I have a complaint.
I’ve been on this earth 42 years now, and nobody has yet given me an award! How sickening is that?
Even more sickening is the little fact that all around me people are being given awards. In fact people are demanding awards for themselves or for their political bosses, and actually making more lists of people to be awarded. But I’m on none of those lists. Sad, ain’t it?
All right, this is what I’m talking about:
There is this civil awards system in this country by which so-called eminent citizens are given awards by the government come every Republic Day (January 26th). These awards are comparable to the knighthoods and baronetcies the British monarch hands out to some godawful twit or other. There are several levels of this, from Padma Shri at the lowest level to Bharat Ratna at the top of the heap. Nobody really knows how they select the recipients; being servile enough to the government in power is most important, it appears.
The story begins this time with the current head honcho of the Hindu-fascist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Lal Krishna Advani, demanding that his predecessor as party bigshot, the former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, be handed the Bharat Ratna this January 26th. At once all sorts of politicians also jumped up and began demanding their own nominees be handed Bharat Ratnas, including people who died over a hundred years ago. If the government is to satisfy them all, it would probably have to hand out a hundred Bharat Ratnas this time. It hasn’t yet decided not to.
All right, please don’t laugh. This is a serious issue. Many peoples’ deepest sentiments are involved. It would be cruel to deny them their hearts’ desire – wouldn’t it?
So, I’ll be big-hearted and keep my own award in abeyance, and, instead, suggest something. Why should we restrict the awards to only those put forward by political parties? Why shouldn’t we all demand awards for whoever we want? Why not?
So, here are my suggested candidates for the Bharat Ratna:
First, let’s give a Bharat Ratna to each set of parents of those the politicians want given Ratnas. Reason: if they hadn’t married and produced the eminences to whom the politicians want given Ratnas, said eminences wouldn’t have been around to be eminent, right? And let the government not be stingy – give those parents one Ratna each.
And why stop at the parents? The parents wouldn’t have produced these eminences unless their parents had given birth to them, right? And for similar reasons, Ratnas to their favourite teachers in school, and to the people who saved their lives when they fell down wells in their childhoods, and to the doctors who cured them of measles and malaria. Let’s not be so stingy here…
My next set of candidates: every king or tribal chief of any significance in ancient Indian history, so everyone of every community can have an authentic, certified, hero. Let’s begin with the earliest king I, personally, know of by name, one Chandragupta Maurya who usurped the throne of the Magadha kingdom shortly after Alexander of Macedon invaded in 326BCE…
And while I’m on that note, let’s give one to Alexander too – he introduced what later became the sari to
, which we love to pretend is an authentic Indian piece of clothing. Why leave him out? India
So we should give out Bharat Ratnas to everyone from Chandragupta Maurya to the last, albeit titular, monarch of
, the Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah II. And of course their parents and grandparents will need Bharat Ratnas just like those of the eminences I talked about. India
Then: kings can’t be great alone. They need their support, their back-up. Let’s therefore, when we award a Bharat Ratna to the medieval Rajput king Rana Pratap, not forget to donate one to his horse, which if I remember right was called Chetak.
Of course, we shouldn’t forget mythological figures, since we have to, by convention, pretend they existed and lived and breathed and defecated like everyone else. So: Bharat Ratnas to the god-king Rama, his brother Lakshman, and at least Padma Shris to his other brothers Bharat and Shatrughna. Bharat Ratnas to every one on the right side of the Battle of Kurukshetra in the Mahabharata, and a few to those on the wrong side whose heart was nonetheless in the right place: Bhishma, Dronacharya, Karna. Why the hell not?
It strikes me that I’ve neglected non-Hindus in the religious stakes. So: Bharat Ratnas to Gautama Buddha, Vardhamana Mahavira (the founder of Jainism), each of the ten Sikh Gurus, Kabir from Islam, and the Apostle Thomas who is allegedly buried in Chennai. And why not go a wee bit further and award them too to Jesus Christ and the Prophet Muhammad, if the Islamic right will let us get away with it? Along with Alexander, they could both, like Agnes Bojaxhiu (“Mother Teresa”), be given Indian citizenship. Why ever not?
Ah yes. Let us not forget the social reformers – Raja Ram Mohan Roy, et al; and the literary figures – Tulsidas, Ghalib, and whoever seems to fit the bill; the musicians – Tansen, Bismillah Khan, etc, and the artists. But when it comes to the artists, make sure they only paint horses and dogs. No one of any religious denomination could be offended by any artist who only paints horses and dogs, as opposed to, say, nudes, especially nudes of Hindu gods.
And last but far from the least…so far as we can prove (though the Hindu Right is at pains to find other evidence) the earliest organised urban communities in the Indian subcontinent were part of the Indus Valley Civilisation, with such cities as Mohenjodaro and
Harappa. Since we don’t know any individual from that civilisation, we should hand out Ratnas to every unknown inhabitant of the cities of that culture – or at least one collective Ratna to the Unknown Harrappist (not to be confused with the Unknown Harpist). And then we should give out Ratnas to the Aryans whom the Hindu Right insists originated in India, and go further back to give Ratnas to their ancestors, all the way back to the African Eve…
Oh yes – to please the Christian fundamentalists, let’s give Ratnas to Adam, his Eve, and to the Christian god as well.
Now, for making all these excellent, please-all suggestions, can I at least have a Padma Shri?