Boston, Baseball and the 2004 “World” Series

Standard

If I may, I’d like to recapture my first true immigrant encounter with America’s national pastime.

This was in Boston. In 2004.

(Safe to say your average Boston sports fan knows this year well.)

The World Series fascinated me when I first started living in America and it was in Boston that I really understood just what a big deal it was. Having grown up on am American pop culture diet, I knew the World Series was the ultimate baseball prize, the one all baseball players coveted, won by playing in a final of a grueling yearlong tournament. But I was still unsure of the scale of the tournament. Indeed, when I first heard about it as a child, I wondered if maybe it was baseball’s equivalent of the FIFA World Cup.

Thwarting my shameful ignorance, I learnt that the World Series was in fact played between two American cities. (I now know that one of my adopted home-towns up north – the very Canadian city of Toronto – plays in the MLB too, but I’ve never actually seen them win, so I doubt that the World Series is going to have Canadian representation any time soon.)

Now, I am not one to nitpick.

Scratch that, I’m actually very nitpicky.

So I feel compelled to point out that when one names a tournament The World Series often with emphasis on World, there ought to be an obligation to the lay public that it be little more than a domestic club tournament. And merely thinking of it as a global tournament because of the high quality of players, or arguing that baseball is played at the highest level in America, is simply not enough. In England, the club football league (as in soccer, not the oblong object thrown around by armor-plated ‘roid-monsters) is not called the World Cup. It’s called the English Premier League, because that is precisely what it is. There is a separate World Cup for teams representing countries and not clubs. The national table tennis championship in China is not called the World Championship. It’s called the Chinese Table Tennis Super League, because that is again precisely what it is. There is a separate World Championship for players representing their countries rather than clubs.

In India, almost everyone plays cricket. A lot of cricket. Indians play a whole load of other sports too, but they all pale in comparison to cricket. In fact India is the most dominant country in terms of revenue, influence, and clout in the world of cricket. The dominance is so vast that due to India and the larger South Asian subcontinent, cricket is the second most watched team sport in the world. Bet you didn’t think that was true did you? Look it up, I’m not kidding you. The reason I bring this to your attention is not some asinine attempt at sporting nationalism, something I consider to be crude and trite (not to mention the fact that India is monumentally pathetic at most other sports), but rather to point out that India is, I daresay, even more to cricket than the US is to baseball. In 2008 the Indian cricket board decided to organize an annual, multi-billion dollar club championship along the lines of the English Premier League, the NFL, and the NBA. Yet, the club championship in India does not have a moniker serving itself up as an international tournament, no matter how fervently Indian cricket officials might want it to. Mired as they might be in corruption and delusion, it just wouldn’t fool anyone. The tournament is called the Indian Premier League, again because that’s what it is, a domestic tournament in a country with the highest pedigree players in that sport, played between city-based clubs, who have the money to bring in high quality foreign players onto their roster.

I can actually understand, albeit only notionally, if the Super Bowl was called the World Bowl or something (which, granted, sounds stupid when it rolls of the tongue), considering the US and the world are pretty much the same in the sport. The NFL could lay claim with some degree of legitimacy to being a world championship since no one else on earth plays American Football.

(Except Canada of course. Because Canada seems to do everything America does, except in slightly more unassuming and modest ways. For gridiron football, the Canadian equivalent is the remarkably proletarian Canadian Football League, with most CFL players working other jobs to make ends meet.)

And there’s no shortage of sports like that with potential “world” championships that could be organized by creative entrepreneurs in their respective countries – the Buzkashi World Cup held every four years in Afghanistan; the World Oil Wrestling Grand Prix held annually in Turkey; the International Haggis Hurling Championships held biannually in Scotland; or the Naked Rugby World Cup held biweekly in New Zealand. (Please note, any of these could well be a thing. I haven’t done my research. And if they’re not a thing, then they should be a thing, and if any of them do ever end up becoming a thing – you’re welcome, future sports fans.)

But with baseball? Isn’t it played in, like, pretty much every Central and South American country? And Japan? And Australia or something? The World Series between two US clubs is a bit of a stretch in my humble opinion.

Nevertheless, it was something I would experience with much joy.

