Shaila Salgaokar woke up earlier than usual that morning. She disengaged herself gently from the em brace of her sleeping husband, Vinay, slid out of the quilt and got out of her side — the left side — of the bed. The wife had always to sleep on the left of her husband. It was 4.30 a.m., give or take a few minutes. She shivered, not just from the chill. Today was the 6th of December — a day of joyous celebration and, for many, of silent mourning. It was the first anniversary of the founding of the New Order in India or the Second Republic, as the French would say. The year was 2006.
The day, declared as the New Republic Day, was a national holiday. This, the first anniversary, was more special because of the historical Abhishekaa (enthronement) of Lord Ram’s idol in the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya. There would be a two-hour long ceremony at the Ram temple which the Doordarshan national channel would telecast live a little later in the morning. Watching the telecast was obligatory. Wilful transgression was punishable, with a fine of Rs 5,000 at the least; the transgressor could also end up with a year in jail.
And there was no escaping the telecast. Secret, strategically located ultra-powerful video sensors scanned all the houses within its range. The goings on in any room of any house was fed to the computers in the West-Central monitoring station of the Politpo (the Political Police). The sensors could even detect the particular channel a TV set was tuned to, its sound volume and the number of persons watching.
The computers continuously sifted the signals so received and, on detecting any infringement, alerted the nearest Politpo patrol van whose occupants would raid the offending house and, at their discretion, arrest the head of the household. INDAFONO — acronym for Indian Americans for the New Order — a Stanford based NGO with vast financial and intellectual resources — had developed what was known as a EVAWS (Electronic Vigilance and Warning System) and which was a twin of the ‘Peeping Tom’ used extensively by the CIA. George Orwell must be happy in his grave to find that his 1984 had at last arrived.
Shaila had nothing to fear though. Her husband, Vinay, was conformity personified — no infringement possible in the Salgaokar household. Thank goodness, Shaila thought, the digital wizards had not yet devised something to read one’s mind through the EVAWS.
The telecast was to start at 6.02, which meant she had to finish her morning rituals and chores by 6.00. She really had no time to waste. She glanced at the framed 1foot by 2½ feet parchment hanging on the wall as a matter of habit. The parchment listed in beautiful calligraphy in green characters on a background of saffron, the rituals to be observed by every Hindu family. The rituals were a part of the Codes of the New Order. Of course, in the New Order everyone was a Hindu — Hindu Hindus, Sikh Hindus, Buddhist Hindus, Jain Hindus, Islamic Hindus, Isaai Hindus, Zoroastrian Hindus and, she sighed, even the innocent tribal Sing Bongian Hindus.
Hindus other than the Hindu Hindus were accorded minority rights for an interregnum of five years to prepare themselves to merge fully into the Hindu mainstream. The rituals were part of the Common Civil Code which all Hindus had to observe.
Shaila went to the bathroom, washed and showered, came out and dressed in a light green white sari with a red border and a matching red-green blouse. Her thoughts went back to that fateful day in her life almost a year earlier.
That was the day she had reached the high point, qualified to be anointed by the New Order. She had been persuaded by Vinay to make a bid for the title, Adarsh Nari of the New Order (ANONO), class I — because it brought privileges. To start with, an automatic elevation of Vinay and herself to class I membership of the RJJP — Rashtriya Jana Jagran Party — the supreme party of the New Order constitutionally elected to rule Samyukta Rashtra of Bharatvarsha in perpetuity. Membership opened the door for further privileges — enrolment in the VIP quota for a government flat in a posh central district of Bombay, entry to her son Madhav into the coveted Adolf Bal Brigade and scholarships for studies in the best of schools, colleges and professional institutions.
She was close to be crowned an ANONO but had pulled out just short of crossing the Rubicon. She withdrew because she had found she could not carry on compromising with a system she hated so deeply. Indeed, she would rather face an official enquiry and a fresh loyalty test, incur her husband’s displeasure, even suspicion, than go through conscience chewing pretences.
At one point, she had come close to ending her life to escape the pain and frustration that the charade of an Adarsh Nari was causing her. But she had drawn back from the brink and decided to reassert herself and all she had believed in. The Hindutva zealots had not destroyed just a few Muslim places of worship; they had set about uprooting the centuries old liberal, tolerant, inclusive culture and ethos of India — all in the name of Ram. But their Ram was not her Ram — the good, gentle, gracious, god-like king Ram she had seen depicted year after year by the yatra troupe that performed the Ramayana every summer in Bilaspur in Chattisgarh where she spent her childhood and youth.
The end of one mental strife brought the beginning of another. Wasn’t she still compromising with the evil system? Had the time not come for active, if covert, defiance of the Order as some of her friends had done and joining the Underground Resistance? Exposure would earn her 14 years in a Reformation camp from the Court of Discipline or even a summary trial by the Court of Sedition and the firing squad.
She had mentally braced herself for the plunge but there was that one tie she could not break — Madhu, her son. However, she had to see Balram, the West Central cell leader of the resistance, as early as possible. She would get her childhood friend Sushma, already an established member of the Underground, to send a signal to the leader. She must contribute to the cause even if in a small measure.
One of the obligatory rituals for a Hindu woman was to visit the Siddhi Vinayak temple early every Tuesday morning. It was there, mingling amidst the sea of devotees, that she would meet Sushma to pass on her request for an audience with Balram.
She looked at the clock. It was 5.15. She had to awaken Vinay with the Swami Vandana (invocation or worship of husband), or otherwise he would miss the live telecast; he was more excited about it than even Madhu. She brought a mug of water from the bathroom and roused her husband from his sleep. As was his habit, Vinay slid down the bed to dangle his foot off the bed. Shaila sprinkled some water on his feet and wiped them with her hair. That over, she asked Vinay to wash up and get ready for the Surya Vandana (invocation to the Sun). It was Madhu’s turn next to be woken up.
