January 31, 2008

Pappu meets a brother (re-reprise)

As mentioned in this space before, I think about this essay most years on or about January 30. Yes, it has appeared in this space before. Here it is again.

Postscript (February 1): Had a couple of email messages asking, who wrote this? Sorry, I guess it wasn't clear. Answer: I did.


Not long ago, Pappu Sinha, cook from Patna who wants to be a film star, dropped in on a man who died 60 years ago yesterday. Here's Pappu's recording of their conversation.

Pappu: Pleased to meet you, saheb! May I call you Mohan-bhai?

Mohan-bhai: Certainly Pappu! And what brings you here today?

Pappu: Mohan-bhai, something's been bothering me. My school books described you as a brave man. But you know what? Lots of my friends say you were a meek coward. They say that non-violence stuff brought India to its knees. I find it hard to argue, Mohan-bhai. So why did they call you brave anyway?

Mohan-bhai: Well, Pappu, maybe courage isn't what it used to be! Those were different days. I did things because I thought they were right, and would have a certain effect. I did them because I had to do them. I didn't do them because they would show how brave I was. And I would have done them even if I had known your friends would call me a coward one day. Can you see that, my brother?

Pappu: Yes, but what's this about being meek?

Mohan-bhai: You see, Pappu, I chose non-violence as a political tool. What's more, against an enemy armed with every possible modern weapon, non-violence was the most powerful weapon available to me. I like to think it became more powerful than anything they had, more effective above all.

Possibly people have forgotten just how powerful, how effective it was. So they think ahimsa meant just taking the abuse the British threw at us. Well, that must be cowardice then!

But I know: the men and women who stood up to British lathis -- my friend Lala Lajpat Rai even died from them in Lahore -- were the bravest souls in the world. I don't need to broadcast their courage: it's there for all to see. So if today they're called meek, who am I to argue? Maybe the time for their kind of courage is over.

Pappu: A weapon! I never thought of that. But look Mohan-bhai, the British you fought? They committed atrocities. They killed us, put us in jail for flimsy reasons. They stole our wealth, divided us. All true?

Mohan-bhai: Right, my brother. Go on.

Pappu: Well, today too we can get jailed for no reason. Our leaders make us hate each other, they goad us to kill each other. They are corrupt. In your time, it was the British and you drove them out. Now, they are Indian. But what's the difference? How do we fight injustice when it's Indian? Where will we drive these people to?

Mohan-bhai: You have a point, Pappu. But what do you want from me, a plan to get rid of the oppressors?

Pappu: Oh yes, Mohan-bhai! Tell me!

Mohan-bhai: Sorry, I can't give you that, Pappu! I can only say, you have to find your political tool. Your weapon. It may not be non-violence -- I trust it won't be bombs! -- but you have to find it yourself. ahimsa worked for us because we chose it as a deliberate strategy. And we believed in it. You have to do the same.

Pappu: But that's hardly an answer!

Mohan-bhai: But it's all I have, and actually it is an answer. Look, what's one major issue in India that worries you?

Pappu: Well, there's this friction between Hindus and Muslims. OK, there was that trouble at Partition. But it does not affect me today, I know that, and I was born long after Partition anyway. Yet why do I hate Muslims? Why do I feel they are hostile towards me? Why do our leaders keep this hostility alive?

Mohan-bhai: I think you should start by looking at yourself, Pappu. Leaders can keep hatred going as long as you keep it in your mind. Of course they will fan it, that's what politicians do. But if you question the hatred, they will fail. Ask yourself why you hate Muslims, little brother. I think you are already doing that. There need not be love between you and your Muslim neighbour, but you can learn to live together.

Pappu: I think I understand, Mohan-bhai. But where's the political tool?

Mohan-bhai: But that's the political tool! When you ask questions of yourself, you will automatically ask them of your leaders. When you question the hatred, you automatically weaken them. That was the reason for ahimsa, that was the lesson from it. It undermined the British, and that destroyed their rule.

Pappu: Hmmm. You've got something there, Mohan-bhai. You mean to say that if I set a standard for myself, that becomes my weapon?

Mohan-bhai: Exactly, Pappu!

Pappu: Very good, Mohan-bhai! Well, I've got to go. See you when I'm next in the neighbourhood. But just what is this nice place called, anyway?

Mohan-bhai: Oh, we call it "The Looking Glass." Go well, my brother.


Anonymous said...

Why do you have to make hindus the bad guys all the time? I understand the whole liberal thing, but lets count the atrocities done by this group on the minority in this case over a period of 1000 years. Tell me what the count is versus the vice versa.

