From Howdy Modi to Modi KI Godi: An Imaginary Guide to Cosmic Realities (Paperback)
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Every morning Anand and Kabir start work in a run-down tea stall in a poor Delhi neighborhood. Winter, summer, rain or shine. It's the same day in and day out. The shop owner, Sharmaji, is a good man. It is out of kindness that he employs the two boys. He knows Anand is a Dalit, from the untouchable caste, and also that Kabir is a Muslim. The boss, a devout Hindu, is protective of the boys who both lead sad lives in the slums. This morning Anand sets off with a tray of steaming glasses of tea, while Kabir helps in the stall.
Some customers are glued to a TV screen. After a brief exchange with a customer, starting as a friendly banter, he is insulted as an untouchable. Anand moves along to serve, finally, a solitary Holy Man who sits quietly in a corner every day. He notices the tears in Anand's eyes and asks him to call his Muslim companion and sit beside him. They watch the TV screen as the Holy Man gives a commentary, encouraging the two to reflect on what they see and prodding their thoughts.
The story is in fact a treatise on power, authoritarian power, and the ploys leaders use to remain in power - stoking flames of racial and religious hatred, inspiring fear of certain ethnic groups, and demeaning others. The topics include the alternate universes many leaders engineer and then choose to live in them - resulting in countless unnecessary deaths as with the pandemic in the USA, or with the dislocation of millions of lives through sudden and unplanned lockdowns, as in the case of India.
On the subject of alternate realities, the final section closes on an imaginary universe of escape for Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The story ends on a question of historic social change with a final commentary on the death of George Floyd, the spark that lit the 'Black Lives Matter' movement worldwide.