When ‘Bhakts’ boarded a ‘Time Machine’ in search of the Mughals
What happens when a group of ‘Bhakts’ find a ‘Time Machine’ buried in a UP village and decide to take a ride, confront the Mughals and settle scores once and for all ? Tabish Khair writes from Denmark
I dreamt that a band of voluble Bhakts discovered an ancient craft buried in a village of Uttar Pradesh. They thought it was an aircraft, but it turned out to be a time machine. After raising a few slogans, they boarded the machine, and headed for the Mughal period to settle scores. They got the initial co-ordinates wrong because they assumed that the Mughals had replaced the Hindu rulers of India and Delhi, and when they googled up the last Hindu ruler of Delhi, they got Prithviraj Chauhan, who had ruled an area around Delhi late in the 12th century.
While some Bhakts cleaned the machine with a judicious mixture of Patanvirali spray and cow urine, a bit more googling revealed that after beating back an invasion in 1190, Prithviraj lost to the invading forces the next year. This marked the beginning of ‘Muslim rule’ in India, according to the authoritative WhatsApp texts that the Bhakts consulted. That’s it, cried the heroic Bhakts, we will head for the year 1191, and rout the Mughals! They shouted a few more slogans and set off. As the machine was a bit dilapidated and no bhakt really understood the Sanskrit instructions fully, they ended up around the year 1193 or 1194. They alighted from the machine, raised a few more slogans, and asked for the pernicious Mughals. But no one had heard of them.
True, there were some Muslims around, though Prithviraj’s son was still ruling the area of Delhi under ‘Muslim’ patronage. No, the Bhakts shouted, we are not interested in all these riff-raff Muslims, we want the Mughals, nothing but the Mughals. This is typical of sickular historians, some Bhakts noted: they get everything wrong about our history and send us on a wild goose chase! The intrepid Bhakts decided to take the time machine all the way back to the present, a century at a time. But alas, there were no Mughals in the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries: the Muslim dynasties of Delhi went by other names altogether.
Even in the 16th and 17th centuries, when the more learned of the Bhakts were fairly certain that there had been Mughals in India, their enquiries evoked no response. Or, once, a very angry retort, because the people thought they were referring to the Mongols, led by Chengiz Khan, who had in the 13th century been the bane of Muslim rulers all over Asia.
No Mughals here, Allah forbid, they were told: we are ruled by a dynasty called the Gūrk niy n. Sometimes the word ‘Timurid’ was used, which did ring a bell, but by then the Bhakts were too confused to be able to cat that bell. Finally, in late 19th century, they met an Indian – the first Indian they had encountered in their travels who was wearing trousers and a shirt, like most of the Bhakts – who said: ah, yes, Mughals, of course, they ruled India from the early 16th century to some years ago, when the last one was deposed and exiled to Rangoon.
This really exasperated the Bhakts. Typical of these sneaky Mughals, some muttered: they manage to slip through time as well! See, shouted other Bhakts, see, they are exiled to Rangoon, not to some Indian city, the anti-nationals! But despite all the shouting, there was not much they could do, as the time machine was running out of fuel, and the instruction book did not specify what kind of fuel could be used. Cow-dung was suggested, but on tasting the little fuel remaining in the machine’s tanks, two of the more knowledgeable Bhakts realised that it was not cow-dung. Or, rather, that was the conclusion drawn by the Bhakts who survived the immediate vaporisation of the two knowledgeable Bhakts.
There was nothing to do but to get back to their own age, and confront the sickularists with all the real historical facts. Because it was obvious now that the Mughals did not really exist, and had been concocted in the 19th century by the British or the sickularists or, most likely, both in tandem. The Bhakts raised a few more slogans, crammed into the time machine, some hanging on to the handles, and headed back to 2020.
On arriving in the present, they hastened to narrate their great discovery to their bosses. They were expecting to be received as heroes and have their discoveries compiled into a book, which would then be accepted by some major international house, like Bloomsbury, and duly opposed by sickularists, after which it would be published by some other house and sell even more copies! But their bosses were incensed at them. Shut up and go away, you idiots, one Big Boss shouted at them. B,b,b, but why, Big Boss? the Bhakts asked, falling on their fours in terror.
This Big Boss was a kind-hearted man of the sort whose heart bleeds when a pup is run-over in the streets, and he condescended to give them an explanation. This is what he said, “Because, O Bhakts, we do not have a long-term policy on the economy, on the Chinese, on Covid, on farming, on anything at all. The only subject on which we have a long-term policy is on the 800- year rule of the Mughals, and you want to deprive us of that as well?”
At this point I woke up and realised I was having a nightmare.
(The author is a writer and academic based in Denmark. He writes satire in his spare time)