Free speech zones in Junglistan
Mallan's bar was relatively quiet. The junglistan liquor baron had fallen on really bad times. He had made several bad investments, and now he was paying the price. A few months ago, he was told to make his choice. What does he want to keep, wine or women? Mallan is yet to answer that one.
All it means is things aren't quite the same at the bar. It just got messier with the new unwritten law added to the Junglistan Constitution: the right to take offence. Citizens of the jungle republic are yet to know if it is a fundamental right or a fundamental duty. Do they have the right to take offence or are they duty-bound to take offence?
"This new rule will be historic," said Kittunni vakil, sipping his single malt, "Never before has a democracy experimented so much with free speech."
"But it is very confusing. I am yet to get a hang of the idea," Mayilamma turned to the legal eagle, looking for some help.
"See, law is an evolving process. It takes years to reach a perfect law. This is only the beginning," Kittunni replied.
"This whole idea troubles me. You know, taking offence," Mayilamma said, "Yesterday a collector was praised by a minister for her beauty. Should she take it as a compliment? Now if the right to take offence becomes a duty, should she take offence?"
"Personally, I wouldn't take offence if the minister is a handsome dude. Is he?" Kuyilamma cooed.
"In fact, the minister himself could take refuge under the same law, " Junglistan Times editor Murali said, "He could say he did it not to offend the collector. Well you know what I mean."
"For example this hungama over Kamala's new movie, what was it for?" Naanappan, the deer, joined the conversation.
"Sshhhhh," warned Mayilamma, "You don't know what you are getting into."
"We should be careful with what we say. The government has formed a new ministry of offence. It is some kind of a secret service," explained Murali, "They conduct surprise raids. If you are caught talking about religion, you will be arrested then and there. They are not taking any chances."
"Religions are the biggest scams on earth," Dasan, the Junglistan intellectual, joined the conversation. He was already four large rums down and in no mood to heed any warning.
"Sshhhhh, you will get me into trouble," Mayilamma moved from the table, looking for a more sober audience.
"Look at him," Dasan waved at Pangan, inviting him to join the table, "He drew some nudes, wonderful nudes of some goddesses, but they won't allow him to exhibit his art."
"Did you?" Kuyilamma's eyes gleamed with admiration.
"Now he is thinking of living in exile, what a loss it will be to the nation!"
"So sad," Duba Duba shed some crocodile tears.
"But can't he leave goddesses and draw nudes of some real people. Like his muse Madhuri or mine, Vidya. I would love to have them in my collection," Komu's mouth watered at the prospect, "And I will keep them private, no one will get to know."
"I didn't know you had a collection," Pangan said.
"He has the best porn collection in Junglistan," said Kittunni, "Pangan is of no use to you. His art is different."
"What do you mean?"
"For example you may see a circle in his painting. It could mean a whole lot of things. He keeps them open-ended. It could be wheels of justice for riot victims that have hit a halt, or the sun setting, or breasts of a woman."
"What you are looking for is Raja Ravi Varma," said Pangan, "You get what you see."
"Where can I find this guy," asked Komu, "Will he draw Vidya for me?"
"He is dead and gone."
"Too bad, if you come across any of his nudes, tell me. I am ready to do anything for art, you know."
"As I said, religions are the biggest scams," Dasan didn't like the diversion, "If I had the means I could start a religion tomorrow. After all what do they do? Tell us how we should live?"
"Outrageous, this is blasphemy."
"Too much anger not good for health dear son," said Swamy Kovalananda, who was sitting at the next table. The Art of Loving yoga guru had seen an opportunity in the new law and was a regular visitor to Mallan's bar for the last couple of days. After many failed attempts, he had finally found a slogan that struck a chord with the animals of junglistan: Love and make love. He had thought about changing his name to Premananda, but a certain Nithyananda had given prem so much bad publicity, he didn't take the risk.
"How beautiful a place this world would be if no one offended any one, if no one took offence to anything," Kovalananda continued, egged on by the arrack he just had. His shishyas distributed pamphlets.
"Look at him. The biggest fraud here," Dasan couldn't stand Kovalananda, "Give him the tools and he will create a new religion, and he will be worshipped here in Junglistan."
"If you had your way, you would worship the baba who wrote our Constitution," mocked Pachu, the tortoise.
"And why not? He tells us we should not murder any one, we should not rape any one, if we do so we will be sent to the gallows. He laid down laws to be followed. He did the same thing religions did. Yes, he didn't create life, for that we have the god particle."
"A thousand years from now Karl Marx will be god for a few. He could be worshipped at temples. Hasn't Communism become a religion already? Are they any better than these religious fundamentalists?" Dasan had a reason to be upset with Marxists. He had written a book on a new economic theory that would debunk all existing theories and practices. He wanted to name it Dasan Capital. But after this new law, Marxists were certain to take offence to his work.
At this stage Kudiyan Paramu, Junglistan's most respected and celebrated drunk, joined the discussion. "I say we are making a mountain out of a molehill. The spirit of Junglistan has survived assaults from the east, west and north. We will survive this too. Right to offence, my foot." He kicked Kuyilamma on her butt for effect's sake, and she kindly took no offence.
"Look at that gentleman," Paramu had caught everyone's attention, "He is drinking Junglee, the worst rum ever. It tastes like cow dung. Bloody disgrace."
"Now what do I do? Do I go across to his table and tell the ****** to refine his taste? Do I beat the pulp out of that behen***** who is insulting me and my tribe? Do I go there and break that bloody bottle of Junglee?"
Kitunni, Dasan, Kuyilamma, Naanappan, Duba Duba, Pangana, Koman.... All waited for the answer.
"No, I don't. Because that bottle and the rum in it, whether we like it or not, is a work of art. I may disapprove of what he drinks, but I will defend to the death his right to drink that ***** shit."
Paramu then ordered for a pint of Junglee.
"This bottle of Junglee and the rum in it is also a work of art. But this work of art belongs to me. I can do anything with it." Paramu threw the bottle on the table, splashing the rum across the room.
"Now that bloody ****** who is drinking that ******* **** can't take offence to this. Over and out."
Paramu finished his neat little demonstration to loud cheers from his fans in the room.
Mallan's bar has since been declared a free speech zone.
More about Rajesh Kumar
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