Saturday, 21 January 2012


Mr. Rushdie has decided not to attend a literary festival in Jaipur.  A group of Muslim organisations (led by an influential seminary) have protested this planned visit to India.  Rushdie has stated that he is not coming because of threats to his life.  The elections are around the corner and so our political parties are keeping mum.

What prompts me to write about Rushdie?

Not because I take much joy in his writing these days.  One a lack of time and access to his books.  Another because after he left India I found his books becoming ever more inflated with himself.

But recently I thought about the man again.

A picture was splashed around the papers.

A protester against Rushdie's planned visit to India was polishing shoes.

That's right.  Polishing shoes.  While wearing a Rushdie mask.

Around him were other eager faces.

What does this tell us about those who protest against Rushdie?

It tells us that they are deeply entrenched in the casteist mentality that still holds so much of our country down.

What if anything is shameful about polishing boots?


Unless you feel that touching leather is defiling.

Unless you feel that people who touch shoes are unclean.

Unless you see certain jobs as shameful and demeaning.

So shameful that you can have a person aping Rushdie to try and shame him somehow.

Its so strange to see people who claim that all are brothers - falling for the old, old casteist stories.  Their actions speak louder than their words.  We see it in many of our churches as well.  We are all brothers - except when it comes time to marry.  Well - then we want someone from 'our community.'

There is something very primeval about our desire to put ourselves up (and others down) by the attributes of skin colour and the many many subtle signals of racialism.  Asha and Enoch asked me this evening why we don't see "Tintin in Congo" in the stores or in libraries.  I had to tell them that many of the images in that comic are pretty crude and racially demeaning.  A friend of mine who is experiencing S. Africa for the first time saw a picture of Asha on facebook.  He made a comment: "coloured :)"   Being from the N.East of India he doesn't fit into the S. Africa categories of Black/White/Coloured.

Our friends who are trying to shame Rushdie - show how shameful their own mentality is.

At least we can see the absurdity of it all by taking a look at the image.  That is - I hope we can see the absurdity of it...

Cry the beloved country.

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