Somehow I’ve always imagined google as a supercilious, snickering Peter Pan-like young person sitting cross-legged in there, in the box-shaped computer I had twenty years back, rolling his eyes at my ignorance. From the beginning, this unconscious conceptualization of google automatically restricted what I typed in the search bar. Asking the internet to connect me to a site felt a lot like asking the operator of a landline phone to connect me to another landline number in the old days; the operator could listen in if she wanted to.

There is one more thing: I have had young  patients proudly tell me that they are hackers, and good at it too! And I have no reason to doubt them as they are smart graduates from the IITs. The first time someone told me this was some fifteen years ago. It destroyed my faith in passwords and encryption for good. Decoding these security measures is obviously child’s play to some.

If I need to look up a word I use a dictionary out of sheer habit, though I’ve started using google more without realizing it. I think that’s how google creeps into people’s lives and makes itself indispensable. Speaking of words, I’m fascinated by cognates, and finding them is a zigzagging path. Does chasing after me through this help google? I still rely entirely on google for things like how to pronounce  Czicksentmihalee, though, and I’m willing to do that. But if google wants to know why I need this, well, it’s just curiosity, nothing more.

I often use google to look up random factoids that have puzzled me through the day, things I’ve come across in conversations or on TV. So the things I investigate using google are completely irrelevant to my life, and can’t be the basis for ads. And most of the things I look up are from a check-list of unrelated topics. I am just browsing, not doing serious research. Like browsing in a mall. Incidentally, why do mall-owners count footfalls to gauge how the businesses that operate from them are doing? What exactly does it tell them? That people browsed, or people shopped? Or do they subtract browsers from the total and decide that these are prospective buyers that they can lie in wait for and eventually entrap into buying? In how many ways are we being watched?!

Back to google. I often look up the same article many times on different days because I might need to confirm only one particular bit of information from it. When I’ve gone into ‘show full history’ to trace some lost thread of thought I’ve seen how ridiculous it looks that I’ve opened the same page a million times. What does google make of it? And if I’ve been using google on my touchscreen cellphone, don’t even ask! Every clumsy finger movement opens a site that means nothing to me, but might mean something to google if it is snooping. I also wonder, does the time lapse mean anything to google if I leave a page open for a long time while I go into the kitchen to make some coffee?

I read a lot about religion because I can’t get over how much violence it has unleashed over the millennia, when it is actually supposed to bring peace. So I’m not religious, but google might think I am.

I am a news junkie and follow politics, especially Indian politics, but I’m not interested in raising a ruckus about anything. I already know that I don’t count and what I think doesn’t make a whit of difference to the political scene. I don’t think much of politicians (except Shashi Tharoor’s speeches on Indian history), but I read about their antics anyway. So what does google think is my political affiliation? A friend of mine talks about politicians referencing the astrology site carta natal es, so I’ve been visiting that site, but that doesn’t mean an astro-reading ad will grab my eyeballs. I might search for information about weapons in relation to a novel I’m reading, and google might misunderstand my intentions. So too with suicide, a topic that I need to visit now and then for professional reasons.

So, I have no idea how the data generated by my haphazard browsing helps google.

Apparently google needs to know me well so that it can pitch appropriate ads to me. I live in Bangalore, a city whose skyline is made up entirely of ads, monstrously large billboards that I never look at, or even notice anymore. So advertisements are wasted on me. I just peep around them or scroll down reflexly and never really see them. If an ad stubbornly refuses to disappear I close the page and find the information elsewhere. I’ve also become adept at clicking on the X mark using peripheral vision to close any nonsense that pops up.

I don’t use google to look for things to buy, places to eat at, places to visit, books to read, or movies to watch. I get these from newspapers and friends. I prefer to ask friends about these things over a cup of coffee at Hatti Kaapi or A2B in Bangalore, rather than turn to google for everything. It’s much nicer. Same way, I shop at small stores because they’re more interesting, plus the idea of these hardworking, cheerful people losing their livelihood to Amazon and BigBasket makes me feel bad. Variety, rather than the sameness of chain stores, is what I’d like to preserve. A little searching and serendipitous discovery is more fun, like finding a wonderful book while browsing in a bookshop. Google and the rest are taking this away.