In countries where the minority in question are in majority (a.k.a. look at our neighbors), the minorities in those countries have been cleansed. In India on the other hand minorities have grown. Go figure.

What does that say about the majority? I think Hindus are mostly, live and let live people, kind of, I won't bother you if you don't bother me, with no hidden agendas to mass convert or name anyone as infidels.

Lets look back in history about the atrocities/destruction committed by the minority rulers and the recent culprits behind the bombings and you will find a justification. I am not saying we should generalize but this could be a possible reason for the discontent.

This country has survived because of the live and let live attitude of the majority.

Also, we did not get independence solely because of non violence, after WW2 England neither did have any resource/benefits in having us as a colony. I feel it was a natural outcome, not an effect of sole movement.

But we can continue to delude ourselves.

Again, religion groups, which is bad, its a curse on mankind and lastly monotheistic religions are even worse.


P.S. My anthropologist (American) boss, calls majority in India as cissies; have never achieved anything, never expanded beyond borders, never will have the guts to do anything. This says a lot about the all powerful, spiteful majority.

Anonymous said...

In countries where the minority in question are in majority (a.k.a. look at our neighbors), the minorities in those countries have been cleansed.
The word 'cleansed' is offending. Just who or what gets 'cleansed' with bloodspill? 60 years after partition and just when will we learn?

You are correct when you say..This country has survived because of the live and let live attitude of the majority

This 'live and let live' attitude seems to be changing. The hate filled wounds of riots in the past still fester as justice remains a pipe dream. This can only mean more blood-spill later.

This essay is more relevant than ever today.

Anonymous said...

Pappu: They stole our wealth, divided us. All true?

Mohan-bhai: Right, my brother. Go on.

... Not quite. They accentuated existing divisions, but didnt create them.

2. Hatred is a very strong word and easy to distance from. But I believe in this pyramid:

- 1 guy hates enough to commit violence.

- 10 are disturbed enough to provide some kind of logistical support to him.

- 100 strongly believe in their grievance and propagate their story.

- 1000 are a susceptible audience with weak-medium sympathies towards this story.

- 10000 believe in some kind of "otherness" and vague discomfort with the others.

I'm almost in this last group and it is I suspect a very large one. Spot incidents drive me into it, and general reasoning slowly pulls me out of it. I also believe in this pyramiding effect though I have no explanation of how exactly one tier interacts with the other.


Anonymous said...

P.S. My anthropologist (American) boss, calls majority in India as cissies; have never achieved anything, never expanded beyond borders, never will have the guts to do anything. This says a lot about the all powerful, spiteful majority.

Actually, it says a lot about the American boss who, in effect, portrays the average American mindset about India. Oh and how do they expand borders? By invading Iraq and Afghanistan? And Guts? Marching on, unrelenting while a British lathi charge is on, with words as the sole arms and dying in the process doesn't show any guts, does it?

And about "the majority in India have never achieved anything" comment -- Well, I won't even bother.

Truth is, the answers to your questions are already right here, on this page. You have failed to understand what all this is about. Please read it again.

Anonymous said...

Take a chill pill, no one here is subscribing violence and killing in name of religion. All I am saying is this Pappu Sinha could might as well be a Anthony Gonsalvis or a Iqbal Khan given their communities past history and the question could might as well be "Why have we been hating hindus all along?". Also, geez look around to what happen when other communities are in majority.

This essay for me felt like majority bashing and I didn't like the tone.

I used the word "ANTHROPOLOGIST", which is a.k.a "EXTREMELY WELL READ" and I forgot to add that he has lived in India for quite a while and has significant knowledge of world history to comment. Also, an average Americans can't locate America on a world map let alone talk about history of the majority in India.

As far as nations expanding, I think they always have and always will, Alexander did, Moguls did it, British did it, Spaniards did it and someone somewhere will find justification to expand( whether right or wrong). If it is something we want to turn blind eye too, fine, you can choose to overlook this trend that has happened all along history.

Also, dude, when in history has the majority in India violently attacked its past rulers, the moguls/..., that you think they would have done it against the British after 300 years of rule under them. Non violence is the only thing that would have worked for us and Gandhi knew it. He was a smart guy with raw willpower, no denying that.


Mayuresh Gaikwad said...

Am adding to your essay:-

Pappu met Mohanbhai again after some time

Pappu: Mohan-bhai, pleased to meet you again

Mohan-bhai: Hey Pappu! Nice to see you in Mayuresh Gaikwad’s imagination this time. I remember meeting you in Mr. Dsouza’s imagination. Tell me, what brings you here today?