She took out the official manual, Nitya Karma Padhhati (The Book of Daily Rituals), flagged the page for Surya Vandana for Vinay and proceeded to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. The Rashtriya Sarvabhauma Sadhu Sansad (the National Supreme Synod of Clerics or the RSSS) had ordained that the anniversary day being an occasion for joyous celebrations, the usual food and drink restrictions had been waived for the day.
Surya Vandana was over a minute or two before 6.00. Vinay and Madhu entered the drawing-cum-dining room and occupied the dining chairs facing the TV set mounted on the wall in front. The DD English national channel was already airing a prelude to the live telecast of the Abhisheka that was due to start in about half-an-hour.
The prelude was anchored by Swami Sayamachari, the versatile Goebbelsian TV propagandist from Mumbai who anchored programmes of national importance, especially programmes aimed meant to ‘sell’ the New Order to the general public. The time was 6.02. If Mumbai was gloomy and overcast, Ayodhya was swept in golden sunshine. Sayamachari was seen on the screen commentating in excellent English: “My brothers and sisters and the children of the nation, in the 30 minutes to follow, I shall take you on a holy parikrama of ancient Ayodhya. Come with me and share my pride and joy in getting acquainted with the capital of the New Order.”
The screen flashed a map of India dotted by a plethora of mini saffron swastikas, each representing a Hindu holy place. For background music, the producer of the programme had selected an instrumental rendition of a Tagore song — “Arup Tomar Bani”.
The screen cuts to a panoramic view of river Sarayu with moored boats lining the banks as far as one could see in either direction.
“Friends, we shall return to the river in due course because it is here that today’s holy ceremony will begin. But for now, let’s start on our parikrama. Not the Antargrahi (daylong) or the Panchakoshi (5 mile) or the Chaturdashkoshi (28 mile) parikramas. Those you must undertake yourselves to earn the punya (spiritual virtue) of a lifetime. I shall take you on a helicopter flight through what makes Ayodhya the holy city that it is”.
(For the next 25 minutes, viewers are given a round of Ramkot, Hanuman Garhi, Kanak Bhawan, Mani Parbat, Treta-ke-Thakur, Nageshwarnath temple).
Finally, a camera mounted on another helicopter zooms to the Swami’s face, his intense burning eyes boring into his viewers:
“Brothers and sisters, drink the cups of joy and pride, bathe in the glory of your Hindu heritage and promise to the nation, to the RSSS and RJJP— the guardians of the New Order — and finally to yourselves, that, you shall never, ever let the pseudo-secularist traitors snatch this glory away from you again. Friends, there is unfinished business yet — Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi were just the beginning — there are other holy places which have to be recovered for the Hindu nation. Take a pledge now that you will not rest till the unfinished business is over. Take a vow, when in the city of Lord Ram — even in your TV yatra —, to destroy these evil heretics once and for all just as our Lord destroyed the evil that was Ravan. Garv se kaho, Hum Hindu hein. Jai Hindutva, Jai Shri Ram.”
The Swami pauses for effect. Vinay claps. Shaila feels a shiver down her spine. Madhu looks at his parents, wonder in his eyes. Then the anchor speaks, ever so gently, “Friends, the moment is approaching for the Abhisheka ceremony to begin. In the meantime listen to some devotional music.” Interlude — The Resistance
Balram grinned and looked at his two companions as Swami Sayamachari finished the first part of his peroration. They did not know what he was saying as the sound was switched off. Raghuvir, the baby-faced, plump, counter-EVAWS expert of the West Central Cell of The Resistance — himself a product of the Silicon Valley — grinned back at his leader. The third person in the room Krishna, removed her headphones, wiped the sweat off her face with the sleeve of her kurta and said under her breath, – “Oh, you should have heard the pompous Nazi humbug, he is going to make a million converts with this show of his today. Someone should shoot the bastard.”
Balram kept looking at the TV set and said under his breath.
“No Krishna, no talk of shooting, not even in jest. We want to mount a psychological warfare against the evil New Order. We will make it impossible for them to govern. We don’t shoot, certainly with a firearm.
“Raghu, we have had the TV mute for more than 30 minutes now. There is no probe yet. Do we hope your digital decoy has worked?”
Raghuvir, whispered back, “I would not be certain yet. The Politpo has a whole bag of tricks up their bloody sleeves. It just may be that they are giving us a long rope to hang ourselves. We may have to wait for a while yet.”
“Well Raghu dear, if this baby of yours works, we will have to make a presentation to the Central Cell at Delhi and ask for authorisation and money to make some 200 of them for distribution among the branch Cells. Where will they find all that money, I don’t know. As it is, we are woefully short of radio equipment.”
He looked at Krishna, then at the small brief case lying open on the floor revealing a set of tools and said: “If and when the knock comes Krishna, don’t forget the usual drill. Delay opening the door on some pretext such as looking through the peephole, asking who it was twice and then fiddling with the latch. That will give Raghu enough time to jump to the TV with a tool or two, cut the sound from inside and fool around with the set as if he was trying to repair the sound system. We will also tell them we have been recording the show in our VCR for later viewing.”
“I hope they will not take the TV away to their Lab for a closer look”, said Raghu.
Balram replied, “In that case we go underground, that is, if they don’t take us away along with the TV. Sam will then activate the stand by
He looked back at the TV.
“I see there is something afoot. Let’s watch and see what is cooking.”
End of Part 2
Archived from Communalism Combat, March 2001 Year 8 No. 67, Satire