The Filter

Paswan’s Prawn Sacrifice (and Modi Gets Married)

We dig out the best links on the internet so you don’t have to.

So one day Ram Vilas Paswan and Narendra Modi went to lunch at the Taj.

Paswan: So what are we ordering, Modiji.

Modiji: Imma gonna order me some Golden Fried Prawns. My friend Amit really likes them here.

Paswan: Which Amit? Shah?

Modiji: Of course not. Anyway, what will you have?

Paswan: I’ll have what you’re having.

They order two plates of Golden Fried Prawns. The plates arrive. Each plate has six prawns. Modiji gulps down his six prawns with great enjoyment. Meanwhile, Paswan has just had two of his. Modi looks at Paswan’s plate greedily.

Modi: Paswan, you seem to be struggling with those prawns.

Paswan: No, I’m enjoying them, savouring each bite.

Modi: No, you’re struggling with them. I am the prime minister. I am your boss and owner. I am the zamindar of India, the maalik of Hindustan, the God of Small Prawns. And you are struggling with those prawns.

Paswan: Ok fine. I am struggling. Please help me, o benevolent Modiji, my saviour.

Modi: Your sarcasm is wasted on me, bro. We don’t get sarcasm. Pass the prawns. And oh, if you need to take your anger out somewhere, I know just the target. The people of India.

Paswan: Ya, that only.

*

So yeah, Paswan got to work. Pragati carried a reasoned piece against the government proposal — but the truth is, we just like prawns.

In other trending news this week, Gautam Gambhir imbibed some quality substance and out out this following tweet about our flag:

You could call that a cameo at best, with just two 4s. Anyway, he’s got it right as the captain of KKR, finally frontloading, as I keep recommending teams do. But where did he conjure up that funda about the flag from. Somewhere in the hinterlands, Yogi Adityanath is thinking, “Dee-yammm, I thought I made Modi look moderate, and now this kid is making me look…

I have to admit, maamla bahut Gambhir hai.

*

Over the the commentary. Shiv Viswanathan writes in the Hindu that a cow is not a cow:

It is not as if the ban on cow slaughter is an ode to the cow. The cow in fact becomes a strangely ambivalent creature. In the BJP State, the cow is more a fact of culture than of nature. What we have is an urban society living off its agricultural nostalgia. In fact, violence to food is a deeper topic, of the aggressive use of hormones, cruelty to animals, the ethics of biotechnology, none of which is even addressed by Mr. Adityanath. What we are witnessing is a substitutability of violence to the Muslim and the Dalit in the name of the cow.

By this token, when I eat a steak, it is a tasty meal on the one hand and a civilisational threat on the other. (If it isn’t medium rare, and is — horrors! — well done, it is a civilisational threat on both hands.) But really, Viswanathan is spot on that the defence of the cow is really an attack on the Muslim and the Dalit.

Are we, as many have feared, becoming a Hindu Pakistan? Seema Chishti writes in the Indian Express:

Is using the cow as an excuse for an attack on minorities — met with a chilling silence, indifference, and now, a straight-faced denial by BJP governments — a way of having our own blasphemy laws?

Barkha Dutt also writes about this in the Hindustan Times, bespoiling her piece with the terrible pun ‘”cow”ards’. Once the government has saved the cow, I suggest it also do something about cruelty to language. Why is there no IPC law against puns?

Rajdeep Sardesai mentions beef chilly fry in a piece on India’s ‘gastronomic pluralism’, and I’m hungry already.

Our ironic excerpt of the week is from Tarun Vijay, writing in the Hindustan Times:

There is no denying that we are becoming a ‘fair and lovely’ consumer society. Those who sell and promote such products must be booked for creating divisions in society on the basis of skin-colour. Matrimonial ads too expose our obsession with fairness. It suggests some sort of mental disorder which leads to wanting ‘fair and beautiful’ bahus for sons.

Vijay was in the news earlier for saying:

If we were racist, why would we have all the entire south…Tamil, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra…why do we live with them? We have black people around us.

The key words to note here are ‘we’ and ‘them’. You can’t apologize that away, as Vijay tried to do. Nice try at deflection to Fair and Lovely, Mr Vijay, but you are what you are, and it’s dark.

Nandini Rathi takes a deeper look at Indian racism in the Indian Express:

This is not just a law and order issue. It is foolish to deny that prevalent racist attitudes and negative stereotypes don’t have a big role in making the African community in India vulnerable to violence in the recent years. That would be about as logical as stating that misogyny has had no role in the recent incidents of violence against women.

As for popular culture, Shailaja Bajpai argues that there is “a black-out on Indian television.”

*

Now for some foreign policy. Ranajoy Sen explains why the Sheikh Hasina visit to India was a success, leading to a win-win game for both sides. I especially liked that Prime Minister Modi wore a dapper pink waistcoat for the occasion.

The photo-essay of the week, for me, was Gaylaxy’s feature on the gay marriage between Modi and Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s prime minister. The two do make an exceptionally fetching couple, and the photograph of them planning their honeymoon is quite cute. I can totally imagine a phone conversation between them later that evening:

Turnbull: Tell me you love me, my moody Modi!

Modi: I love you.

Turnbull: Tell me again.

Modi: I love you.

Turnbull: Again!

Modi: Arre, how many times do you want me to tell you?

Turnbull: 377.

Turnbull wrote about their dalliance in the Hindu, with the headline ‘Stepping up  to a shared potential.’ Cute.

Mihir Sharma has a piece in Mint on how ‘India is losing faith in free trade agreements’:

As is often the case with India’s government, when you look behind the slogans, there’s not much there. In fact, Modi’s government has been moving backward on trade.

‘Backward on Trade’ makes for a funky acronym, though (BOT), and Modi loves acronyms. Maybe that’s why they went backwards. BOT sounds cooler than FOT.

Elsewhere, Bobby Ghosh offers perspective on the Syria gas attack, and Nitin Pai writes about Shakaal and Gabbar’s long-running feud.

We’ll end The Filter here for now. This section will now appear on Pragati every Friday. Why? Because Friday I’m in Love.

Many of the links in this week’s Filter were collated by Hamsini Hariharan.

About the author

Amit Varma

Amit Varma is a writer based in Mumbai. A journalist for a decade-and-a-half, he won the Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2007 and 2015. He writes the blog India Uncut, and hosts the podcast, The Seen and the Unseen. He is the editor of Pragati.