Pappu: Well, Mohan-Bhai, after meeting you last in Mr. Dsouza’s imagination, I went to the library and I read your book (Hind-Swaraj http://www.mkgandhi.org/swarajya/coverpage.htm). I want to ask you some more questions to understand the meaning of Indian Home Rule.

Mohan-bhai: Sure, go ahead.

Pappu: You have expounded on the relation between Hindus and Mohammedans in Chapter 10 of that book. You have written, and I quote: “The only method I know of protecting the cow is that I should approach my Mohammedan brother and urge him for the sake of the country to join me in protecting her. If he would not listen to me I should let the cow go for the simple reason that the matter is beyond my ability. If I were overfull of pity for the cow, I should sacrifice my life to save her but not take my brother's. This, I hold, is the law of our religion.”
I am not interested in protecting the cow, indeed, the person whose imagination we are using (Mayuresh Gaikwad) is a Hindu who relishes beef steaks, but as far as I can remember, the Bhagwad Geeta, the same source of inspiration for you, me and several million Hindus tells us to fight back against injustice.
In another para, you quote (and this is not out of context) “Lastly, if it is he true that the Hindus believe in the doctrine of non-killing and the Mohammedans do not, what, pray, is the duty of the former? It is not written that a follower of the religion of Ahimsa (non-killing) may kill a fellow-man. For him the way is straight. In order to save one being, he may not kill another. He can only plead therein lies his sole duty.” ------ By this, do you say that the Hindu should willingly accept whatever treatment the Mohammedan brother doles out to him

Mohan-bhai: Yes, that is correct.

Pappu: But then you are contradicting your own imagination, the Geeta

Mohan-bhai: Pappu! It is for everyone to see that we should take only the things that are relevant to non-violence. I think partaking violence, even for self defence should be desisted from.
Pappu: Mohan-Bhai, will you give the same advice to my brother, Mr. Afzal

Mohan-bhai: Who Afzal? The one who tried to kill Shivaji or the one who has been falsely framed of attacking the parliament?

Pappu: I am talking about the one who has been found guilty by the Supreme court of India as a conspirator to attack the parliament. I wonder why you would say he was falsely framed?

Mohan-bhai: I know he was falsely framed because most of the NGOs say so. See, the legal system in India is rotting over the years. It started rotting when my brother, Nathu was falsely accued of killing me and was hanged. I would have liked Nathu to live on because he killed only my body and not me. See, I am still living and talking to you. I would advise him to go to the gallows without complaint. See, non-violence is same for all, Hindus, Mohammedans, Isaais, Sikhs, all religions on earth.

Pappu: Is that why you asked the Jews to happily go to the gas chambers and concentration camps which Hitler sent them without raising a word?

Mohan-bhai: Exactly, Pappu! See, the Jews are much better of dying bravely by not resisting rather than exhibiting cowardice and lack of will power by resisting the aggression of Hitler.

Pappu: How does resistance to aggression translate into cowardice? The Geeta says it is valor.

Mohan-bhai: See Pappu, if you always take the Geeta as a source of inspiration, I cannot argue with you.

Pappu: Mohan-bhai, I face a similar problem when arguing with a Mohammedan. He thinks that nothing should be outside the scope of his book.

Mohan-bhai: See Pappu, you should never talk ill of other people’s books. Infact, Taslima did a very wrong thing by criticizing some aspects of her religion. That is why, understandably, our Mohammedan brothers are mad at this dear sister of ours.

Pappu: But you yourself say that we should not take Geeta as a source all the time. That is exactly what Taslima is saying! Similarly, if Taslima is wrong, should our Hindu brothers not be upset when Hussain-bhai Painter paints assorted nude women and calles them as Hindu Goddesses?.

Mohan-bhai: See Pappu, argument is not the solution. You should learn to live peacefully with your brothers.

Pappu: But when will my brothers learn to live peacefully with me?

Mohan-bhai: In the long run, they will realize their folly, Pappu. Till then, we must endure them, as they are our brothers.

Pappu: In the long run, I will be dead. This was said by some great thinker called Marx, I think. So, what if Mohammedans live peacefully only after all other religions are wiped out? I will be no-where, my Geeta will be destroyed.

Mohan-bhai: Yes, but there will be the Koran. All holy books are the same.

Pappu: Why can’t Mohammedans accept the argument that all holy books are the same and allow everyone to live in peace?

