How to fight a dragon

Updated: Jul 25, 2020, 04:13 IST | Lindsay Pereira | Mumbai

We are now the proud residents of a country where a lot of things are banned, and that also includes common sense

A commuter wearing a 'Boycott China' mask waits for a bus in New Delhi. PIC/AFP
A commuter wearing a 'Boycott China' mask waits for a bus in New Delhi. PIC/AFP

LindI wanted to send a strong message to China when Indian soldiers were killed in skirmishes at the border. I had to put away the thought rather quickly though, first because the government of my country didn't name China and second because it claimed our borders were intact. I assumed the soldiers who died had tripped and fallen in a large group, so I returned to treating my Chinese-made products with love.

My relief was short-lived because some of my fellow Indians began hurling television sets out of balconies, forcing me to question my patriotism all over again. How could I call myself a proud Indian without throwing away my flatscreen TV and asking a friend to record the act on a smartphone for proof? I wanted my message to be clear and unambiguous, unlike messages issued by the Prime Minister's office. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a friend willing to risk contracting COVID-19 by coming over to film me destroy my TV.

There had to be something else I could do though because #BoycottChina was trending on Twitter and I wanted to experience that sense of camaraderie that all Indians seem to enjoy during a cricket match or a communal riot. I wanted to belong, and if that meant hating a country that had never harmed me personally, I was happy to switch off my brain and participate. This has unintended consequences because switching off my brain also made me feel as if I was qualified to become a politician myself. Luckily, that feeling passed.

Some people on Facebook mentioned throwing away smartphones made in China and replacing them with models manufactured in India. After a futile hour of searching for these mythical devices, I gave up, only to realise I had been conducting this search using a laptop made in the country of my new enemy. Horrified, I switched it off and thought of rushing to a store that could sell me a laptop made exclusively in India. The stores were all closed due to lockdown rules, so I resolved to find a solution later.

Stalls selling India's version of Chinese food were closed too, making it impossible for me to protest by ordering Pav Bhaji instead of Paneer Chilli Hakka Noodles. I realised we could hurt the Chinese a lot more by asking them to eat at our own Chinese restaurants, but that involved the logistics of organising airfare, finding masochistic volunteers abroad and documenting the process for a news channel. It also involved trying to figure out where the news channels were, given the fine line between reportage and entertainment they regularly cross with impunity.

Finally, a day or two after this sad turn of events, the government of India came up with a brilliant plan. It banned 59 apps made in China, providing me with an instant list of ways I could show solidarity with the soldiers who had lost their lives. Copying the list on to a sheet of paper, I sat before my Chinese-made smartphone and began scrolling through the apps I had already installed in the hope of uninstalling them. I also looked for an inspiring video of Vande Mataram by AR Rahman on YouTube so it could play during the process of uninstallation, making this already poignant moment more memorable.

For a minute, I was rendered helpless by the fact that none of the apps existed on my phone. I had never heard of YouCam Makeup, Likee, or Bigo Live, so I decided to first install them and then uninstall them in suitable fits of anger. This act calmed me for a while and made me feel more like a patriot.

I have decided not to boycott Chinese food or attack stores in my neighbourhood that sell Chinese goods because the people working at the stalls and stores are all Indian. Cutting off our noses to spite our faces may seem like a good idea in Parliament, or on a podcast created to replace a press conference, but it doesn't make sense in the real world where, unlike our political leaders, millions of us have to do real work for a living.

I have also given up on the idea of using equipment manufactured solely in India. I arrived at this decision after doctors of St George Hospital and JJ Hospital announced that 81 ventilators failed when they were needed most. They were all made in India. If I land in a hospital, I intend to ask for a ventilator that was made in China.

When he isn't ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira
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