The other day a friend of mine declined a second cup of coffee. My blood pressure is high, he said. I snickered at him for a bit before admitting that mine might be too. He said that if I didn’t see a doctor, he would tell my mother. I said I’d already told her, so nyahnyahnyah. Our maturity counts were clearly still low, but he made me go upstairs and fetch the sphygmomanometer, technically known as “that BP measuring thingy”.
Neither of us liked our first results, so we made it best of three. Another friend joined us just as we were being forced to move it up to best of five, and by the time a fourth friend showed up, we were just passing the thing around with grim focus, trying to beat each other’s measurements. At some point we acknowledged the sorry distance we have travelled between passing the beer and passing the sphygmomanometer. But we can’t be blamed for being jumpy and short-tempered.
Take just this week or two. This week, the Supreme Court began to hear arguments for and against having a fundamental right to privacy. I know, right — who on earth would even want to argue, in the year 2017, that Indians don’t have a right to privacy? The Indian government, that’s who. Indian government, why can’t you just not be evil? Watching the live tweeted proceedings, I chewed my fingernails to bits.
This same week, I read about a 10-year-old child who is 26 weeks pregnant from being repeatedly raped by her uncle. The district court in Chandigarh has refused to allow the one child to abort the other child, because rules. The legal abortion ceiling is 20 weeks, except for in certain exceptional circumstances. Apparently the learned judge does not consider being raped into pregnancy at 10 an exceptional circumstance. At this, my precarious exercise routine completely collapsed.
Then there was a cringe-inducing reaffirmation of class and caste barriers at a residential complex called Mahagun Moderne. A resident allegedly mistreated and abused a domestic worker, whose infuriated allies stormed the complex and threw stones. Union Minister Mahesh Sharma, a professional champion of the over-dog, put his arms around rattled residents and swore that he will ensure that the poor migrant workers never get bail, and that his party workers give them a “befitting reply”. (Translation: “Judiciary? What’s that?”). My sinuses immediately began to hurt and fill with goop.
And finally, India is being steadily and scarily militarised. The penniless tycoon, Ramdev, is creating a private security guard service to, as he said, “help develop military instinct in each and every citizen of the country so as to awaken the spirit and determination for individual and national security” — or, as he didn’t say, raise a militia. Pravin Togadia and his pop-veined Vishwa Hindu Parishad are training 5,000 “religious warriors”. And the Prime Minister’s Office has asked the human resource development ministry to incorporate some elements of military schools, ie, physical training and patriotism, into regular schools. If students at Nalanda had had this training, said a minister of state for HRD, they would have foiled Bakhtiyar Khilji’s plan to plunder and destroy that great, ancient university. That caused my eye to erupt with a stye.
So I’m ending this week fat, bloody-fingered, stuffy-nosed, and swollen-eyed, all because of the news. But now is nothing. Pretty soon we’ll have private ragtag armies ricocheting around the subcontinent, inventing wrongs to right by sword and gun, all of it sanctified by Nationalism, India’s brainless new god.
I’m saving my sphygmomanometer battery for then.
Mitali Saran is a Delhi-based writer email@example.com