I tell you, these MI5 chaps are indeed very resourceful. Why, in a matter of days they cultivated a mole in Rashtrapati Bhavan who has given us some vital inputs which may serve me in good stead at the Games opening ceremony. As a matter of fact, the feedback is that President Patil may declare the Games open in Marathi. Apparently, this move was considered after text messages from Shiv Sena’s Bal Thackeray (no relative of William Makepeace) and his nephew Raj who runs a political party called the MNS. Anyway, the two implored the Prez to promote Marathi which also happens to be her mother tongue. The MI5 even tracked down Prez Patil’s message. The operative part is: “Games suru hovu det!” which means “Let the Games begin.” So, the big question before us was if Ms Patil did indeed resort to using an alien tongue, how should I respond? At first it was suggested that I say something in Celtic or Gaelic. But then would it have any impact in India? After several top-level strategy sessions, the MI5 came up with the bright idea of hiring the services of the Delhi-based ‘All Translations Services’ for rendering a brief stretch of my speech into Marathi. The all-important translation in Roman script read: “Inglandchya Maharani ni apaar anandani hya vismaraniya upkramala tyancha aashirwaad dila aahe. Aadarniya Rashtrapatiji, mee pun ghoshna karto: games suru hovu det. Dagad-ani-gulati chalu kara! (The queen is happy to give her blessings for this great event. Madame President, I too declare the Games open. Let the rock ’n roll begin!).”
I must admit that the Marathi bit has put me in a spot of bother. Practising the lines has upset Camilla no end. “What crap are you muttering?” she asked, most unlike a lady, leave alone a Duchess. Anyway, the long and short of it was that in a huff she took a British Airways flight to Bangalore. And, believe it or not, she checked into the Soukya spa in Whitefield at the unearthly hour of half-past midnight (GMT). Imagine yoga and meditation at that hour! Anyway, that apart, to be fair to Camilla, she has also been rather helpful. Why, after she read reports about snakes at the Games village, she was caring enough to write to the All India Reptile Association chief who operates from Anantnag and is accessible on e-mail. Well, Camilla requested Vishnu Nag to direct all snakes to keep off the venues where I would be present. Thankfully, the king cobra assured my safety and wrote back saying he had sent text messages (courtesy a newly acquired Vodafone) to his brethren in Delhi. That was indeed a relief. I must remember to send him a thank-you card once I return to England.
That apart, I must say I have happy memories of India. Why, I remember being kissed by actress Padmini Kolhapure in 1980. Indeed, in my heart of hearts I am hoping some Indian beauty will do me the honour this time around too. Of course, Camilla will not approve...but what the heck!
(As imagined by Ajith Pillai)
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
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