How I attempted to turn 100% desi… and failed

How many foreigners must I fight to claim that I am a pure desi?

Written by P K Basant | Published:April 7, 2016 4:17 pm
Are you ready to give up your cup of daily chai and be a true desh bhakt? File/Express Photo/Ravi Kanojia. Are you ready to give up your cup of daily chai and be a true desh bhakt? File/Express Photo/Ravi Kanojia.

This morning, I vowed to adopt a pure desi lifestyle… become 100 per cent Indian. It began when I bent down to pick up my wife’s silk sari which had flown off the clothes’ line. Why, I thought, good old cotton is not so flimsy and would have stayed in place. “You shall not wear silk any longer”, I said in a suitably authoritative tone to my wife as she approached me with my early morning cup of tea, “Silk was invented by the Chinese, one of our worst enemies”, I added. She paused mid-step and turned around. “Oh, so is tea!” she pronounced, and in front of my scandalised eyes, poured the steaming cupful into the kitchen sink.

A winter morning without tea? But desh-bhakti is more important than a mere cup of tea, thought I, and proceeded to the loo for the customary meditation-undeniably a pure Indian obsession! As the offerings from the bowels took forever to materialise without the stimulus of tea, I had plenty of time to plan a day full of desh-bhakti. But alas! It dawned on me that the pot in the toilet was also Chinese. These Chinese are the pits! They invented the porcelain of even the potty, not to speak of teacups-but no, no tea anymore, only pure milk!

As I picked up my tooth-brush and paste, she gleefully informed me that these had been brought by the English. I grimaced. The English left us addicted to a dirty habit of brushing our teeth with the same twig for months. But where in this large city of lonely crowds will I find neem trees to supply me with fresh branches to brush my teeth every morn? As I opened the tap to wash up, she piped up again, “Are you sure you wish to use piped water?” I remembered: this piped water was a typical British conspiracy. A pipeline that passes through the colonies of Dalits, Muslims and Christians surely brings pollution to our homes. No wonder when the English tried to install such pipelines we Indians protested vigorously demanding that the pipelines should only pass through the colonies of the ‘pure’. But those were bad times when the British ruled. We were helpless against the conspiracy of the imperial forces.

But by the time I started to shave, I had the sinking sensation that the razor is an American invention. I was beginning to feel a little depressed – how do I protect myself from the ‘foreign hand’? In the shower, I remembered that soap is a French invention. My distress was mounting. How many foreigners must I fight to claim that I am a pure desi?

While I was performing my daily ritual of reciting the Gayatri mantra, my wife suddenly thrust a book into my hands. This book with the impressive title, ‘The Arctic Home in the Vedas’, and written by the great scholar and freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak, says that the Aryans originally lived in the icy wastes of Russia. Does this means that the Gayatri mantra that I recite in intense religious ecstasy was a Russian mantra? How can I question the views of such a great scholar and a patriot to the boot?

My wife was idling conspicuously.
“Are not you giving me breakfast?”
“Our kitchen has been invaded by foreigners. Do something about it.”
“We do not consume Maggi. We do not drink Coke or Tropicana. How can any impure foreign stuff sneak into our kitchen?”
“I am simply talking about the Roti and Bhujia stuff.”
“What nonsense is this? What is foreign about it?”
“Wheat was first cultivated by the people of Iraq and potatoes came from the Americas and the art of making Roti was introduced by the Turks.”
“In that case, I will have some apples and a tumbler of hot milk.” I said in a patriotic reverie.
“Apples, my dear, came from Kazakhstan and milking of cattle began in Iran and Iraq.”
My wife had that wicked smile of the victor who had pole-axed me.
“Enough! Give me something to eat. Anything. I am getting late for work.” I said in a weak voice.

That is the problem with deviating from Indianness-the Shastras insist that women must be married before they reach puberty, not allowed to stuff their heads with book learning. They should unquestioningly obey their husbands. Just consider the problems I have been having all because my wife is highly educated. Would I be suffering if our people still followed Manu? Anyway…

As I gobbled my breakfast, my wife piously intoned that mirrors were invented in Lebanon, coinage came from Turkey and shoes were Egyptian inventions. ‘No wonder Lord Ram wore wooden kharaon’, I snapped irritably. I wore dhoti – kurta and stepped out of the house.

In the bus, people were enthusiastically listening to a cricket commentary. Demonstrating leadership qualities (enhanced by desh bhakti naturally), I announced loudly, “We should not only not allow Pakistanis to come and play cricket. We should stop all Indians from playing cricket, football, hockey or badminton. These games are the conspiracies of British imperialism. No good can come of it. We should play Kabaddi and practice wrestling. Otherwise our youth are doomed. They will grow weak in body and mind. It will destroy our country.”

The passengers looked at me as if I had come from Mars. Realising that discretion is the better part of valour, I decided to disappear behind a newspaper. But there was no getting away from foreign influence. Paper, I couldn’t help remembering, was a Chinese invention, and the printing press German. I began humming the old Bollywood number, ‘mera juta hai japani/ yeh patloon inglistani/ sar pe lal topi roosi/ phir bhi dil hai Hindustani’. But at the word ‘dil’, my voice, and indeed, my heart, cracked. ‘Dil’ is a Persian word. At least there should be a decent desi word for the heart. I have changed the last line to ‘phir bhi hridaya hai bharatiya‘. It sounds a little out of tune but I am a ‘cent percent’ Indian.