I was just starting to find my feet in Boston when there was a buzz around town that “it could be Boston’s year.” Being a sports buff, I was intrigued. When I started following the games, the American League Championship Series, that I discovered was seven games played between the top two teams of that league, was taking place. To the non-American reader, you might think this to be the national championships of baseball, but you might be surprised to learn (as I was) that there is also the National League Championship Series. I learnt that these two championships are essentially two halves of Major League Baseball. The winners of these two championships then compete in the World Series. (Again, do you see the contradictions here? Whatever…)

Now, I don’t know what it takes to be considered a part of any city you live in. I didn’t know what it was that made me a Bostonian for instance. I do know this – in American cities, you can artificially assimilate, albeit temporarily, by claiming allegiance to the local sports team. And if that sports team happens to have a dream run to championship glory, even better. Come to think of it, the success of the sports team might be pretty crucial here. I doubt immigrants have been able to artificially assimilate by latching on to losing sports teams. Indeed, the trauma of sporting failure might just translate to even more xenophobia.

This artificial assimilation happened to me purely by providence rather than design. I essentially stumbled upon what was quite possibly the most sports-orgasm-inducing, shrieking-with-drunken-merrymaking, oh-I’m-so-proud-of-my-team-that-I-think-I’m-going-to-cry-and-french-kiss-my-pet moment in Boston’s history. And I owe it all to the Boston Red Sox, which is one of the more self-descriptive monikers for a team anywhere in the world.

I started watching from the fourth game onwards of the American League Championship Series. It was the year 2004. The Red Sox fan will know what is about to come. The Red Sox fan will understand the magnitude of this moment. The Red Sox fan probably masturbates to reruns of this game. The Red Sox fan remembers 2004 with a warmth and fuzziness that even their marriage or the birth of their first child wouldn’t hold a candle to. The Red Sox fan can tell you exactly where they were for this game.

The Sox (cos, you know, that’s what you called them I learnt) had lost their first three games to the dreaded New York Yankees. And that third game, they didn’t just lose, they were hammered 19-8. I saw the score line in the Metro while riding the subway to work the next morning and wondered what kinds of skewed match-ups in other sports could have resulted in such a mauling. USA vs. India in basketball? Rafael Nadal vs. my dad in tennis? Three raging bulls vs. me dressed ever-so-flamboyantly as a matador? I remember reading articles in the Boston Globe lamenting the state of affairs with the Sox, how demoralizing it was, how they would need to go through another year without a World Series title (the last one coming in 19 bloody 18 – I mean 1918 was a time when typhoid could well have been considered the national pastime).

The writing was on the wall. Nay, it wasn’t just on the wall; it had been sand-blasted into it with ruthless efficiency. The Fat Lady was jiggling her adipose-laden jowls, clearing her magnificently taught vocal chords, setting her Viking helmet in place with pudgy fingers, and was all but ready to burst out in song. Only the heartiest of souls would have denied it. The Sox were going to lose ignominiously in the league championships, while the Yankees would go on to yet another World Series and probably win that as well. Yankees fans were probably already figuring out ways to fake illnesses and kill off ageing relatives to play hooky from work so they could see their irritatingly great franchise in action for the ultimate prize in baseball.

And it almost came to that in the fourth game. I was watching the game in my apartment in Jamaica Plains, primarily because I had nothing better to do. The Yankees were leading the Sox 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Sox were down to their final three outs. I told myself that I didn’t really care what happened, but sporting tension has a way of drawing you in. I decided to support the Sox in my head, just to make the game more interesting for me.

And boy did it get interesting.

There is a name in baseball that I will always remember. In fact, when I think of baseball, his is the first name that pops into my head. I don’t believe he was ever a big star. In fact, he was probably one of those players in baseball spending very little time under the limelight hogged by major stars. His name is Dave Roberts, and he gave me my most exciting moment in American sports-viewing.

When thinking about this game, I have to look up articles on it to remember what others did and their names, but I never have to do anything to remember what Dave Roberts did. That guy could run!

This batter called Kevin Millar (had to look it up) was walked off by the Yankees pitcher (don’t really care who) and the iconic Dave Roberts was called in as a pinch runner for Millar. This was the moment.

