This Is NOT History – Dear Friend-Emperor Ashoka,

This is an excerpt from the book I hope to one day write, ”This is NOT History’, a collection of historical events with historical figures that totally did not happen. But it would have been nice had it happened like this. Also, I don’t want to find out what really happened, waste my youth pirating academic documents, only to get told that it offends a group of people whose idea of Mahatma Gandhi is derived from his stunning biography – the 2000 rupee note (the 10 rupee notes are the cheap paper cousins). And maybe get a death threat or two because I questioned the “non” in nonviolence!

This letter is written by Samprati Devvarman, a childhood friend of Ashoka and his general at the battle of Kalinga. He might have been the Robin to Ashoka’s Batman if not Hardy to his Laurel. This letter finds Samprati in a state of angst over his friend’s “nonsensical *&^%$#@ conversion to Buddhism”. (The quotes are added despite the lack of proof that Samprati actually said it, because, historians have concluded there is a very strong chance he might have.) Sadly the letter did not reach Ashoka, as a devious Buddhist monk decided to take this letter to his grave. But, in one of nature’s greatest miracles, the letter survived. Nature did not extend the favour to the monk or his grave.

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Dear Friend, Emperor, Friend-Emperor Ashoka,

It is I, Samprati Devvarman writing to you from the banks of the river Narmada. I do not need to inform you that I am a general of the highest calibre having personally killed so many savages from the south, north, east, and west. Basically, anyone not from our kingdom!

You and I have been friends since childhood. Ever since the day I challenged you to drink thirty pots of toddy and you took it far too seriously. I do not need to remind you that though you vomited the toddy into my cupped hands, I carried you all the way back to the palace avoiding all the palace guards.

When you had your little affairs with the lowly chambermaids (I cannot fathom how you were so desperate) I told your angry father Bindusara that it was my fault.

I bring this up because I have to ask you: what in the name of the Holy Buddha are you doing? Literally!

First you give up war. What??? How can you even think about that?

Was all that blood lost in Kalinga for nothing? We planned to go to Greece and knock on the door of Alexander’s successors and say “I think only one person deserves the middle name “THE” and that is Ashoka.” Have you lost that fire?

Now you’re making me PLANT TREES! ME? Having killed savages with my bare fists, I must now take care of saplings.

All the soldiers are tired of planting seeds. Besides why are we planting trees? What use are they except to hide monkeys and bandits. And I have realized, here they are one and the same thing. Just yesterday a monkey stole the clothes of a soldier from the banks of the river. These darned monks didn’t give clothes to cover his precious little modesty until he chanted some Buddhist nonsense.

Let me narrate my experiences with these so-called monks and maybe you will convert back to…whatever God we believed in before these fellows came and took over your life.

Don’t trust these Buddhists and their ideas about non-violence. Last night I saw one fellow among them killing a mosquito here. When I asked him how he could have done something like that he looked at me and said “Buddha said everything is subject to change. So I am not killing this mosquito just changing it.” When I asked one of them to help me plant a sapling that bugger had the gall to say “Buddha said work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others.”

I think they make up everything as they go. Yesterday when a soldier proclaimed he wants happiness, the monks said remove the ‘I’, remove the ‘want’ and all that remains is ‘happiness’. When I tried to explain to the soldier that it was nonsense and a play on syntax and semantics he looked at me like I was a langoor trying to draw a self-portrait with my tail!

And these monks were giggling away like gossiping little girls at how seriously the soldier took them. I promise on my plump mother’s life that one of them said next they’ll try convincing a soldier that the middle path between good and evil is, and I cannot believe that this is passing off as philosophy nowadays, DOING NOTHING! Really? That’s the path of wisdom you want to follow?

The old chubby Buddha was seen laughing because he is actually laughing at all those who take him seriously and offer him food. The only way Buddha has overcome suffering is by laughing at us over his potbelly.

And may I also ask you why you have sent this bizarre instruction to carve anything onto stone? Do you think your soldiers are poets? Soldiers are barely following instructions and are writing whatever pleases them. Some are writing the names of their lovers others are writing messages varying between “I was here” and “Sugatra loves Nandaneshwari” to “If you are reading this then you are wasting your time.”

And one monk told an illiterate soldier to carve “Buddha was laughing because he saw your mother’s bottom”. The illiterate fellow was sure he was typing one of Buddha’s messages of peace onto the walls. These are just the ones I have seen. Who knows what else they have written elsewhere. I am absolutely worried about what future generations will think about your legacy when they read these messages which are now set in stone.

Anyway I must conclude this letter for I am running out of parchment paper, ink, and patience. I can see a monk peering into my letter. But please reconsider your conversion to Buddhism, the planting of trees and carving writings on the stone.

