Prologue (and a restrained warning): To be able to laugh at oneself is the best way of maintaining a sense of humour. The reader of Indian origin (not the Red variety) is hereby warned that unless you have this subtle capability, refrain from reading this article (in case you have not noticed that this had been placed under the hierarchy of Fiction – Humour). I say this because, in the past, readers have taken me either too seriously or too literally and have landed themselves in the dentist’s chair as a result of gnashing their teeth when I am around. It’s always good to remember what Simon Wiesenthal said: “Humour is the weapon of unarmed people: it helps people who are oppressed to smile at the situation that pains them.” However if you don’t remember who Simon Wiesenthal was, it might be a good idea to make the most of Google.
Getting ostracized in the Australian-Indian society can be easy pickings. The quick and successful method, of course, is to touch upon subjects that are either taboo or are capable of invoking passionate responses; ones that make people go crimson in the face. This can have immediate reactions and sometimes violent ones, and the reader needs to exert caution. I have often trodden upon this perilous path in the past and have been in risky social situations. However, having said that, I am sure that there are many out there who have who have a strong inner urge to be an Indian pariah. Here are some very handy hints.
Show complete disregard for cricket:
“Baseball has the great advantage over cricket of being sooner ended.”
– George Bernard Shaw –
I have quite often shown indifference towards cricket at certain sub-continent gatherings and have always been met with looks of extreme incredulity. My indifference is not because I detest the game but simply because I have better things to do. Of course, Indians find that very hard to believe specially when there are a few out there who are more interested in the colour of M.S Dhoni’s underwear than the colours of the Indian flag. I might as well add (for the ignorant ones among the human race) that Dhoni is a senior member of the Indian cricket team. Indians just fail to comprehend how a sane person might have better things to do than watching cricket. The reader can of course, go one step further: proclaim that you have never watched a game of cricket or that you detest the sport. You will then be marked as a lifelong untouchable.
Reveal a disinterest in Indian politics:
“Politics is the art of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.”
– John Kenneth Galbraith –
A display of disinterest in Indian politics is a cardinal error that one might inadvertently commit at Indian gatherings. In order to participate in these commonly occurring animated discussions, you need to know every gory detail about a politician in India including the amount of “under the table” cash accumulated by the person. This particular topic, in the recent months (specially after the appointment of India’s new PM Modi) has reached heights best described as orgasmic. A word against him, a question about his abilities or a tendency to show disinterest in him is sure to result in a social death sentence. In fact, recently, I have had a few communal “fatwas” put on my head in this regard and all I did was to criticize the amount of money being spent to host an event for the venerable minister. Instead, if I had the audacity to criticise the minister himself, I would probably have been lynched by now. However, if the reader does want to take this path, then I would urge the reader to beat a hasty retreat after making the necessary inappropriate comments, just before people start rolling up their sleeves as a prelude to a more physical retort.
Display abhorrence for Bollywood films:
“The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.”
– Alfred Hitchcock –
I wonder if Hitchcock had the opportunity to see a standard Bollywood film when he made the above comment. He would probably have carried a portable loo with him into the theater. It’s a fact that the entire world knows about Bollywood. However, Indians go a step beyond that; they are fixated on it and a display of ignorance about Bollywood and its leading actors might be a social catastrophe. I was once invited and then dragged down to the premiere of a Bollywood blockbuster in Sydney. It was only during the intermission, over a glass of champagne, that I made the fatal error of asking a friend about the leading lady (since I failed to recognize her). The question was met with an atmosphere pregnant with indignant silence and insolent stares. Something very akin to what a Martian alien might encounter while taking a casual stroll down the Harbour Bridge. After that faux pas,I have never been invited (thankfully) to any other screening. I often tend to forget that Bollywood fever is akin to religious fever amongst Indians and before you pass judgments against this faith, remind yourself about the words of John Bunyan: “One leak will sink a ship: and one sin will destroy a sinner.” However having said this, I must admit that this is indeed a cunning way of being ostracized because you can also get rid of the burden of Bollywood films from your shoulders, which should come as a great relief to those who want to refrain from intellectual groveling.
Come out of the religion closet:
“If it turns out that there is a God…the worst that you can say about him is that basically he’s an underachiever.”
– Woody Allen –
India is a country of over a billion people who believe in over a billion Gods. It is also a country where the devout believe that atomic bombs and flying machines were invented thousands of years ago in India (based on mythological epics). Hence the reader is hereby cautioned that with religion, they are treading on very thin ice created on the abyss of irrationality. Anything fostered by religion gets a social front seat and every dubious “God Man/Woman” has a following only second to Bollywood stars. Therefore, to declare that you have little or no religious inclinations is taboo. Try this exercise – at your own peril of course. In the middle of a social dinner (or lunch for that matter), proclaim loudly that you are an agnostic or even an atheist. Watch as people stop slurping on the lassi or choke over the perennial butter chicken. Observe the crowds thinning around you, leaving you chomping alone on the calories. Strangely enough, you will find that while people argue vociferously about politics or Bollywood, they hardly ever argue about religion. The Indian God cannot be even a part of an argument lest some form of blasphemy is committed. The crowds simply tend to melt away into the social fog with an unspoken guarantee that you will never ever get an invitation to a religious event and function, which of course, would be fantastic news for the true atheist.
Step out of the sexuality closet:
“From a religious point of view, if God had thought homosexuality is a sin, he would not have created gay people.”
– Howard Dean –
This topic, my dear readers, can be the touchiest subject (no pun intended at all) amongst most people from the sub-continent where they seem to have been raised in a fantasy land of sexuality. A few years ago, I overheard an Indian gentleman saying “India is really a lucky country. Thank God, we do not have homosexuality there.” I am still recovering from that observation. Try this experiment and ask a friend “What will you do if your child confesses to you that he or she is gay?” Then wait for one of two things: an uncomfortable silence or a very heated argument. In fact, I have often been subjected to a combination of surprise, disbelief and disgust when I have attended the Mardi Gras parade in Sydney. The denial of homosexuality and the abhorrence for it amongst Indians is a plague greater than Ebola. If you support gay rights, you will be looked upon with great suspicion. If you declare that your child is gay, then over a period of time you will be the subject of hushed whispers and slurs. But if you declare that you are gay yourself, then consider being put in the category of a leper in the medieval ages as the final curtain drops on your social presence.
Epilogue (and a restrained warning):
I suspect there are many other innovative ways of getting yourself written off, but the above are guaranteed. It might be prudent to also remember that Indians love to split themselves up into minuscule groups based on mutual interests, religion, caste and creed (among other things) – “The Prayer group”. “The Cricket group”, “The Golf group”, “The Brahmins group”, “The Karaoke group”, “The Weight Loss group”, “The Don’t Care Group”… and the list goes on. And this opens up endless possibilities where you can get slowly weeded out. You can somehow get invited to one of these exclusive groups and then show inappropriate disinterest in their activities. As a byproduct of this methodology, at times you might even end up with a black eye or two; but then there is an element of truth in the well-trodden statement: “No pain, no gain”.