Now, I didn’t know shit about baseball. It was the first game I had ever watched with real interest. I was figuring out the rules on the fly as I watched it. But I had played enough competitive sports, to know this was a make-or-break moment. Why the hell did they bring in this apparent non-star nobody to replace a full-fledged batter at a time when the Sox absolutely had to score to stay in the freaking championship? Roberts was to soon allay any doubts I had. After getting checked three times by the Yankees pitcher (still don’t care what his name is), Roberts stole a brilliant second when the pitch was ultimately thrown to the new batter, Bill Mueller (again, had to look it up). Scurrying like an Olympic sprinter whose muscular glutes were very recently lit on fire, Roberts got the Fenway Park faithful roaring with what I imagine was the faintest of hopes residing in their long-suffering hearts.

And he didn’t disappoint. The Yankees pitcher (fuck him) was hit for a single by Mueller, and Roberts ran home, tying the game and forcing an extra inning.

That moment changed everything and it went into extra innings. At the bottom of the twelfth, this gargantuan Dominican, David Ortiz, hit a monstrous two-run homer to send the series into Game Five. Damn the wall and the supposed writing on it. Go home Fat Lady. The Sox were going to keep on fighting thanks to Dave “Glutes on Fire” Roberts.

That moment also did something else for me. I decided to support the Sox from then on because it added a touch of excitement to watching the rest of the championship. I bought a Red Sox hat and wore it in a show of city-pride. As I got into it, I soon realized that the biggest stars of the Sox were not from Boston. In fact, three of their biggest stars weren’t even from the States. I’d already mentioned this mound of muscle, David “Big Pappi” Ortiz, and it turned out there were two other magnificent Dominicans – batter extraordinaire Manny Ramirez and princely pitcher Pedro Martinez. It made me actually feel ok about this shameless show of city-pride I was subconsciously putting on for the sake of blending in. It was almost like supporting a baseball team from the local Pan-American cultural attaché of the UN.

So the Red Sox hat stayed on almost permanently for the rest of the baseball season.

What a transformation it did for my own quality of life too. Talk about artificial assimilation. People looked at me and nodded, smiled, gave a little fist bump. Folks would cheerily shout a “Yeah…Go Sox!” or unwaveringly declare a “Keepin’ the faith bro!” It was nice. It was such a welcome change from the customary look of anger, curiosity, uneasiness, or some combination thereof that I had grown accustomed to. I realized then that one of the best ways one could artificially assimilate into any American city was to visibly showcase your support for the local team by wearing a hat or jersey. It needed to be noticeable though, not something hidden like an ass-tattoo, but a prominent part of one’s attire. It didn’t matter whether you cared about the team or even enjoyed the damn sport. Immigrants suffering from assimilation anxiety – take note of this survival strategy. It works like magic. Better than any amount of hard work or claims to human rights.

Make no mistake however – I got into it.

Sure, blending in and feeling like I could be a part of the city played a huge role. But it was also infectious. It must have been the athlete in me; perhaps an attempt at recreating the times my dad and I would watch cricket in India and lose ourselves in the game. I had an innate love for sporting endeavors that was nurtured in me from a very young age. The idea of supporting a team, however parochial and contrived, added to the excitement of sport.

And the Sox didn’t disappoint. They went on what can only be described as a fairy tale run. They won the next three games against the Yankees; the final one in the evil lair of Yankee Stadium itself. They became the first team in MLB history to win a seven-game series after losing their first three games. Hollywood couldn’t have scripted such an underdog, come-from-behind story if it tried. (While the Yankees are the richest MLB team, the Sox happen to languish all the way down in second place.)

But there was still the small matter of, ahem, The World Series.

The Sox were to meet the team from St. Louis, the Cardinals, with mascots in the form of mean-spirited little birds, frowns, gnashing teeth and all.

It was almost anti-climactic.

Boston never once looked like losing. It was probably one of the most one-sided World Series in MLB history. They beat the Cardinals 4-0 and ended up winning it for the first time in eighty-six years, apparently also smashing a curse of sorts which released the floodgates of cheap beer and riot police.

Talk about artificial assimilation again. I had been warned by my workmates to leave early during Game Four, which Boston were expected to win rather easily – I mean, c’mon, hadn’t anyone heard of kismet? But I didn’t heed their warning. I followed the game via live-streaming in my office and then, when Boston was looking like winning for sure, left to take the subway home. There was a little voice inside my head that told me to be a part of the city when the Sox won.

