One Pepperoni Pizza, With a Topping of Politics, Please

POV

One Pepperoni Pizza, With a Topping of Politics, Please

Illustration: Arati Gujar

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good old-fashioned TV dinner used to feel like the last bastion of clean, apolitical fun for the whole family. Unlike an ordinary home-cooked meal around the table, there were neither inevitable arguments about portraits of Jinnah, nor were there ungrateful children refusing to eat baingan over mom’s dark mutterings of “when I die then you will know”. An evening spent stuffing your faces with pizza while catching up with Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah takes the pressure off of everyone. You can laugh at Jethalal’s antics while breaking bread, and complain about commercials instead of each other. Any disagreements are of the trivial sort, concerning themselves with the merits of Rekha’s Umrao Jaan over Aishwarya Rai’s, and the eternal question of mushrooms or no mushrooms.

At least no one is accusing anyone of wanting to destroy the fabric of the country, right? Such deep, existential shouting matches would be restricted to news channels and student protests.

However, partisanship has insidiously crept into every aspect of our lives. One day, when my family was looking forward to a carefree evening of Premier League and pepperoni, I was distracted by my father’s heated phone conversation with our neighbourhood pizzeria. Apparently, the restaurant was refusing to accept Paytm because the owners were “anti-Modi”.

Suddenly, the battle was no longer between the two teams on the screen in front of me. It was playing out right in the middle of our living room.

In an age where everything from sharing a hug on the metro to booking an Ola cab is political fodder, the most innocently-held opinions can lead to a hateful clash between the convenient labels of the “Khangressi” and the “bhakt”. Perhaps, it was only a matter of time before paying for your Swiggy order would become fraught with similar tensions. Paytm did, after all, decide to politicise its own brand when they aligned themselves with PM Modi’s demonetisation campaign, without the rest of the BJP having any say in the matter.

While it isn’t “Modiji ka Paytm”, it’s hardly surprising if the businesses and individuals impacted by his guerilla-style economic policies would choose not to support the digital wallet app. Why shouldn’t people express their disagreement through some good old capitalism?

And why shouldn’t Modi sympathisers express their grievances by shooting the messenger – in this case, the poor delivery guy on the other end of the line? As long as they’re okay with subsequently being deprived of the best pepperoni pizza in town, isn’t that their prerogative?

Nothing, it seems, is too sacred, or even too insignificant, to be dragged through the mire of a perennial power struggle that has infiltrated our homes, our minds, and our everyday lives.

Well, yes. We all have the freedom to say what we want. But if Kanye West has taught us anything lately, it’s that just because you can say something, doesn’t mean you should. When the simple act of ordering dinner becomes a statement of values and identity, then – beef or no beef – we might have reached a point of no return. Nothing, it seems, is too sacred, or even too insignificant, to be dragged through the mire of a perennial power struggle that has infiltrated our homes, our minds, and our everyday lives.

What sort of freedom is that? And what’s next? Making IPL great again by splitting the teams along the lines of sainik and libtard? A wallet app for liberals called Gaytm, that donates a portion of proceeds toward efforts to repeal Section 377? Necessity used to be the mother of invention; now it’s confirmation bias.

There’s no end to the divisions we can create if we really put our minds to it, and I too am a cog in this self-perpetuating outrage machine. Our differences run so deep that listening to each other doesn’t always seem like a feasible solution.

But if we stopped to think, we might realise that there’s one thing we all have in common: We’re falling over ourselves fighting for politicians and their pet causes when really, they’re supposed to be fighting for ours.

Once we all agree on that, maybe we can return to the hard-earned bliss of watching TV and eating pizza in peace. Without a topping of politics.  

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