On top of all this, I now have the troubling knowledge that my browsing patterns are being parsed by google to understand my thought processes and influence me through its advertisements to generate revenue for itself.

Google assures us of security:

‘Encryption brings a higher level of security and privacy to our services. When you do things like send an email, share a video, visit a website, or store your photos, the data you create moves between your device, Google services, and our data centers. We protect this data with multiple layers of security, including leading encryption technology like HTTPS and Transport Layer Security.’

That’s why it feels like a case of the fence eating the crop, or my own security guard robbing my house. That’s why it feels like a betrayal, though google openly admits that it uses the advertising model for revenue. To me that translates into “Okay, so some ads will appear when I’m reading something? Cool.” It doesn’t convey that I’ll be watched so closely, like a hunter following his prey.



A friend sent me this link today. It’s about therapeutic writing.

Now I know why I write the stuff that I write. Much of what I write is simply catharsis. I already know that most people are not interested in it, which is why I don’t talk about any of this to anyone! But I have to get it out of my system. So it goes here. I know this is a safe place because I’m not inflicting it on anyone, because they are not obliged to read it. There is that 1 nanosec wasted when they see it pop up on their screen and groan “Oh no, not her again!” I apologise for that to everyone right now.

This is how it usually happens: I read the newspaper in the morning (my generation still does). Something in it gets on my nerves and I have to write it out of my system because there’s nothing else I can do. Or, it triggers some old unresolved existential worry and I drift with it into an uncomfortable space in my head. I make myself a cup of tea and try to put the thought aside. It usually works and I move on to doing other things.

Then I might get a whatsapp forward from my friend whose husband is in the army. She has a stock of good scary ones like the water situation in Cape Town, data security compromised by linking something to Aadhar card, or some terrible news from the Pak or China border that she gets on her army wives’ whatsapp group. This sometimes sends me back to square one, and I might advance my mid-morning cup of coffee by an hour.

Today was a little different. I met my friend Jay at the lake on my morning walk and we walked together at his frenetic pace with me panting along, and he talked about how screwed up India is, and why do they keep calling it secular when it simply can’t be.

I drove back home ruminating on all that Jay had said. By the time I had breakfast and turned the computer on I was already in the zone, and in a hurry to get it out of my system. I hammered it out at top speed, and here it is. Warning: Not fun, read at your own risk.

Schisms >> entropy

  • Though the Constitution declares that India is a secular country, it’s hard for India to be one.
  • Secularism denotes a separation of religion and state, the government having nothing to do with people’s religions.
  • But the sacred frequently bumps up against the secular and puts the government in a spot.

Take the case of Goolrokh Gupta. A Parsi married to a Hindu, she was not allowed to participate in her father’s funeral rites because she married outside the community. This has been the norm for centuries in the Parsi community: people who leave the fold through marriage are excommunicated. Distressed, Goolrukh approached the Gujarat high court for justice. When the high court judgment didn’t favour her she took it up to the Supreme court. Meanwhile, my Parsi friend Rozbeh tells me that Goolrukh is wrong and the court has no business to decide she isn’t.

Our government can’t be called secular. It is very much involved with people’s religions. While some say that the government is promoting Hinduism, it could also be seen as promoting Christianity through the Joshua Project that I wrote about in my last post. It could even be seen as supporting Islam if you go by the minority appeasement politics it has indulged in for decades, and its recent noisy debates about triple talaq and pilgrimage rights of women. The newly added triple talaq clause in the nikahnama will hopefully prove a win-win situation for the government and the community. Then, the government has banned the Jain practice of santhara as being a form of suicide and Jains have taken out protest marches against the verdict. Last month the long-drawn-out Padmaavat row happened because of some Hindus trying to browbeat the government. How can a government stay secular in a country where religious beliefs keep clashing with laws and fundamental rights?