And it happened on the subway ride home. Somewhere along the way, a large, cheery black man who was following the last minutes of the game on his handheld radio got up in the middle of the ride and announced with much fanfare, “Ladies and Gentlemen! It is my privilege to let you all know that the Boston Red Sox have just won the World Series!”

The entire subway coach erupted. People jumped and shouted for joy, hugging each other. I could see older men with tears in their eyes.

The same chap who announced the joyous moment, clutched me in a tight hug, and screamed, “Show me some love brother! Show me some love!”

He was hugging me! The man was taking me in his arms out of pure communal sporting joy. For a brief moment, I didn’t have the label of the immigrant and didn’t have to play the role. For a brief moment, I was as Bostonian as he was.

I was to partake in the celebration on the streets too, in ways that caught me by surprise. As I walked home from the subway stop that night, I drank in the bucolic atmosphere. Every street corner and every bar had people partying inside and out with unmitigated joy. As I got closer to my apartment, four large, young white men pulled me into their drunken revelry. But this time there was no hostility or anger, instead they thanked me profusely, slurs and all, for the contributions of my people.

I was thrilled that someone from India had contributed to this historic victory.

“Really?” I asked in joy, as they twirled me around in a circle. “Who?”

“You know!” shouted one, drunkenly waving a rather large foam finger. “Manny, Pedro, and “Big Pappi” bro!!! They’re the bomb!”

Not wishing to spoil this moment of reflected glory I had just received, I went with it.

I pumped my fist in the air, and nodded happily.

“Viva La Raza!” I shouted.

“Hell yeah, hombre!” one screamed back in inebriated delight.

Ok, please don’t judge me. I was thrilled that they confused me for a Latino. Being from India, I was always jealous of the oomph that came with the stereotypes of my Latino brothers, something that the stereotype of a software engineer, doctor, or convenience store owner could never emulate. The Indian male stereotypes in America just didn’t have the kind of sexiness that the Latino male stereotypes did. The Guevaresque revolutionary, the macho soccer player, the sultry acoustic guitarist and now, the kick-ass baseball player. I was happy to bask in reflected glory with my brown skin, which I conveniently rationalized as connecting me with my Latino brethren.

After a couple of sweaty bear hugs, I left with a soft glow on my face. The Red Sox had given me the briefest of moments where I could consider myself a part of the city in a rather enjoyable way. It was done via a combination of parochial sports nationalism, commercialized notions of city-identity, and the utilization of team paraphernalia as a temporary tool to prevent marginalization. But it was nice to be a part of popular merrymaking and made for a cool experience.

This is my journal of very, very imminent mortality.

Standard

Mon 01.28.19

So I’ve decided that I have 6 months to live – not in any suicidal way or anything. I just want to live my life as if I have 6 months to live and so have decided that it’s the case. I’m actively trying to put myself in a mental state of assuming that come July 28, 2019, my physical form is kaput. I had a scary physical and physiological feeling a few days back that genuinely made me wonder if the next phase is nigh, or maybe the feeling was just trying to figure out this primal feeling of awe and raw emotion when thinking of one’s death, or maybe it was just really bad gas.

I’m still as fit as a goddamn commando in his prime, have been training for at least a half hour average every day for the last two years at least (try it, it’s no mean feat). But yet… I have this nagging feeling that death is just always around the corner is ever present, that I’m on borrowed time, weirdly enough when my life has never been more filled with love and fulfillment than it is now. I don’t want to do the doctor thing…would rather nature take its course with me doing whatever I can to leave behind a good looking corpse. Indeed this post is scheduled to come out midnight 6 months from today. And it will essentially be a journal of imminent mortality. There’s a high probability I’m alive to witness it’s publication and perhaps renew this experiment until I get it eventually right (which I will, of course.)

But who knows? There’s a small fear that it actually might be the case, give or take – just cos the more love and happiness I receive in my life, the shorter I fear it might be…so this is actually a very serious, somewhat scary experiment to just meet that fear head on.

Plus, you know, I’ve decided:

Imma live the way I live and Imma die the way I die…

I need to get over my fear of death and live in the present you see. But it’s hard for me to live figuratively in the present without some grounded timeline. Nothing brings the present roaring to life like the reality of a season or two left to live.