Mohan-bhai: Pappu, if you take the rational viewpoint all the time, I cannot argue with you. It is not right to be rational all the time. Have you seen a door-mat?

Pappu: Yes, I have one in my home. Why? Do you need one? I can get you one at half the price from “Big-Bazaar”, it has opened its new outlet near my home

Mohan-bhai: No, I want to give you the door-mat’s example. I want all people to be door-mats. See, even when people trample on them, they clean the dirt from people’s feet. But they never retaliate. I think that is courage. What Harbhajan did on the field was extreme cowardice. He should have meekly accepted the Aussie superiority without paying them back in the same coin. An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

Pappu: Yes, but Ahimsa will make me blind while the other person will have both his eyes intact. Then, I will be the other person’s slave all my life. BTW, how should a slave behave? Should he revolt for freedom? Is slavery bad?

Mohan-bhai: Slavery is definitely bad. But a slave should never fight back. He should politely ask the master for freedom. If not given freedom, he should refuse work. Even if the master kills him for not working, he should not retaliate.

Pappu: I am even more confused now than I was before. Can I come back to you, in some other person’s imagination and pose questions again? Also, what is this place called. I remember the last one was called “The Looking Glass”

Mohan-bhai: Sure, you can meet me in anyone’s imagination. This place is called “A hundred years of dhimmitude”

Dilip D'Souza said...

Mohan-bhai: You see, Pappu? It's what I said. "Possibly people have forgotten just how powerful, how effective ahimsa was", and "I don't need to broadcast the courage of the people who struggled for freedom from the British: it's there for all to see."

Today, if it all gets called "doormat" and "dhimmitude" and "cowardice" and so on, who am I to argue? Again as I said, it must be cowardice then!

One more thing, Pappu: I once said, "My life is my message." Meaning, take from my life the lessons you want, or even none at all. For good or bad, because my life had good and bad.

Sixty years after I died, it's all I can ask for. It's all I want.

Sidhusaaheb said...

From the comments posted here, it appears that the message has been lost, once again.

Why is there hatred amongst Hindus and Muslims?

Do the politicians make them hate each other?

I wouldn't say that. To me, it appears more like they simply benefit from the hatred.

For instance, any political party that organises state-sponsored mass-murder against the minorities is rewarded with electoral victories with huge margins by the people of India. The Congress won the parliamentary elections in 1984 subsequent to anti-Sikh riots and BJP won the previous two state legislature elections in Gujarat after anti-Muslim riots (What a rich harvest! Lasted for two elections!!).

Can the hatred ever end?

What do I know? Better men and women have pondered upon solutions and failed to bring about any that could prove effective, over the past 60 years.

Anonymous said...

This essay for me felt like majority bashing and I didn't like the tone

I did not like your tone either.
No matter.. why is it wrong to say that a majority should look into the looking glass? (I am not saying that Dilip intentionally named Pappu instead of Iqbal or some such).
An Iqbal being in minority is easily brought to justice or he may have to defect country, but criminals of gujrat riots by virtue of belonging to a majority roam scott-free.
How does this happen? Either we support the criminals/ their cause or we shrug away and deny our responsibility to deliver justice to fellow humans.

Lets look back in history about the atrocities/destruction committed by the minority rulers and the recent culprits behind the bombings and you will find a justification.

Really, is this any justification for the killing of innocents? How can we twist our minds so? It is time we truly looked within...

Anonymous said...

As I said before, I am not justifying violence and killing. Question was why one group cannot get along with the other.

I am only suggesting possibly why they might not like each other.

We already study a sugar coated version of history in school, are you saying we don't look back in history and completely ignore patterns?

Yes, if somebody is roaming free after killing innocents, they should be brought to justice. Also, add the few who are outside India.


Anonymous said...

Jeez Mayuresh,

You've got Mohanbhai reduced to doormat. Its not necessary all he did was perfect, there were flaws, but that's a bit much.

OTOH, I think I placed where this is coming from. I like Siddhusaaheb's framing:

"Why is there hatred amongst Hindus and Muslims?"

as compared to Dilip's:

"Why do I *hate* Muslims? Why do *I* *feel* they are *hostile* towards me?"

with a direct positive declaration of extreme emotion on the one hand, a mind-reading exercise to a slightly lesser charge on the other.

I've read that Hindus are a majority with a minority complex (they think they are besieged, split, weak etc) and sensitive on this score. Thanks Siddhusaaheb for the re-frame. I dont think Dilip meant it too different.


Anonymous said...

is this like lage raho munnabhai ???