A lot of unrest in India is because of religious issues, including caste. The Hindu caste system is well known. If you google it you get 10,50,000 results. It is deeply entrenched. Nobody can hope to find a solution soon, or want to find one, because caste groups vote en masse and are useful to political parties as they are.

Schisms occur in every group, religious or otherwise. They almost work like castes, actually. Broadly speaking, Buddhism got divided into hinayana and mahayana, Jainism into svetambara and digambara, Islam into shia and sunni, Christianity into catholic and protestant long ago. Later, more splinter groups appeared.

Navdeep, a Sikh friend, told me just yesterday that there are castes in Sikhism too, something I didn’t know. My Sindhi friends, Kantha and Renu, say there are four castes among Sindhis, divided into higher and lower. In India there are even low-caste Christians who are converts from lower castes of Hinduism, ­­­called Dalit Christians. They have their own separate churches and priests and marry among themselves. My Christian friends, Nina and Rachel, deplore this as there are supposed to be no caste divides in Christianity, but candidly add that nobody in their families would marry a Dalit Christian.

None of this was intended to happen when each of these religions began. Every religion started off nice and pure, then got corrupted over generations like the first sentence uttered in a game of Chinese whispers, then split up into castes, sects or denominations. You see this happening in whatsapp groups too, often within days or weeks of their being formed, when you see a list of so-and-so lefts, and the group admin can’t do a thing about it!

It’s entropy. It happens to everything.

I guess we all have our little nests where we feel safe – our communities – but if the tree falls, all our nests will be destroyed…

So, well, that’s the way it is in our country. We are a highly imperfect society, but we haven’t been doing too badly. We just have to keep resolving issues as and when they arise, and may have to lock horns with the government every now and then over some strong religious belief held by our community. ‘Secular’ is a borrowed idea, it simply doesn’t apply here.

Note: all friends and conversations real, names changed for their comfort should they happen to read this.

(Photo by Sandeep Vatsa)


things which make for peace

BENGALURU: Catholic bishops across the country have raised concerns over “…false messages of conversions are being spread on whatsapp and facebook to instigate communal violence.”

One of the bishops says:

“There are growing concerns and anxieties among Christian community members as the country seems to be going one-sided or on the verge of being affiliated to a particular religion.”

This is from today’s edition of The Times of India.

This is not going to happen. Newspapers may report a few incidents, and television anchors may hold highly-charged debates, but if you look around your own city or town, beyond your own little bunch of people, you can see that our country is doing well enough in terms of religious harmony. Nothing like the Goa Inquisition is going to be unleashed on Christians by the Indian government.

India is a pluralistic society. Most of my closest friends are Christians. We talk freely about religion as we accept each others’ belief systems. Nobody wants to instigate communal violence, though communal violence is often a fallout of a fight over something else.

Religion is not what it used to be fifty years ago almost everywhere in the world, and if you actually want to go by what is propagated via whatsapp and facebook, no religion can claim the moral high ground. I am sure people from every religious group, including religious heads when they were younger and not-yet-so-wise, are guilty of saying nasty things about some other religion, if not on social media, at least in their own drawing rooms.

When I think or write about religion it is always from the perspective of truly devout people who want to live right in God’s eyes. I’ve shied away from acknowledging that it is more of a political tool, and has always been one, because religion is sacred and empowering for billions of people, and I didn’t want to desecrate that by saying it is anything other than spiritual. In kind and open minds and hearts, religion is blessed, deeply meaningful and unifying. I believe that disparaging someone else’s god already makes you a bigot and your bias disqualifies you from judging other religions and preaching about god.

Religion is a power structure from a different era, like monarchy, and religious heads are loath to let go of power, just like European monarchies are. Apart from this, the need to increase the number of followers is also a practical consideration, so there’s some safety if there’s an internecine conflict involving religion, or even a world war, though the stated purpose is the betterment of the individual who is invited to join a religion.