First things first – gotta ensure that my loved ones will be ok without me and, more importantly, without the labor I contribute to the upkeep of our household and sustenance.

That is all important.

Safety net for family in place. Check.

To the best of my abilities. Check.

Doing the best I can. Check. (I think?)

Grateful. Check. Definitely a big fucking check.

Daily Trifecta – workout, massage for Sus, and at least three domestic chores. Check. The third “chore” was ordering pizza for dinner, but my completely secure self is claiming it… I made sure to order salads as well.

Whatever.

Some kind of legacy in place. Meh, check I guess, but you kinda gotta look hard for it. And hopefully you’ll consider being a failed activist an honorable legacy.

Leaving the world a slightly better place than when I came in. Dang… check I hope. But who the fuck knows?

Oh well, time to sleep the sleep of the innocent, the slumber of they who hath a peaceful heart, perchance to dream such dreams of joy…as only a restless insomniac can.

Kaliamman Vazhgai.

Tue 01.29.19

Still alive and kicking. Though the extra pizza I ate late last night might just make this a 3 month thing.

Anyhoo…been mulling about making the best of these last 6 months of mine and have decided that taking care of business at home, daily warrior clown training, and satirical writing while dicking around with a doable bucket list before kicking said bucket.

I have set up a timetable of satire and revolution till my impending demise entitled Warrior Clown’s Open Mic “Journal of Imminent Demise” Wannabe Comedian and Failed Activist Tour – with tbe optimistic goal of a public comment at every Minneapolis Board of Education meeting till my demise…no idea what’ll happen, but we’re gonna find out.

Otherwise family and community chugging along, love, chaos and all.

Wed 01.29.19

It’s incumbent upon any honest soul to get a grip on one’s poisons & medicines…

Thur 01.30.19

…and when on sabbatical from the green goddess, at the very least get the trifecta out of the way.

Always do what is needed to take care of business.

Sat 02.09.19

I feel the need to be grateful. A cursory glance at the above dates in this journal of imminent demise will display a a yawning gap between the last entry and this.

Well, that is in part because I can safely confirm my first paid writing gig, which consumed my flow for a bit, rendering me unavailable for personal journaling. The job’s freelance and it doesn’t seem to be the greatest pay, but hell, it’s good enough for me. I get to write for a youthful audience about important stuff and call myself a legit Academic Journalist (my official title, which should mean dick to everyone except me).

Plus, I get to work out of my favorite place on earth – my home. I get to be with the souls I love, and carve out alone time in my own sweet little corners of the house so I can get the fuck away from them (i.e. get high and pretend to work or exercise).

I’ve decided that I’m gonna work for as long as possible before moving on to whatever the universe has in store for me – which, you know, will definitely include death but I don’t know why I need to get all morbid in a journal of imminent demise.

I’ll keep the subbing thing going (but now increasingly from a failed activist perspective – by maintaining my subbing license and presenting my research that no one will hear during the public comments section of the monthly board meetings).

It’s a pain in the ass to wake up so goddamn early in the morning every weekday, but I think it keeps me honest and I’ve decided that I’ve earned this delectable variety and choice I am setting up for myself in terms of labor sold for financial sustenance.

Maybe another part-time remote gig too. For a non-profit or something. Make me feel all good about myself and shit.

Plus I always have my strong, fit body that houses a humble ego quivering with unrequited pride, just waiting to go into beast mode in the general labor category during the non-winter months.

But all that is taking care of business only as long as I’m alive.

I’m glad to say that business has been taken care of even in the event of my imminent demise.

Through love.

The love between a man, his chosen brothers and his chosen sisters. Through promises interred spiritually. Sacred oaths to stand tall for one another’s loved ones. Blood bonds sans blood ties.

Chosen siblings.

They will protect my family. My true brothers and sisters will protect my family.

Sus and Daya (not to mention Molly and Faiz and that cranky-ass Marley) are loved, will be loved, and will always have my peeps standing tall for them.

Should the reaper visit early to take me, I will tell him to do his worst. Hell, I’m feeling so grateful and fearless right now, I’ll smoke up with the bastard before he takes me with him on that final journey.

