan!). But  those layers are too flimsy to cover the hate.

And so it disturbs me profoundly that the book is a best-seller. Over one million copies sold! screams the cover. So one million people read it, and thought it was good?

I bought it because of the hype and because of a review  I read in either Frontline or Tehelka- I don't remember which. Both are magazines I trust, with journalists I respect.The article lamented the quality of writing, as well it should. But what about the most important part? Did the reviewer not see the hate? Is it not dishonest for a journalist not to point it out? And what about the other reviewers? did not one person see anything at all? Or are we at that point in our history where hate is normal?

How in the world did we allow this to happen?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Chicu...absolutely disturbing as I am in a school where most of the teachers and students have read it...are reading it...and appreciating it. I have not even wanted to read it...and now having read what you have written am apalled and horrified too...
mamta

nadi said...

Like the child who pointed out that the emperor is not wearing clothes, Chicu dares to citicise what is the toast of the publishing industry.

AKM said...

Well said. There has been a trend over the years to make bigotry and hate socially acceptable. India Today once described Naveen Patnaik as "not your khaki clad frothing fundamentalist". Apparently if you wear Fabindia, it is OK if you let nuns get raped. NaMo has similarly progressed from being criticised for his role in a genocide to becoming an "economic messiah" i.e selling out the property of the masses to rich industrialists. The makeover is assisted in no small part by APCO Worldwide, a shining example of lobbyist/PR firms that includes some of the world's less-desirable dictators in its client list. His previous publicist was Ms Radia. If you google the term "astroturfing", it perfectly describes their efforts.

Result : It has now become fashionable to be 'bold' unashamedly nationalist' 'economically progressive' etc as synonyms for letting rightwing hate-based ideas propagate. At the same time, 'liberal' and 'secular'have become derisory tags.

Thank you for at least being a voice for what is right, rather than rightwing.

John said...

Dear Chicu, you are absolutely correct. I bought the book myself, and other than the poor writing, I didn't notice the symbolism either until I read this post. And now that you mention it, it is so obvious!