As far as I can see, everyone is freely following his religion in this country for the most part. People have the freedom to propagate their religions too. I’ll give a single example. There exists a US-based project called The Joshua Project whose stated aim is to christianise all of India. The organisation was granted permission by the Indian government to operate in India in 2002. Its members are apparently even given special missionary visas.

Its activities have not been obstructed in any way for the past fifteen years as far as I know. I’ve often wondered how this project benefits India, and why the government permitted it, because I don’t see other countries allowing similar projects to hinduise, islamicise, sikhise, zorosterise, buddhisise or jainise their countries. It is possible that there are concerns in the Hindu community regarding this. In this era of fake news how do we know that the messages the bishops say are being spread on whatsapp and facebook are true or not?

To quote from The Washington Times, 15th Dec 2006:

“Officially, Christians comprise 2.3 percent of India’s more than 1 billion population. Unofficially, he insists, the number is closer to 8 percent”, he being a man called Thangiah who preaches in Bangalore. It’s only a ball park figure, but he wouldn’t say this without some idea.

Perhaps the bishops should look at the freedom Christians have in India compared to, say Coptic Christians in some countries, before making vague allegations directed against “a particular religion.” Please? This is as good as it gets, unless they are looking for Utopia. Let’s not destroy this country over religion. We’ve managed for a thousand years, so surely the bishops can address the issues raised by others and get on with it? Those people may have genuine fears too, fears that could be dispelled by the bishops’ answers.

“Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another”( Romans 14:19). This applies as much to us now as it did to the Gentiles and Jews then, especially in the context of the Indian belief in vasudhaiva kutumbakam, which means ‘the whole world is one familyin Sanskrit.



Kulbhushan Jadhav in Pakistan

Why are people surprised by the way Kulbhusan Jadhav’s mother, Avanti, and wife, Chetan, were treated in Pakistan? Wasn’t it obvious that the whole charade of compassion and humanitarianism was only to score a small point in preparation for the next hearing at the International Court of Justice in The Hague? I’m surprised that India is surprised!

This was the verdict passed by the International Court of Justice on the 18th of May 2017: “Pakistan shall take all measures at its disposal to ensure that Mr. Jadhav is not executed pending the final decision in these proceedings.” I remember how well our Harish Salve did on that one!

Indians are apparently upset by:

  • the type of security check that the women had to go through
  • that they were made to change out of their nice clothes into something more suitable for use in Pakistan
  • they had to remove their mangalsutras and bindis
  • that Chetan’s shoes were stolen!
  • that they had to speak to Kulbhushan with a glass partition in between
  • that Kulbhushan’s mother was repeatedly interrupted with the instruction to speak to her son in English!
  • that they were harrassed by Pakistani journalists

All this was apparently done to intimidate the two women. I watched them on TV. What I saw was two strong women drinking in the sight of their beloved son and husband, not an iota of fear or intimidation on their countenances. These are Maharashtrians, descendants of people who stood up to both the Mughals and the British. They aren’t scared of anybody!

Regarding the above points:

