The day before my beautiful father passed into the light, I posted a Tweet, sharing for the first time this aspect of my private life. In it, I said that he had been on a ventilator for ten days, and that it was okay if one did not pray for him or for I, but that I asked only this: “Next time, cast your vote well.”
My father is one of lakhs of Indians who have been murdered by the Modi government during this pandemic. It is not only the deaths of those who were COVID+ when they died that count among these, but also every post-COVID death, every never-tested death, every fudged data death, every death by penury, every death by suicide because of an untenable situation caused by how public resources were funnelled into propaganda and unaccounted coffers rather into our infrastructure, every death from walking a highway because of an arbitrary lockdown, every death from another ailment that could not be treated because hospitals had no room or equipment, every death that could have been avoided had the election rallies and the Kumbh Mela that brought this second wave upon us had not happened. This is avarice and evil. It’s wilful. Negligence is an understatement.
I value my privacy; it was in a moment of need, not anger, that I posted that Tweet. It was also a moment of empathic unity with everyone who has suffered so much recently, and all who will continue to. I am glad I posted it before and not after he died, because what happened was this: regime supporters began to hurl abuse my way. Dozens of quote-Tweets expressing vile sentiments, cursing and blaming my family and I, without an iota of kindness. Some even skewed what I said to suggest that I was against the DMK government, which – since it is openly against the terror at the Centre – I’m currently grateful for. What I experienced happens daily online. Rightwing trolls (and to a lesser extent, progressive-posing provocateurs) descend on people in their times of pain and loss without decency or sensitivity, sending terrible words, and even death and rape threats.
This is the naked face of all who support this despicable regime, including those who are not Internet trolls. There is no temple that can be raised that will be enough to cleanse their souls of sin.
You see, I’m a believer. My father’s last rites were performed by the people he loved the most in the world: four women, two of us menstruating. In the absence of crowd and formality, we sent him across in the way we needed to: with our hands, with our words, with our own ceremonies.
My father was a devout man, who identified as Hindu – and like anyone with a pure heart opposed the regime at the top. He had a beautiful, non-Brahminical, non-patriarchal, and most importantly heartfelt farewell, replete equally with the Sanskrit prayers we know by heart as much as all else we were moved to offer. It was not a political gesture.
But may I remind you of this: here in this undeclared yet evident Hindu Rashtra, the waters of the holy Ganga have been clogged with bodies that could not be given this dignity. Mass, indistinguishable pyres have spread ashes over cities. Ask your conscience whether a government that believes in God or Goodness, orthodox or otherwise, would have allowed for all this to happen. This terrible regime has caused such immense despair across this land – intent instead on raising monuments, erasing history and distorting if not destroying the possibility of joy, peace and prosperity for everyone who lives (or lived) here.
I was with my Appa etherically in the last minutes of his life, guided by the divine to connect with him even though I did not know what was taking place. I had a profound spiritual experience that will hold me in grace for the rest of my life, and to the afterlife that he will greet me into one day.
This is something that the rotten-hearted who use God as a prop without practicing compassion will never understand. My faith is strong, and so I am in the chorus of all of us who chant this: the evil that has consumed our country must go, and must be replaced by leadership that is equal, just, rational, honest and can begin to repair all the damage that this regime and its cheerleaders are doing.
An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express on June 5th 2021. “The Venus Flytrap” appears in Chennai’s City Express supplement.