That makes me smile deep inside.

Sun 02.10.19

Writing is going well. Getting into that flow state rather easily and regularly now (green goddess is always there for me yo).

Training is keeping up too. I love taking care of business via the remote life and the freelance life.

Now if only I could do something about the daily ciggie or three I’m kinda feeling loathe to let go, this journal of imminent demise might just be all that.

I need to get into permanent fight camp…

Fri 03.08.19

The clock is always winding down. Love is the only way. Tending to the noble daily grind for our loved ones is indeed the glorious blessing that is this life. To nurture is to live. Anything else is always in danger of being corrupted by toxic patriarchy.

Bhoomi’s Grove – honoring all human and non-human souls, nurturing our community and the land, developing inter-generational resiliency to trauma while eliminating oppression – that is the way forward.

Radheyamman Vazhgai

Susie Q Vazhgai

Daya Shakti Vazhgai

All hail Faiz and Molly (and I guess Marley too)

Sun 03.31.19

There are some souls, like Vaddu and Rumi, who are too special to stay imprisoned by the limitations of this life.

I hope I live a life that honors their glory and love.

I can’t wait to hang out with them again…

But that can wait.

Mon 04.01.19

The green goddess is a great healer. I am indeed grateful for this most glorious of plants. She helps me workout every day and gets my creative juices flowing. She calms my restless mind so I can keep my head in the game and uphold my duties to love and life. She lifts my soul, connecting my quantum being to alternate timelines and universes.

The trick is to always be mindful in honoring her glory while preventing stoner regressions.

Fri 04.05.19

Finding meaning and fulfillment the more I seek it in the most obvious places of gut and soul.

Dancing with my demons while trying to make ’em dance for love and liberation.

And I keep finding long term purpose and short term goals to keep training every goddamn day. (I guess I just like them unhealthy carbs too much…)

As always…Susie Q Vazhgai

Wed. 04.24.19

I think, therefore a substitute teacher.

Now I need to just get the poisons under control before my imminent demise.

I’ve had many close calls.

But Imma keep on walking for love…

For great evil can only be destroyed with great love.

Wed. 05.15.19

And with great love comes great responsibility and even greater truth.

Sun. 05.26.19

I just realized something I’ve known deep down in my membrane for quite a while – we got a strong, stable mama bear on our side.

And she makes me fear nothing but fear itself.

Wed. 05.29.19

Why be anxious about death when love is forever?

Why be anxious at all when we have goddesses?

Kaliamman Vazhgai

I have my poisons…

Standard

I’ve had multiple poisons over the years that I’ve leaned on to help me through stress and boredom, ensure I get to work every day and take care of business for love, hell even keep me training daily in haphazard martial arts like some directionless moron for the last two years.

Currently I lean on three (poisons as they would be considered in the societies I claim membership in, that is) – booze, cigarettes, and cannabis.

Well, cannabis for me is straight up medicine – the green goddess so to speak – so Imma scratch that off the list of poisons and add that sweet herb to my list of medicines (which is basically that, working out, and eating the occasional salad swimming in creamy dressing.)

That leaves me leaning on two poisons, and there’s really no other way to look at booze and ciggies as anything other than just that. Poisons with some side medicinal benefits no doubt, delectable poisons for easily bored, self-anointed revolutionaries of course, but poisons nonetheless.

Now, this ain’t some cry for help. Nos is it some false-humility-laden, sunshine-up-your-ass clarion call to go all drug free and shit. I like my medicines and poisons sans hypocrisy or bullshit self-justification.

It’s just interesting is all.

I’m also trying to understand why.

I think it’s the constant need for higher realisation no matter how dangerous or self-involved.

To be honest though, I also just fucking like it.

The trick is to ensure it’s fuel and not torpor.

And to always defend the matriarchy.

KALIAMMAN VAZHGAI

SUSAMMAN VAZGAI

RADHAMMAN VAZGHAI

DAYA KUTTI VAZHGAI

FAIZ BOOBOO VAZHGAI

MOLLY POO VAZHGAI

(rumi, vaddu…i see you my brothers)

Bal Narendra and Captain Israel: when fascism turns into (even more dangerous) farce

Standard

Bal Narendra

A couple of days back, my cousin forwarded me a link that had me rolling on the ground laughing, while simultaneously injecting my soul with a chilling fear. The source of this scatter-brained experience was a link to this children’s picture book entitled Bal Narendra.