  • Arsalan Bhatti, a Pakistani journalist, clarified on Indian television yesterday that he would have had to undergo exactly the same kind of security check if he had to enter the place. If this is true, fine.
  • Arsalan also said that the women changed their clothes of their own accord. Perhaps they did. Pakistani officials taking such a keen interest in what these ladies wore seems rather comical to me. Anyway, I’m sure Kulbhushan didn’t even notice what they wore, because he would have been overcome by a whole lot of mixed emotions in the circumstances.
  • I confess I’m mystified by the need to remove mangalsutra, bangles and bindi. Either it’s just garden-variety paranoia, or they are confused by women who aren’t completely invisible. Again, I doubt that either Kulbhushan or his mother or wife gave this much importance. This was too deeply emotional a meeting to worry about shringar.
  • Shoe-stealing is a common crime. Why do you think there are people posted outside our Taj Mahal to guard our shoes when we walk into the monument barefoot? This is probably a shared cultural issue, one of the things that make other countries hyphenate us as Indo-Pak.
  • The glass partition through which they had to see Kulbhushan was probably to discourage hand-holding, hugs and other forms of PDA. It could be a cultural thing in Pakistan. But seeing each other in the flesh, after seeing them only in their memories, must have made the glass unimportant and non-existant to them all.
  • Do Pakistani men speak to their mothers only in English? I guess it’s just an idiosyncrasy, or a colonial hangover. I have heard people in India address their moms as ‘Mother’ in English while speaking in their mother tongues. This is usually dismissed as a silly affectation.
  • The Pakistani press apparently harrassed the women. I suspect that the journalists were hoping to hear truth for a change. However, right after an emotionally charged meeting like that, the women were unlikely to have registered anything more than the noise level.

There’s one thing I want us to ask ourselves: Why don’t we believe Pakistanis when they say that they were being considerate and compassionate? Just because their ways don’t conform to our idea of what constitutes decent behaviour, it doesn’t mean that they are lying. Perhaps this is how compassion and consideration are expressed in Pakistani culture.

Different cultures have different standards. After the Brexit vote I remember being surprised by how quietly Cameron resigned and Teresa May took over. The English did not make a spectacle of themselves on the world stage and court disrespect and derision. This meeting between Kulbhushan and his wife and mother could have done with a little dignity. What a pity it had to be conducted in such a shoddy and cringeworthy manner by the Pakistani government, though, going by their protestations to the contrary, they are not even aware of having done so!


echo chambers and shibboleths

My mother lost her brother in a religious street war when I was a school kid. I’ll never forget her reaction when she got the phone call from a cousin in her hometown. Nor my own shock and horror when I came to know that my uncle was stabbed over and over by a mob of people till he bled to death…

Such incidents still happen.

I wish we could simplify religion into a quiet private activity and not let it spill out into the streets as anger and outrage. And not onto the internet either.

Lies we believe about God’ by William Paul Young, and ‘Being Different’ by Rajiv Malhotra, are two books I happened to read back-to-back recently. Though they were both interesting, they were so different that I could practically feel and hear the clash of civilisations inside my head!

Some of the postulates in both books have been angrily denounced by readers as straw man arguments. How much critical thinking can one apply to something as subjective and faith-based as religion? My view is that most religions – the body of accepted truths, myths, miracles, tenets and stories about important personages in the history of every religion – exist because of collective validation.

The only way everyone in a large group can have exactly the same beliefs is by meeting regularly to validate each other. The meeting place thus becomes an echo chamber where certain beliefs are reinforced, while alternative or competing concepts are not allowed to be discussed. If not for these echo chamber meetings, people would end up with different beliefs over the years based on their own thinking and experiences. Instead, they are pruned to turn out like identical bushes in a formal garden, rather than trees growing freely in a forest. Even though trees are of different types and heights, a forest is a coherent whole, more natural and authentic than a formal garden.

Maybe there would be a better chance of peace if everyone arrived at their own individual belief systems regarding god and religion, and kept them private. I think experiential learning is far superior to received wisdom that is swallowed whole without being sifted and vetted and sent through the filters of one’s own mind. Hopefully, the young people of today will do better.

For centuries, religious leaders have been making rules and putting a stamp of divine authority on them. I do see that these rules help a lot of people walk the straight and narrow path. Religions help stabilise societies and bring out the empathic and altruistic side of people, and that’s a good thing for the human race. Without them the world might have been more of a dog-eat-dog place than it is. That much I concede.

But I think beliefs should be fluid enough to change with experience. For example, an innocent child who has been taught that her family’s god is the only real god will eventually notice that her friends’ gods are equally real to them. How will she deal with that? She has to change her idea of god. Will she be allowed? Why was she even taught something so divisive in the first place?  It seems to me that group gods are shibboleths that unite some people, who together exclude other people by declaring them either wrong or inferior.

