I started writing for PinkLungi in the last week of May 2019. Averaging an article a week, I’ve written 32 articles or roughly 40,000 words for this platform. And towards the end of December 2019, I felt relieved when I found out. My editor wasn’t a zombie.
You might think I’m being silly, but odds are, this has happened to you as well. Over the past five or six years, most of you have discovered that many of your friends and family members were, in fact, zombies.
When I began writing for PinkLungi, I had no idea who the editor was. He was a friend of a friend, and all I knew about him was that he was ambitious. Creating a platform for Malayalis online seemed like a brilliant idea. But since he was in a different city, we never even met. Simply texted on WhatsApp and a productive Editor-Writer relationship was born.
I wondered if he was a zombie. You know, every once in a while.
It’s so tough to figure out if someone is a zombie nowadays. Obviously, you can just ask them if you want to. But that’s never the polite thing to do, right? So instead, we simply look for clues. And normally there are so many avenues for detection!
I scanned his Facebook page, but he was generally inactive on social media. He never brought up politics in our WhatsApp chats, and even when he did, it wasn’t really helpful. After all, he thought Trump was an absolute moron. I knew of many zombies who hated Trump. I was still searching for clues of blood and gore.
It can be very stressful when dealing with a potential zombie. Suddenly you become aware of all the avenues of possible conflict. Most of us simply shut up and talk about harmless issues. I’m normally a pacifist myself, but honestly, sometimes I’m tempted to test the waters. What do you think about the Indian economy? I’d occasionally ask. And search for the clues as respondents mentioned foreign investment, weak global growth and difficulties in the automotive industry. More often than not, our conversation would be interrupted before I could confirm any suspicions.
And then every once in a while my phone would buzz and the mystery would present itself in the form of a meme. Your childhood friend just forwarded you a picture of this particular political leader with an insulting caption beneath it.
You almost rejoice at the possibility but stop yourself before you make the mistake of replying. What if your friend is simply appreciating the humour in the comment, rather than nodding indignantly at the truth like you?
Which brings me to the Citizenship Amendment Act and the single biggest benefit it offered me. I woke up one day to hear a voice note from the editor of PinkLungi where he bitterly remarked about the fascist government.
Like a relieved boyfriend reacting to a negative pregnancy test, I clutched the phone and grinned from ear to ear. My editor wasn’t a zombie!
So part of the reason I chose the term Zombie is pretty straight forward. I was looking for an intriguing term that might attract eyeballs. India might be sinking into a dystopia filled with detention centres, but people like me still need to attract a readership!
But apart from being a gimmick, I believe the word zombie conveys the terror that a lot of Indians have been feeling over the past 6 years. After all, what comes to mind when you hear the word zombie?
Braindead, mindless, shuffling bodies that crave brains and blood?
Well, that’s fair, but do you know what comes to my mind when I hear zombie?
You know that scene in most zombie movies, where it’s discovered that one of the characters had been bitten a while ago? And they finally act in a way that betrays they’ve been infected? Remember the look of terror that flashes across every other character’s face?
That’s what many people in India have been experiencing, don’t you think? Every day, somebody is logging onto Facebook or checking their WhatsApp group or skimming through their Instagram stories. And in a second, they’re subjected to that horrible feeling.
How does it feel when your favourite teacher in school, is now loudly (and with a worrying number of typos for someone who taught you English) talking about the need to kick out all the vermin from the country?
How do your face twitch and your fingers shake when your best friend in college is now calmly and almost with technical precision explaining why it’s a brilliant idea to sentence 1.9 million people to detention camps in order to “improve the country”?
A few days after hearing my editor’s voice note, I laughed out loud while texting him. Tapping on the microphone button, I gleefully explained what was so funny.
“Do you realize I was being prejudiced? About you! I just assumed you were a fascist!”
He didn’t understand why I was so jubilant, but maybe you do? After all, we now live in a country where Muslims (and Christians and others to varying degrees) can quietly watch their Hindu neighbours, friends and colleagues and wonder if they are “one of them”.
Don’t you see how hilarious it is? Growing up I thought I’d have to keep a clean-shaven face so that no one will doubt I’m a terrorist, but now my Hindu friends are facing the same suspicion even when they are well-groomed! Why bother hiding the Mohammed in front of your name when your classmate Harikishnan can be equally judged during the campus interview! I guess misery does love company, and right now many in India are finding themselves in the same boat.
Once the tears of laughter were wiped away, I realized I needed to tell people about this. That’s why I’m writing this article right now. To let you know….you should tell people if you are a zombie or not.
Don’t you know there are colleagues at work who ponder over your statements during their time chatting in the cafeteria, constantly changing their minds about whether you like just one colour on your flag or all three?
So please, tell society what you believe in. Least half of them gingerly close in hoping you are an ally and the other half scornfully dismiss you as a sympathist.
Life is stressful enough right now without knowing where I can speak what I want to. Right now we still have freedom of speech in India, at least when there aren’t cops standing around, but I’d gladly exchange it for part total-censorship and total freedom instead. Tell me if the neighbours riding with me in the elevator are zombies or normal, and accordingly, I’ll wear my heart on my sleeve. I want either head-bobbing carpool rides or all-out discussion/tentative vehicular manslaughter, but no more tepid commentary about current affairs.
So that’s your homework. Once you are done leaving a detailed comment below about the merits of this article, go on social media and clearly enunciate your political position. Don’t do a shitty job of it and force recruiters from both sides to battle it out in the comments section.
And once you’ve announced your views, watch how much more vibrant your life will become! You’ll lose friends you thought you never would, you’ll gain admirers from where you thought you never should, but at least your days will be passionate and loud instead of meek and silent.
P.S. In this article the implication is that zombies are individuals who hold vile, repulsive political views that make you wonder how they’re alive when their hearts are dead. As to what constitutes those views, zombies, like beauty, lie in the eye of the beholder. You know who the zombies in your life are!