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Saffron Is The New Black (Or Green): Or How Eden Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Saffron

This is a story about a land called Eden, filled with people known as Edenians who were fond of colourful spectacles.

A few years ago, Edenians saw an entirely new kind of spectacle: people beheaded, fighter pilots set on fire and ancient buildings blown to smithereens in faraway deserts. They heard of women being treated as sex slaves. ‘Ah, those animals! They don’t belong to civilization’, they muttered in ritualized anger. But away from the public eye, many of them also smirked and gloated as they sat in their comfortable houses, away from the barbaric hordes. They turned their gaze to the bearded ones in Eden who shared the barbarians’ faith: “Why don’t you condemn them? Why can’t you keep up with the times? Why can’t you tolerate criticism?  Look at us, we are so open.”

Within Eden however, something less spectacular and more insidious had been brewing. Just as the civilized ones were glued to the barbarians on the TV screen, a phenomenon most un-televised (and untelevisable) began. One day, a group of people barged into a house and killed someone because they apparently didn’t like the meat in the house. ‘An isolated incident, no doubt,’ muttered Eden dwellers, as their momentary gaze shifted away from the desert barbarians. ‘Also, why do they eat this meat, knowing that it pisses us off? Must be the backwardness of their faith, unlike ours. So, do you want to watch that film on Netflix?’

Then one day, someone in Eden set a bearded one on fire, and, for the sake of posterity, recorded it. He tried very hard to make it a spectacle. But it wasn’t as spectacular as the immolation of the fighter pilot in the desert, and thus failed to make it to Desert TV. Those who managed to see the unspectacled muttered: ‘And, why do these bearded ones love our women anyway? Bloody brutes, with their dirty beards and lusty eyes. I wonder why their own women stick with them.’

As the thought of defenceless, naïve women (their own as well as barbarian) clouded the vision of Edenians, the charred body of the victim slowly faded from memory. Meanwhile, some people climbed atop government buildings who didn’t like the colour scheme of the tricoloured Edenian flag changed it to saffron, symbolic of light and salvation. It was ironic, however, that continuously watching the green and black flags on Desert TV had made the Edenians immune to other colours, so much so that they could only recognize green and black. With these colours singed on their retinas, they failed to notice the chromatic revolution brought in by the saffron bearers. Nevertheless, they were proud Edenians, and they were sure that, soon, the saffron bearers would make their Eden the best Eden of them all.

However, until that promised day could come, the civilized ones thought it best not to interfere with the process of change. So, they advised their little ones to give SATs and TOEFLs, which enabled them to fly to Faraway Eden, a land seemingly unspoiled by the bearded and the uncouth. Nothing bad ever happened in Faraway Eden because everything that happened there was good, and if it wasn’t good then it didn’t happen. Walled and gated miniature replicas of Faraway Eden were also made in cities and towns, where the bearded and the uncouth were not allowed, except if they had a pass and were willing to clean. Nobly cordoning themselves off in their miniatures, with an unlimited supply of Desert TV, they allowed the saffron-bearers to carry on their work without interference—as long as they were granted a highway to a pushpak viman station that would allow them to fly to Faraway Eden when they wanted.

Then one day, an image started circulating on EdenNet. It juxtaposed an image of the saffron bearers next to the desert barbarians, with the slogan ‘Saffron is the new black (or green)’.  This really confused the Edenians. ‘Are you telling us that we are colour blind? And how dare you compare those bearded ones to the saffron bearers, who clearly have no facial hair. This is most unfair.’ The image pleaded its case, shouted from the rooftops, but to no avail. In some time, Eden dwellers again switched on Desert TV and went on with their lives.

A few years later, they woke up to find the saffron bearers at their doorstep. Their work outside was complete they said, and now they wanted to paint saffron over the miniature replicas of Faraway Eden. This made the Edenians most uncomfortable, though they couldn’t articulate the reason for their discomfort. So, they hailed a cab to go to the closest Pushpak Viman station. When they reached the station, however, they received the terrible news – Faraway Eden had blocked visas for Edenians because their saffron-haired chief had banned imports of alien, barbaric saffron. The Edenians couldn’t believe what they had been just told. What, we are barbarians? But we are fans of saffron, just like his hair. Unable to bear the pain or make sense of the situation, they closed their eyes and sobbed.

When they opened their eyes, however, something magical happened—they could see colour again. They were cured. They turned around to look at a television installed in the station. It was blaring Desert TV: “Saffron has been declared the best colour by EDENESCO, hence our Eden is now the best of all Edens, including Faraway Eden.”

So, they got into a taxi and quietly went back to their homes.

Amit is pursuing his PhD in International Relations from National University, Singapore. He tweets at @amitjulka.

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