Considering how much talk there is of human rights in today’s world, choosing how one wants to imagine god should be a basic human right! Yes, elders have to teach things to children, but I’m not sure this sort of indoctrination is teaching. Elders could perhaps use their wisdom better by introducing their family god to their children, then telling them that others may see god differently, and assuring them that this is perfectly okay.


As Rajiv Malhotra says in ‘Being Different’, the only way billions of people can live peacefully on earth is by mutual respect towards each others’ religions, not by mere tolerance. Tolerance is the ‘ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with’ (Oxford English dictionary). That is, you put up with them and conceal your annoyance behind a wall of tolerance.

In a pluralistic society nobody can say when that wall of tolerance will be breached. All it needs is one careless remark by someone, or sometimes, nothing at all. Perhaps the simmering negative energy of tolerance reaches critical mass and erupts. We then have those sickeningly familiar scenes of violence and bloodshed, cops and ambulances, placards and flowers and wakes, on primetime news. In 24 hours the whole incident will be replaced by some other breaking news, and only those who lost loved ones will remember the incident for ever.











Isabel and the aghoris

Outsiders may view them with the same horror as a vegetarian reacting to the terrified shriek of an animal being slaughtered for meat or a ritual sacrifice. Or a suckling pig roasted whole and served with an apple stuck in its rictus. Or meat shops festooned with skinned carcasses. Different things disgust or horrify different people.

But the aghoris in India freely follow the strange customs of their tribe that most people might find revolting. And people who live around the areas they inhabit – Indians who don’t share these customs – apparently let them be. They believe the aghoris are merely following their karmic paths.

Is this indifference? It could be, but it probably isn’t. It’s more likely acceptance. Or deep-rooted fatalism. It is the belief that aghoris are born into or adopt this life for a purpose that can’t be rationally explained, but can be spiritually understood in terms of karma and rebirth.

The aghoris haven’t been corralled with the goal of integrating them into the dominant culture, if there is one. They retain their identity. Joining the mainstream is an individual choice and happens organically. Maybe this is true freedom?

So far, the government hasn’t tried to homogenise India and has largely stuck with ‘unity in diversity,’ the phrase used by Jawaharlal Nehru to describe us. Social engineering may only deracinate them, so they are left worse off, unless specific measures to rehabilitate them are put in place beforehand. This is difficult because there are too many groups clamouring for government support. Unfortunately this gives opportunists room to prey on their ignorance and defencelessness.


I heard about the documentary on the aghoris on CNN from someone living in the US. A man of Indian origin working in the US, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, had been fatally shot in Kansas just a few days before the program was aired. The Hindu community in the US was afraid that all Hindus would be seen through the lens of this documentary and violence against them would increase. At the time I shared their fears. It occurred to me a little later that they were only concerned about how it made them look, about how this perception could endanger their lives. To be fair, I would’ve had the same concerns if I lived there.

Even so, I wish someone had spoken up for the aghoris: “Let them be. Why ridicule them? They have not harmed anyone. They have never forced their beliefs on anyone. They haven’t threatened anyone who has criticised or mocked their religion. Targeting people who won’t pick up arms and retaliate – what a cowardly thing to do.”


Isabel, a girl born and raised here in Bangalore, spent a few hours with aghoris while travelling in Varanasi with friends. She refers to them respectfully as aghori babas.

She and her friends sat with them peacefully smoking chillum. They talked about Life. One baba said, “What do you take from this life? Nothing. We learn to live with nothing.”

This is Isabel’s take on aghori babas:

They leave everything and go through life not wanting anything. They connect with God this way. I feel they do a job like what undertakers and gravediggers do for society. They respect the dead and don’t recoil from them.  