Your troubled friend,

Sampu

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Samprati Devvarman had this painting made as a way expressing his anger

The Guilt of Privilege and the Privilege in Guilt

*The following was not written after listening to Coldplay*

If there is one thing doing a degree in the humanities taught me, it’s that I am a fleshy, over privileged waste of resources and time-space, who is so good-for-nothing that an absurd tragic hero of a plump goat, raised with the singular goal of being mutton biriyani, that contacts malaria during Bakrid is probably more useful to the planet than me.

Goat Meme2

If there’s one thing that a degree in humanities gives all students, it’s crippling self-doubt while at the same time possessing a superiority complex it’s guilt. It’s the same guilt that I guess a certain Prince Siddhartha felt that turned him into the Buddha. But unlike Buddha who got a religion, most humanities students either get nothing or, at best, a debt (which is a good way of making sure they don’t have time to start their own religion). Now I am not saying, we, humanities students, are worthy of starting our own religion. Trust me, if some of us started our own religion, it’ll just be a lot of people with crushing social anxiety resorting to debate on social media but in real life having the argumentative skills of an overthinking puppy, that knows too much and too little about Karl Marx.

I don’t want to talk more for other humanities students as my degree has taught me that I can’t speak for others. Or myself. I shouldn’t speak? But I also shouldn’t remain silent. Gibberish?

Noil leber fo tca na siHsire bbig?

(That’s gibberish for “Eh?”)

Buddha

Anyway what I really wanted to talk about is about how sometimes I can’t come to terms with the privileges I possess. And I am terrified of defining what exactly ‘privilege’ means because definitions provide a false sense of accuracy that constantly changes across with time, space and individuals.

.(looks around to check if people have bought that excuse)

.Erm…

.Uh.

Okay, fine. You got me! I’m lying. I don’t want to be held accountable, for defining such a loaded word, by definition dictators (they are like grammar nazis, but the term is invented by me. Re-post it until it becomes a cultural norm). So I’m going to give a vague definition of what I mean by privilege. Every time I read a Buzzfeed articles that goes “ X things that every 90s kid from India will relate to” for a few seconds I am convinced that every 90s kid will relate to this, before I realise most 90s kids actually don’t relate to those things. Those few seconds in between are my moments of privilege. Every time I think the monsoons are a great time to have coffee and read a book, before I realise it’s literally the worst time of the life for a lot of people, those few seconds are me forgetting my privileges.

I also know, privilege is a lot more and serious, but this is a humor blog, so don’t get your tightie whities up your flowery nighties (another one of my coinages, please free to use them).

Once I took all my privilege into account, everything I have done, doesn’t really amount to much. My inner voice, which is basically a drunk South Indian attempting an impeccable Irish accent, trying to scream over a cranky pressure cooker that just refuses to go off, always takes an opportunity to remind me of it.

A casual conversation in my head:

Me: Hey, I’ve traveled quite a bit. That’s kinda nice. Feels like I’ve achieved something.

Inner-Me: You are a guy. You can do anything and get away with it in India.

Me: I guess you’re right. But I’ve also got a decent education and some social respect.

Inner-Me: Oh my god! Can you believe this guy?! Let’s not even get started on your caste. The big bad B word. That starts with a B ends with N and has the name of a popular Hindu deity squeezed in. Just in case it wasn’t obvious!

Me: But, but…Uh, I am trying to do stand up comedy. And that’s kinda tough. Don’t I get any points for that?

Inner-Me: What do you mean? You think you deserve points because you can burn through money and be okay with it? Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Abdul Kalam, those guys deserve points. You have everything going for you.

Me: Hey, but I was a fat kid. So that’s something. That made life kinda difficult.

Inner-Me: I’m sorry, your problem was you ate too much in a country where people die of hunger!  Besides once you ate so much that your friend tried convincing you that you had the biggest belly in the world.

Me: Hey. I got made fun of for that. There must be some larger socio-cultural explanation for being fat. Besides weren’t we supposed to suppress that memory?

Inner-Me: Nope that’s all on you. That’s your achievement. Some people use their privilege to go the moon, some people use it to believe that they have the world’s biggest belly.

I guess what bothers me is that the more privilege a person has the fewer number of people that person competes with. That, to me, is the best example of how unfair the world is. It’s basically the reason why Nawazuddin Siqddiqui will always be “alternate”, and Bollywood star kids, part of the “mainstream”. And at some level, all of us English-speaking, blog reading, individuals in many ways are no different than star kids. We are all part of the same game: we are holding on to our ten of hearts and complaining that they got dealt the ace of spades while the not-yet-Nawazuddin Siddiqui next to us has Uno cards and realized he’s completely fucked in this game.

Which brings me to the next part of the title: the privilege in guilt. It’s also weird that as I type this I am staring at a laptop which was probably made in factories in China where committing suicide is tea-time conversation. And here I am worrying about what to do with guilt. My big problem. And that again is privilege.

YOU THOUGHT YOU WERE PLAYING UNO BUT REALISE LIFE IS PLAYING POKER WITH YOU | made w/ Imgflip meme maker