Unoffended and unimportant

Paromita VohraRecentlty I’ve begun to feel unhappy with my staggering nobody-ness. It’s not that Lord Vishnu stuck his tongue out at me and showed me my overall place in the cosmos. But it’s increasingly evident to me that in order to be important, you have to be offended by something.

Or at the very least, you should be indignant, blooming periodically like an angry flower to show how much things matter to you, hence how much you matter. Otherwise you can’t blame folks for not listening.

I’m not lagging behind in the contempt department, but I suspect most of my contempt is diffused in idle gossip. Clearly I lack a personality which can be successfully migrated from the cafeteria to public space. In this, I am a disappointment to my family, the teachers who considered me promising and indeed to myself. I’m sorry.

Illustration/ Amit Bandre

Of course, one must be careful about saying sorry too. I mean, look at David Cameron, who said he was sorry for British behaviour in the Jalianwala massacre. He just made Sikhs in the UK feel bad that he hadn’t said sorry for Indian behaviour in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

I’ll confess now. I did think of writing this column about Arindam Choudhary and IIPM. Something oblique and suggestive which would not require me to go to Gwalior or Assam to deal with a court case.

Just enough to have me blocked by the DoT. If the UGC website can be blocked for simply stating the fact that IIPM is not a university, surely a discussion about ponytails could put me in the running, no? Because I get that you have to either be offended or offend in order to be a contendor. For what? I don’t know, yaar. Just generally. Or aren’t people who are generally, allowed now? That might be a possible offence-taking point, come to think of it.

But then I began to feel I could not really mock someone else’s hairstyle given that I don’t even have a hairstyle at all to start with.

If you have suggestions of what I could do on this count (the offence taking, not the hairstyle), I welcome them. Also, to be frank, I want to enter the game with something new. All the topics seem to be taken. Even fish. Some years ago, some Bombay vegetarian fundamentalists were offended because they chose to move house next to a fish market and therefore demanded that the fish markets be removed.

This week Delhi’s got onto the game. Fish sellers were moved from Jama Masjid to a new market in Ghazipur, which is named for the freedom fighter and Urdu poet Ashfaqullah Khan. This has offended Mr Ather Faroqui, a leader of the Anjuman Taraqqi Urdu (Hind) too. According to him, naming a fish market after a freedom fighter is a “horrendous faux pas.”

Wah, what oratory! However, the fish sellers have taken offence to his offence. What’s wrong with selling fish they ask. People like fish and thanks to fish sellers they will remember Ashfaquallah Khan everytime they buy some. Around Ghazipur anyway. I’m torn between my admiration of Mr Faroqui’s thundering phraseology on the other by my liking for fish. So far, the descendents of Ashfaqullah Khan as well as the Fish, have not stated offence, but surely, it’s a matter of time.

If I search deep inside my heart I have to admit that I am strongly offended by pigeons. But I fear them even more than Arindamda. After all they live on my window sill. So it’s best I embrace unimportance in peace.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at

The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper. 

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