Dear PM Modi, Your Sanskrit is Brighter Than Candles You Want Lit

Sitting indoors for nine days has turned me into a bit of a Buddha. Upon deep reflection, I have concluded that it’s not a good idea to put out any negative news. Our prime minister is right. This is a time for solidarity – for the ‘we’re all in it together’ wali feeling. And the government has already put this out in black and white in its representation to the Supreme Court. In its response dated 31 March in the Alakh Alok Srivastava versus Union of India matter on the government handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

The 39-page affidavit signed by the Union Home Secretary says that “deliberate or inadvertent fake news… is found to be the single most unmanageable hindrance” in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

And the two-judge bench hearing the matter concluded that there is a ‘direct link’ between such news that us, ‘irresponsible’ journalists, have put out, and the large hoards of migrants fleeing cities en masse. So, I have done some deep-thinking. And decided it’s best to bring you some nostalgia instead.

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Back In the Day, Kids Had Stamp Collections. I Collected Something Else...

I am 46 – and that means a dinosaur in a news-world full of millennials. I grew up in an era when the only TV available was Doordarshan and the only radio was AIR. There was of course no internet. So the best evidence we had of the existence of other people and places was via stamps and coins. We collected stamps from every conceivable country and put them in stamp books, docking them to the page with stamp hinges. Properly labelled country-wise.

Every kid had a stamp book. But I was an odd kid. So my list of collectibles wasn’t confined to stamps and coins and sea-shells. It extended to a rather curious object – moles.

Commonly known as ‘til’ in Hindi or politely referred to as ‘beauty spots’. I had a mole collection. What that meant was I counted moles on people’s faces and memorised the numbers. So at any given point, I could tell you – Aunt X had 34 moles on her face, Uncle Y had 6. And when I went up to the actor Shashi Kapoor who I spotted at a restaurant we had gone to; and went to get his autograph, I counted all the moles on his face. My mother encouraged me in this collection by randomly asking me my numbers. “Okay, tell me…how many moles does X have? And Shashi Kapoor?”

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Are You Also Trying to Shout Out ‘Jai Bharat’ & ‘Jai Modi’?

We lived in times where we didn’t know what privately-run television or radio was. Broadcasts were quite like the way they are now – speeches by the PM followed by a round-up of all that is great and good. Minus the stress we’ve accumulated over time by having private TV corrupt us.

Newspapers… I was too young to read them then, but from what I gather, there were some that stuck their necks out and others that just did as they were told. It’s just too boring to talk about the news. And now that I’ve confessed to having had the most unusual collection ever, right in my childhood, it leaves me with very little to look forward to in the ten odd days that remain of our curfew. But I am good like that, so I’m getting by.

Yesterday, I even stepped out to buy groceries. It was quite an event. I saw another human being at the store, standing one metre from me – and I was so thrilled I almost cried.

One actual person to share my solidarity of us 130 crore Indians with. ‘Jai Bharat’ and ‘Jai Modi’ I wanted to shout out, but my mask got in the way.

Buying veggies never felt so sublime. Each brown potato was imbued with special significance. “This stands in for all the time I spent thinking I must go on a diet and then it will soon add up to sufficient resolve to actually go on one,” I said solemnly as I heard it fall – ‘plop,’ into the basket.

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Thank You, Modi Ji, For Your Benevolence

Now that the veggies are bought and I am fed and fatted, I have decided to build a new collection. It’s both educative and informative. It’s a collection of Sanskrit words our PM uses in his speeches.

There’s one list of Hindi-sounding Sanskrit words whose true meaning one can easily guess. Words like ‘sakshatkaar’, and phrases like this: “antaroopi maha-shakti ke viraat swaroop ka saakshaatkar kartey rehna chahiye” – how grand that does sound?

And there’s the second list. Pure Sanskrit. That rolls beautifully off our PM’s tongue like desi ghee. “Utsaho balwaan aarya. Da asti utsaha param bala. Sa utsahasya lokeshu na kinchit api durlabham.”

Of course, being the benevolent ruler that he is, he translated it for us immediately. There is no greater force than our collective enthusiasm and spirit. 

There is nothing we cannot accomplish when we stand together. By this, our PM does not mean a collective of Opposition or bad press. He means all 130 crore people. Solemn, silent and in service. To the great and the benevolent. Our leader and keeper of light. Jai Hind. Jai Bharat. Happy collecting.

(Revati Laul is an independent journalist and film-maker and the author of `The Anatomy of Hate,’ published by Westland/Context. She tweets @revatilaul. This is a satire, and the views expressed in this personal blog are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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