In a letter to her father written on December 10, 1949, Indira Gandhi threatened that she would be provoked to call herself “Zohra Begum”. Her defiance was in retaliation to senior Congress leader, Purushottam Das Tandon’s project of renaming names of places.
The occasion for the letter was Prime Minister Nehru’s visit to Farrukhabad, a place Tandon was keen to rename. Rather than changing names totally, Tandon recommended a gradual approach. All cities, towns, villages ending in “bad”, a Persian suffix (Mammudabad, Moradabad, Allahabad and so on) should end in “Nagar”. In Tandon’s framework, it would have been Allanagar. Prayagnagar would have involved total erasure, leaving no trace of Allahabad. Tandon’s was a step by step assertion of the new Hindu state. When he met resistance on this score from Nehru (and none other) he went all out on a bigger issue like the national language – Devanagari script and Sanskritized Hindi. Even Mahatma Gandhi had suggested “Hindustani”. That he had a following within the Congress became clear when he became President of the Congress in 1950 in direct opposition to Nehru’s wishes. Nehru may have prevailed eventually but not before Mahatma Gandhi had given Tandon the title – Rajrishi, the sage of the kingdom.
Narendra Modi, in his very first speech in Parliament in May 2014, said something which would have struck a chord with Tandon, indeed with a large segment of Hindus including a majority of Congressmen who nurtured the truth but only silently under some unstated party discipline. Modi said the country had to be freed from “1200 (twelve hundred) years of “ghulami” or subjugation. It was a historic statement, transformational in its intent. Never had a leader, leave alone a Prime Minister, referred to the “Muslim period” as foreign rule.
It was the beginning of Modi’s innings and one would have expected alert pundits to pick up every inflection and nuance. But no one did. Presumably, because Modi had said what most of them believed in their deep heart’s core. Pardon me quoting Ghalib again:
“Dekhna taqreer ki lazzat ki jo usne Kaha,
Mainey yeh Jaana ki goya yeh Bhi mere dil Mein hai”
(Look at the wondrous flavour of his speech,
Whatever he says echoes thoughts that were in the recesses of my heart)
In other words, Modi had articulated what guilt-ridden Congressmen never had the courage to say openly. The composite culture was attractive when it remained composed in a well-preserved frame. After the fracture of 1947, it was destined to dither, decompose, decay. Terms of endearment had to change.
When the lynch mob in Haryana forced two Muslim boys to swallow a paste of cow dung and urine, they vomited. When I told this story to Murli Manohar Joshi, always civilized in his extremism, he looked at me stoically.
“The boys vomited because they did not know the medicinal qualities of “gobar” (dung) and cow urine,” he said in a matter of fact way. “For certain kinds of fever, my mother used to make me swallow tablets of fresh gobar.” It was not a story to be disregarded. In fact, it opened my mind to accept with equanimity dietary rituals which have had a subterranean sanctity for heaven knows how many years, centuries, millennia. My yoga teacher has memories of cow’s urine keeping him warm in Bihar’s harsh winters. Having become shockproof, I did not bat an eyelid when my cook and cricket companion, a Brahmin to boot, listed a series of rituals which would be incomplete without at least token consumption of the stuff. Two liters of cow’s urine is part of Congress leader and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh daily diet.
Little wonder Singh, Kamal Nath, and Jyotiraditya Scindia, gave pride of place to commercial production of cow’s urine in the Congress manifesto which they released to the press in Bhopal the other day. To ensure abundant supply, gaushalas or cow shelters will be opened in every Panchayat.
The large-scale revival of an ancient drink will clearly require an entrepreneur with the genius of Varghese Kurien, the founder of Amul. When I saw videos on social media of dedicated consumers using palms of their hands as cups to drink directly from the source, I had my misgivings. I thought this was the usual fake news trying to denigrate Hinduism. Little did I know that they were promotional videos. Or, at least that is the way they come across to me now that the truth has been placed before me at the historic press conference in Bhopal.
It is now clear as daylight that should the Congress win in Madhya Pradesh and is as good as its word, bottled cow urine has a good chance of driving out other colas from the market, particularly if mahants and sadhus approve a variety of flavours to dilute the pristine purity of the original.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi will then have to take a call: should he or should he not? If the Congress comes up trumps in MP, it will become difficult for him to discard the beverage for the 2019 campaign. In fact, it might be electorally useful for him to imbibe the stuff in full public glare. He will break records in global publicity if he can have a battery of TV cameras zoom on a janeudhari (one with the sacred thread) Congress President drink directly from the source. He has already set the bar of Hindu credentials so high by his Kailash-Mansarovar yatra and frenetic temple hopping, as to leave Modi panting far behind.
The real obstacle in the way of Rahul Gandhi leading a credible Hindu party is his ancestry, the popular suspicion that he may have in his genes his great-grandfather Nehru’s secular distortions or his grandmother Indira Gandhi’s impulsive threat to rename herself, Zohra Begum if Farrukhabad becomes Farrukhnagar. His promotion of cow urine as the national beverage will distance him light years away from both.
Copy Edited By Adam Rizvi: Lead Image Courtesy: Reuters