PK Basant teaches history at the Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. Views expressed by the author are personal.

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  1. S
    Shashank Gupta
    Apr 11, 2016 at 11:50 am
    Amazing way of writing thoughts.lt;br/gt;Its a great pleasure for me to read your writings sir.
    Reply
    1. H
      Haradhan Mandal
      Apr 7, 2016 at 11:23 am
      '‘phir bhi hridaya hai bharatiya‘ - This is still not 100% translation. Phir BHI? Punasch Hriday Hai Bharatiya?! Try - visit some "sakha' and Hindi (Rashstra) Bhasha Shikhsa ABHYAS bla blah (cl - can not translate).
      Reply
      1. R
        Richard
        Apr 26, 2016 at 3:28 pm
        Skanda I think you're over reacting. Cosmopolitanism is after all a western idea,at least in its present form. You don't seem to understand satire!
        Reply
        1. S
          Skanda
          Apr 7, 2016 at 2:01 pm
          Basant is hoping for a quick promotion at Jamia with his aamir Khan style act -- firing the funny cannon from his wife's shoulders. Not humorous just a pathetic job at tracing everything to the Middle East -- didn't know Jamia teachers are brainwashed by Islamists who also trace every thing under the sun to their Middle Eastern Eden.
          Reply
          1. A
            arvint
            Apr 7, 2016 at 1:44 pm
            Be Indian, buy Indian..
            Reply
            1. A
              Ahmad Khan
              Apr 12, 2016 at 1:18 pm
              It's amazing. Continue Sir, We wants more.
              Reply
              1. H
                Harikrishnan
                Apr 7, 2016 at 2:13 pm
                Interesting reading like a fiction with no bearing on facts and figures.
                Reply
                1. A
                  Amar
                  Apr 7, 2016 at 3:10 pm
                  Basant Sir,lt;br/gt;30 long years and you continue to inspire. You maintain your lucid style, ask the right questions and shake your subjects out of their taken for granted lifeworld. lt;br/gt;It becomes a problem for some, which is understandable. People start seeing the political in a discomforting narrative. lt;br/gt;Keep writing like this and making people think. Narratives like these are in short supply.lt;br/gt;Best.lt;br/gt;Amar
                  Reply
                  1. F
                    fdsouza
                    Apr 7, 2016 at 7:38 pm
                    Now we know why Jamia is a worthless insute. With "Professors" like his author what can we expect. Pity the students who are forced to study under this sort of dimwits just because they joined that univ.lt;br/gt;Leftist s like him will be really unhappy unless they bring the stalin / Mao sort of rule.
                    Reply
                    1. I
                      Indian
                      Apr 7, 2016 at 1:25 pm
                      A good article please write more.
                      Reply
                      1. D
                        Dips Barua
                        Apr 7, 2016 at 11:44 am
                        Absolutely wonderful read
                        Reply
                        1. P
                          priynk
                          Apr 7, 2016 at 1:03 pm
                          many of the discoveries are inconsistent but still great.
                          Reply
                          1. G
                            greenspace
                            Apr 7, 2016 at 2:20 pm
                            This is DEROGATORY humor. Anti-India brigade thrived on such humor in the Pre-Modi ERA. More than that all the details written in this "humorous article" is just unverified BS. In the present day Bharat, it is MIRACLE that such write-ups are being published!!! Slowy but surely such distasteful humor is going to go away into oblivion. B India is doing very well everywhere and such DEROGATORY humor only adds to the scaling up of B India.
                            Reply
                            1. K
                              Kumar Gaurav
                              Apr 11, 2016 at 8:02 am
                              Unfortunately I am one of them. We ll said. I would like to pay my graude first to pk sir. Whatever he has written has preety much been proven by you. Indian culture surely does teach us to respect everyone irrespective of their views and I believe you do not know the person. He might be a leftist or a righist or centrist but I surely see one thing that he tries to bring out the rational in me and everything he says. Calling is not rational but proving it through counter arguments is
                              Reply
                              1. T
                                Tabu Das
                                Apr 7, 2016 at 12:03 pm
                                Celebrate this Mother’s Day with the beauty of Flowers and attractiveness of Gifts best available in online shopping store. Send Mother’s Day Flowers to Brazil at right price and express your best love and affection with best of your heart and mind.
                                Reply
                                1. j
                                  jaihind101
                                  Apr 7, 2016 at 12:35 pm
                                  ic artical
                                  Reply
                                  1. P
                                    P Jaruhar
                                    Apr 7, 2016 at 2:00 pm
                                    The author has deliberately avoided the concept of being Indian or Make In India but has made only mockery like a clown. No serious writing indeed. Sorry.
                                    Reply
                                    1. J
                                      Jana
                                      Apr 7, 2016 at 1:54 pm
                                      U r nothing but a sick and spent leftover of the british...I'm sure u r staying illegally just as your birth in this country
                                      Reply
                                      1. M
                                        MARIYA RANGWALA
                                        Apr 23, 2016 at 5:57 am
                                        simply amazing questioning on the idenies, you make us realized that how we take things for granted.
                                        Reply
                                        1. M
                                          Mehul teotia
                                          Apr 16, 2016 at 5:56 pm
                                          Interesting article sir.
                                          Reply
                                          1. R
                                            rajivlochan
                                            Apr 9, 2016 at 10:26 am
                                            Marvellous write up. Thanks for reminding us about what goes into the making of a good bhartiya life-style.
                                            Reply
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