Free for all California public school students: At least two meals a day – the Los Angeles Times, August 15, 2022

The national birds of the India and the US are large, powerful birds and both love to eat snakes. Both these nations are birds of prey (though both pray also a lot), venture into the unknown, not knowing in advance which victim may have fatal poison. Yet, they survive even the poisonous catch. US does not have as long a history as India but the “Indians” of the Americas, the red variety, have been there for much longer than the white, black or brown kind. The red ones worshipped snakes and ate them too; we in India worship our food and eat it too. We worship snakes too not as food; we feed them, not their regular food but our favourite food milk, or rather drink, if you want to be precise. There are major differences too between these two birds, the snake-eating bald eagle is a symbol of raw power with its aggressive eyes, the snake-eating peacock is a symbol of beauty; its quill adorns Krishna’s head and it is the preferred mount of some male and female deities. It co-exists with its favourite food in images of Shiva’s family, as does the national animal of India, the tiger, with the bull. The snake in those images coexists with the mouse. These all coexist peacefully when Shiva is around but not in the wild. Indians are peaceful worshippers of peaceful Shiva but wild when Shiva stops watching and starts acting, opening the third eye of rage and revenge. There is no similar co-existence and hostility between the Bald Eagle and the bison, the national animal of the US. They leave each other alone, a trait common among Americans and rare among Indians.

Leaving aside the fauna, the Homo sapiens in the US and India are similar in many ways and where they are not, they are trying to catch up. For starters, both were colonized by the British. The US made them scoot by force of arms and India by the force of “Jai Hind” and similar slogans spiced with guerrilla tactics and by learning English. By losing America, Britain lost its lucrative slave trade and by losing India, they lost the lucrative spice trade and the fine Indian fabrics so loved by the British rich that they were willing to break the law to smuggle these forbidden threads to their monarchy. The Americans shouted “No taxation without representation” and Indian said more simply “Quit India”. Edmund Burke had shown the colonial British their true face in the mirror of his oratory. His Indian counterpart, Dadabhai Naoroji, an Indian patriot who remained a Member of the British House of Commons was no anglophile either. Obviously not as celebrated as the initial anglophile leadership of independent India, he  added his spice to Quit India by writing “Poverty and Un-British Rule in India” explaining the “benevolence” of the British in taking away sackfulls of gold to England as “Home Rule Charges”. In simple English, it meant a “small” price to be paid by poverty-ridden India for the effort of Britain in giving a civilized government to us Indian barbarians and if that rule transformed the golden bird into an impoverished, famine-stricken nation, well, that was the fault of us Indians. The Americans displayed their dislike for the British and love for partying with the Boston Tea Party, but some of our anglophile leaders coexisted with the British as second-rate guests at the first-rate British tea parties. They hooked the nation on British tea (actually Chinese tea; it was only sold by the British to pay for our fabrics and spices. To pay the Chinese, they gave them Indian opium and the Opium Wars when the Chinese Emperor protested).

The American Revolution spawned the French Revolution and the guillotine that helped speed up the dispatch of the condemned. Since then, America has not lost its love for judicial murder, continuously inventing the successors of the divine blade starting with simple rope suspended from a tree (which they did not invent) for lynching the blacks, to the gas chamber, electric chair and the lethal injection. It is a sign of decadence in that innovative nation that nothing of note has been invented in this field during the last more than a century, the killing prick having been suggested by Julius Mount Bleyer, a New York doctor (who else!) on January 17, 1888. Yet, the American Revolution did not cause the dissolution of the Empire; that noble task was left to India revolutionaries. The British nobility still thinks decolonization was a mistake, not for Britain that was rid of carrying the White Man’s Burden but for the poor nations of Asia and Africa. The Beloff thesis, enunciated by Lord Beloff in his celebrated paper in International Affairs in the summer of 1985 said, “What we are witnessing – not merely instability but deprivation, famine, civil and tribal war and even genocide – are the direct result of what one might style the catastrophe of decolonization.” He wrote in all seriousness in a serious journal and it is bad etiquette to laugh at the seriousness of a Lord.

After Independence, Americans practiced legal slavery for 90 years and Indians may also practice illegal caste discrimination for that long and only 75 years have passed so far. Americans tout every black raised to high office as proof of their nation’s coming of age and so does India when a tribal is elevated. American tribals, the so-called “Indians”, are now too few to claim much space and have to be content with areas called “reservations” a word that raises a lot of heat on both sides of the divide, in America as well as in India. The Americans too practiced a grand untouchability after the Civil War till 1966, with public benches and wash basins marked with appropriate signage for use by people of colour and for people without colour in their skin or the “pink” people, as the South African freedom fighter Biko had enlightened the white lawyer in the court. The apartheid regimes in South Africa were schooled in the fine art of race classification by the American Encyclopedia of Mulattos, Quadroons, Octoroons and Quintroons. It appears that the tome is no more available and some even suggest that it may be apocryphal, the technical nature of the subject and precision of the terms makes it unlikely; mulatto is half black, quadroon in one-fourth, octoroon is one-eighth and quintroon is one-sixteenth black. Why would American need it, some may be tempted to ask. For the same reason as South African “pinks” needed it; to prevent the cardinal sin of miscegenation. God had separated the Hamites and Semites and never the twain should meet, they legislated in Washington first and in Pretoria much later. In India, Manu was partly liberal; he allowed the marriage of lower social rung female with the upper rung male but not vice versa, much like some Islamist fundamentalists prescribe today. It appears that till recent times, marriages for men and women were unidirectional; like fire, women could flow up but not down. The reverse direction, downward like water, was reserved for men who were not allowed to marry someone from an upper social rung. Of course, that is old hat. The enlightened left has brought enlightenment to the younger generation in America that there are not just two genders but thousands and that marriage is between two people of any gender. They have re-educated the world (we thought only communists did that) that bearded men look as handsome in flowing, flowery, sequined dresses, lipstick, mascara and rouge. All that is now required is a declaration of appropriate gender by the biological male to visit the ladies’ washroom. After all, America transitioned from a colony to the Union by just the Declaration and so can an individual. India follows wherever America goes and beards may soon make their appearance in female washrooms in India as is already happening in America.

India is large and the US is big and the similitude between the two is bigger. We shall carry on in the next post.

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