It’s a myth that they all eat human flesh. Very, very few of them do. They just apply the ash from burnt bodies on themselves like how tribes put on war paint.

Many of them are there by choice, they come leaving families behind to live this way. All are not born there. I met people who talked about homes and families elsewhere … I don’t remember seeing women … 

They are nomadic. They move around quite a lot. I met them in Manali and in Calcutta too. They are a community. The younger people are expected to take care of the old.

Every spring many of them go to Kailash on a pilgrimage for Shiva’s blessings.

To my questions she replied:

Local people give them their space, they don’t interfere.

They’re confident – other people’s opinions of their religion don’t make them insecure.

Her acceptance, her lack of censure of any sort, moved me. She shrugged it off as just being Indian. Her Christian values of compassion and love had blended with values she had imbibed from other religions. From Hindus, acceptance of all life situations as arising from past karma; from Muslims, the idea of brotherhood, which she extended to encompass all human beings; from Buddhists, inner quietude and the ability to live in harmony with others.

They never asked us for money. They accepted food and provisions. They made tea and shared it with everyone. 

The older ones don’t like being treated like tourist attractions. They refuse to be photographed. They say you’re capturing a part of their soul. But the younger ones don’t mind because they’re used to cell phones…

Of course, Isabel didn’t get herself photographed with the aghoris. She wouldn’t impose on them. She would consider it an affront to their dignity.

May her tribe increase.

Note: This is a sequel to the post ‘Believer, CNN: Aslan and the aghoris’ :



the kohinoor diamond

The Supreme Court has disposed of a petition to bring the kohinoor diamond back to India. The Court isn’t going to interfere with the diplomatic process that this would involve.

The kohinoor was discovered in Andhra Pradesh in India in the 13th century. Or maybe it was Krishna’s legendary shyamantakamani. There’s plenty written about its sad history. In 1849, 13-year-old Maharaja Duleep Singh was coerced by Dalhousie into sailing to England to give it to Queen Victoria as a ‘gift.’ All of thirteen, did the poor kid have a choice? The stone is now in the Tower of London.

Personally, I’m not sure we must try to bring it back to India. These are my reasons:

  • There are elaborate arrangements in the Tower of London for guarding it. Can we keep it equally safe here? How many crores in taxpayers’ money will that cost?
  • Excited crowds will come to view it and there will be airport level security, or worse. It won’t be fun visiting it. After standing in queues in lots of tourist places, I know.
  • There could be tragic stampedes when hordes of people are funnelled into the necessarily small display area in front of a glass case.
  • It could be a target for terror attacks.
  • It is flawed. It has yellow flecks deep inside that prevent it from shining by refracting light. It is lacklustre. Only flawless diamonds have value as far as I know. It may be just a glorified lump of carbon.
  • It is cursed.
  • It is not beautiful despite attempts over centuries to chisel it into shape, remove its flaws and place it in flattering display cases.
  • It has been through the hands of the likes of Alauddin Khilji, Malik Kafur, Aurangazeb and Dalhousie and gathered a great deal of negative energy. That’s what a crystal healer told me. Queen Victoria apparently confessed to her daughter that she disliked wearing it.

When he visited India in July 2010, David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, said about returning the diamond, “If you say yes to one you suddenly find the British Museum would be empty.” Very true! They can’t afford to return things to their rightful owners, so they won’t. ‘Finders, keepers’ is a favourite English saying, though it has its origins in ancient Roman law. The ethical – and perhaps legal – problem is in defining when something is considered ‘found.’ Just like what exactly constitutes a ‘gift!’

A diamond has to be perfect, flawless, brilliant and hypnotising to be called a jewel. Lacking all these attributes and merely being one of the world’s largest lacklustre diamonds is not enough to be a gem. Five countries want it, so there’s a demand of sorts, so nobody is going to say “the emperor has no clothes!”

Maybe we should have one of those exciting referendums that are held countrywide for every confounded issue nowadays: Indians! Do you want the kohinoor back? Yes or No?