You know the guidebook series called Culture Shock! that explains a country’s local customs to travellers and foreign residents? Here’s Culture Shock! New India (with apologies) for people from abroad, or from India.
1) Just like in your country of birth, you can get your news from a big national daily, or from news channels. If you want to fit in, keep doing that. You will really stick out if you set fire to your newspaper, throw your television into the sea, and look up non-PR journalism online.
2) Some cultures frown on conflict of interest. In New India, a member of the judiciary can totally preside over a sexual harassment case in which he is the accused. A violent monk can totally close all the cases of murder and communal rioting against himself, once he’s chief minister. It’s very liberating.
3) You might think that suspicious events should be investigated. You’ll find us a bit more chill. The court could dismiss concerns about a judge’s death because some other judges think it was probably nothing, and their testimony has ‘a ring of truth’.
4) Perhaps you think that a homicide caught on film makes for an open and shut case? Surprise—it does! If you are lynched to death, and your assaulters are clearly identifiable in the ‘promotional video’ of the event, they will be acquitted for lack of evidence, and you will be posthumously charged with a crime.
5) In your homeland, public figures who get caught lying, harassing women, or being corrupt, may risk shameful ruin. That’s unfair, people should move on. Our leaders could include a ‘Pogroms On My Watch’ section on their resumes, or tell bald-faced lies to the whole nation, and people would just stick their fingers in their ears and go ‘la-la-la-la-la’. Absolute power is absolutely wonderful.
6) Exactly like your previous democracy, New India’s includes the right to peaceful protest. But to help you avoid spawning too many fresh opinions, we nix the internet, and use a prophylactic known as Sec 144. You want intercourse with your mates in a public place; we want safe Sec. This is closely linked to a legal provision called Catch-22.
7) Where you came from, the police might limit themselves to protecting the public and stopping crime. We feel that this underutilises the force, so we let them call protesters “rioters” and kill a few. Police can also break security cameras, cars, and homes, and then make “rioters” pay for the damage. It’s part of our basic law enforcement training, called ‘Who Should Go to Pakistan’.
8) It could be that your previous location was misled by the cute vulnerability of children. Rookie mistake! New India makes sure that these vote-less pests never live up to their full anti-national potential, by detaining and beating them, and malnourishing 44% of them. Most voting-age college students are expected to be properly programmed, but those who malfunction by using their brains can be reset with lathis.
9) You may think of education, health and infrastructure as national issues. Sorry! New India’s leaders like to debate the caste of Lord Hanuman, and defend the honour of our air pollution by saying that it is unrelated to all the people dying like flies from air pollution.
10) You might think Muslims have equal rights. LOL.
In sum, New India is an inversion of a civilised democracy. We took a pill, except it was a bad batch, so now here we are, way down the rabbit hole, living out Malice in Underland.
Luckily, there’s a widely-shared password for exiting this bad trip: HUM_DEKHENGE.