Holy cow: When news becomes farce

Last Updated: Fri, Jul 14, 2017 11:14 hrs
An Indian woman sprinkles yoghurt paste onto a cow's forehead during a Hindu Bach Baras ritual to bless the animal in the Rajasthan city of Udaipur on September 9, 2015.

Oh, the irony.

The Censor Board has ordered that the man who won an honour of which India is particularly proud – the Nobel Prize – cannot be seen on film saying words of which its current government is particularly proud: “Hindu India”, “Hindutva”, “Gujarat”, and “cow”.

Amartya Sen, the subject of a documentary named after his book of essays, ‘The Argumentative Indian’, is the latest to be bestowed the compliment of censure from the Central Board of Film Certification.

One wonders whether the film will have to be renamed, a further irony since one of the most popular anecdotes about Amartya Sen is that he has not given up his Indian passport despite having had multiple opportunities to do so over the decades.

The CBFC has been making a spectacle of itself since its inception, but never more so than after Pahlaj Nihalani took over as its head. From homosexuality to “lady-oriented”-ness, the board has found much to fault with various films, sending filmmakers to courts when they ought to be sitting back in the theatres.

Asked about the ridiculous decision to mute the phrases spoken by Amartya Sen in the documentary, Nihalani had a bewildering response: “This is our job.”

The board also thought it was its job to remove “Punjab” from “Udta Punjab”.

Unfortunately, though, it is not just the CBFC that is turning our news into farce.

Earlier this summer, the government declared that it would extend its Aadhaar drive to the nearly 100 million cattle in the country. The reason it found this necessary was, apparently, to ensure that cows were vaccinated in order for their milk production to increase. The science behind this sounds suspect enough. But what is even stranger is that the protectors of the cow don’t seem to understand that the dairy industry is no less cruel than the meat industry.

While they claim filial rights over the cow and celebrate their four-legged mother’s milk, it does not appear to strike them that the love is not reciprocated – the maternal instincts of the cow in question are not geared towards the men who are obsessed with her body fluids, but towards the calf it cannot feed because its holy milk needs to be packaged and sold for human consumption.

The fool’s errand that is the Cow Aadhaar has been estimated by media reports to cost the taxpayer just under Rs. 150 crore.

In the meanwhile, the group which groomed the man from the state-which-cannot-be-named, who is now the Prime Minister of the country-which-cannot-be-named, has come up with a plan for customised babies, which will be fair, tall, sanskari Nazis – at least, that is the hope of the RSS’ health wing Arogya Bharati. Its project Garbh Vigyan Sanskar is apparently inspired by post-war Germany’s “signature babies”.

Whether these children will be created by the tears of peacocks or other means of immaculate conception remains unclear. But what we do know is that the IQ and skin tone of the parents involved will matter little to the final product, as long as certain procedures are followed for “gene repair”. These include a shastra-driven time for…umm, the (purified) sperm to fertilise the (purified) egg. The most auspicious time for fertilisation will, of course, be determined by the movement of the planets and the horoscopes of the individuals contributing the egg and sperm. Post-fertilisation, the zygote must not be disturbed by any form of intimacy between its creators. Again, it is not clear whether this includes the shedding and drinking of tears.

Fatally, however, the project is inspired by the story of Abhimanyu in The Mahabharata (and we all know how he ended up). The guidelines don’t seem to specify that war strategy should not be partially discussed within earshot of this perfect zygote. The slip may cost these perfect babies, particularly with war looming on all fronts. One can only hope that they’re born into a world that has no need for warriors.

In a rare reprieve for women, the RSS has taken into account the discomfort involved in labour and childbirth and come up with a diet that would preclude all pain.

Sadly for the cow, there is no reprieve. The scientific research conducted by the Arogya Bharati has discovered that cows’ milk is conducive to the development of bones and that ghee is conducive to the development of the baby’s brain.

And while we may wonder about the diets that manufactured the babies who grew up to control what the nation watches, eats, and thinks, we must acknowledge that they have arguably made India the first country to have not just blurred, but removed, the line between news and farce.

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Nandini is a journalist and humour writer based in Madras. She is the author of Hitched: The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage. 

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