You see, “Bal” means “boy” in Hindi, while “Narendra” is the first name of Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist who was proven to be guilty of crimes against humanity for his role in the pogrom that killed over two thousand Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, and who is very likely going to be the next Indian Prime Minister (see my previous post regarding that here or here). As you might have guessed, the book is a picture book meant for children, not too dissimilar than the ones you and I read as children, probably about anthropomorphized animals and vague, black-and-white moral endings. Only this one is about the pristine boyhood of Narendra Modi.

In it the book goes on to show the glorious piety of Narendra Modi. Pious, because in India, like in many other parts of the world, a corrupted idea of moral purity is needed for the image of any aspiring demagogue. Glorious, because in India, like in many other parts of the world, a distilled version of authoritarian power is needed for the image of any aspiring messiah. The book goes on to explain how the beatific Bal Narendra always ensured his shirt had its creases removed on account of him keeping it folded under his pillow every morning, what a fastidious student he was, how he rescued a drowning boy and resisted school bullies, the manner in which he removed an old razor blade from a bird’s legs, and how (as a boy, mind you) he never allowed Indian Army soldiers “to go unreplenished.” A picture of a smiling Bal Narendra providing tea to grateful Indian Army soldiers leaves us wondering how one of the most powerful and brutal militaries in the world needed this saintly young ‘un, still in his khaki school shorts as he attended Hindu nationalist schooling, to provide replenishment to its soldiers in the form of tea, but I digress.

This book is possibly going to be in the house of many an English-speaking, middle-class, Hindu nationalist out there who wishes that one day their fresh-faced bal (and it’s always a bal) will also go on to become the lionhearted murderer of innocents and lead the world’s largest democracy into violent nihilism and the purity of the free market (Bal Narendra when he grew out of balhood really did fall in love with private capital, a love that might just outstrip his simmering hatred for religious minorities). Here’s a link to a major portion of the book if you desire a brief foray into the surreal world of religious nationalism for children in India: Bal Narendra

Now, I am reminded of yet another farcical book, this one a comic book, published a couple of years back by a Jewish nationalist group called Stand With Us (“us” presumably being Zionists and Israel, the state that the Hindu nationalists salivate over as the model of demagoguery to follow). This comic book is called Captain Israel. Yes indeed, Captain Israel, check out the picture above – a well drawn, muscular super-hero, possessing much virile vascularity. In one hand he possesses a magnificent shield modeled after Captain America (only the shield is a giant star of David – can’t have people getting confused here), and in the other hand a giant menorah, yes a menorah, lit candles and all, wielded as a weapon. He screams “For Israel!” with all the other accoutrements of Israeli occupation, including soldiers and fighter jets, revolving around him. His main cause? To kill the “barbaric destroyer snake” that is the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, quite literally drawn as a venomous serpent, and a movement that tries to (non-violently, if anyone is asking) resist Israeli oppression of the Palestinians by advocating for the boycott of the Israeli state until the oppression stops. Not unlike the South African anti-apartheid boycott movement, in fact deeply inspired by it.

So what can Bal Narendra and Captain Israel teach us? For one thing, it tells me that fascism can so very easily devolve into farce. I’m willing to wager no small amount of money that many of the Hindu nationalists who would vote for Modi en masse, and many of the Jewish nationalists who act as shrill apologists for Israel’s brutal human rights violations, would in fact laugh at Bal Narendra and Captain Israel respectively (or even simultaneously, maybe at a joint fundraising event in Washington DC).

But lurking just beneath that farce is real danger, even more sinister than what the farce tries to hide. It’s the reason why my own reaction of mirth was followed by a feeling of dread when I saw these examples of farce. Because religious nationalists like the Hindutva brigade, or the right-wing Zionists, or for that matter the Christian and Islamic fundamentalists, are not jokes. They are very real and ominous threats to humanity. We then see that the farce only provides temporary laughter, because it is nothing more than facade. Their images were reduced to jokes, but the danger to humanity never was.

Bal Narendra and Captain Israel: from fascism to farce and back again.