Sixty years ago, in the city of Bom-Marta, was born a boy who was called Sulkman. This boy grew up and went phorenbroad and became a pretty good storyteller. He wrote first a forget-okay book, then a nearly great second book, then a fourth-good third book. Then, when he was already famous and people expected greater great things from him, Sulkie tried very hard and came out with a huge-fat-not-so-good-book. This book would have been the classic “that mediocre dip at the end of the beginning of his career” book that every noveltiser is allowed, and Sulkman would have carried on writing and written perhaps some more bad books, some good ones and possibly a great book also. Problem was, there was a man of letters in our capital city called Stupwant who thought a few thin pages of this fat book would offend the Hum-ho-Akbas and he told the government led by Prime Minister Naniyaad Diladenge to ban the book. Naniyaad, being a weak man, agreed and banned the book.
In another not-so-far-away country, sat a self-important Virgin Weasel, Ru-halla Kamkhaini, who ruled over one branch of the Hum-ho-Akba religion. Kamkhaini heard about this ban and decided to go one better. Without reading one word of Sulkie’s book he declared a Fartwa that it was every Hum-ho-Akba’s holy duty to turn Sulkman into Rosti. The Weasel couldn’t read, so he took the word of a fellow old man: our own hard-drinking, hard-lusting Stupwant. “ALL of us Hum-ho-Akbas are offended!” the Weasel proclaimed, “And so are our sentiments! And our religion! Not to mention our culture! So, go and kill!” Thus the King of Intollah-rance let loose a new think-plague upon the world, or actually, a revived version of an old think-plague, one should say.
This disease spread rapidly; like a plague, in fact. Or, maybe, it was actually more like an addictive drug. In Afghan poppy fields people took not opium but Offence; in the backstreets of Bradford and Leeds, Asian youth avoided crack-cocaine and went for the more dangerous option, they took Offence; in the back-rooms of religious places of all different kinds, priests no longer offered their guests mint tea or coffee, “Would you,” they asked instead, “like to take some Offence'” As Sulkman went into hiding, all kinds of Offence-pimps and Offence-pushers took to the streets of Beefstekanchal, leading hordes of young men hopped up on Offence. The henchmen of the Chief Virgin Weasel Kamkhaini sent out killer-teams to look for Sulkman, assassins high not on hashish but clearly on the Offence. Governments thundered, armies readied, and the air of many different countries filled with the smoke of burning paper. People got killed, fried, Rosti-ed. “See'” said some people in our country, “See what that Sulkman fellow has done' He has caused offence and death and destruction! Thank GOD his book is banned! Can you imagine the hellfire here in Saare-Jahan-Se-Kachha if they hadn’t banned it'”
In the meantime, hiding in the rabbit warren of safe-houses, surrounded by the security guards of the Treacherite government that then ruled Beefstekanchal, Sulkman Rosti began to do things for his own defence. When women’s groups approached him, saying: “Mr. Sulkman, this Intollah-rance affects women in all religions most directly, whether it’s the Hum-ho-Akbas, the Fatha-suns, the Chosen-Peepulites or the JaishreeHums, the priests and community leaders always use their religion to make us the first targets, so will you join with us in condemning this lethal stuff'” Sulkie would have nothing to do with them. Taking the opposite route, he contacted High Hullahs in one of the biggest Hum-ho-Akba universities and begged them: “Effendis! Big and Holy Sirs! I accept I have caused grave Offence. I beg mercy and forgiveness. I want to come back to the bosom of my original Hum-ho-Akba religion!” The Effendi High Hullahs said “Okay, you can re-convert.” So Sulkman did.
When Ru-Halla Kamkhaini heard this, he was very pleased. So pleased, he declared a Sequel-Fartwa: “Okay, so this Sulkman is no longer an apostate rat. Good. As a practising Hum-ho-Akba he should now quickly give himself up for execution. His is, after all, a Grave Offence.” Oops, oops, oops. “Effendi! You were supposed to defendi!” Sulkie quickly and fastly back-pedallo-fied and vaporized into the protective lap of Treacherite security for several more years.
Meanwhile, the think-plague aka Religious-entimentophylis spread and spread, with Offence becoming the best offense for many skullduggists of different persuasions. Suddenly, bristling bee-hives of hurt-sentiments cropped up everywhere. An old crumbling Hum-ho-Akba prayer-building' It’s built over our God-space. We will take Offence, JaishreeHum! A painting by an HHA painter depicting our woman god on a monkey-tail' Offence! Attack! A film showing two sari-wearing women doing lesbian with each other' Kill! Rape!
In time, HerHim upstairs reluctantly took Kamkhaini back into the heavenly storehouse and allowed Our Hero to re-surface. Virgin Weasel Ru-Halla Kamkhaini might have been obliged to leave behind his earthly garments of skin and hair but he had won big-time: he had, most likely, killed off the storyteller in Sulkman Rosti, leaving him a husk of self-regardery and self-promotion. But, by the time Sulkie demonstrated this fully, the plot had sidled away from him. He had become a two-dimensional cut-out, pushed to the side by many far more engrossing 3D protagonists.
The Offence Syndrome kept spreading. Fatha-sun believers attacking films that portrayed their main Son in the wrong light and the Chosen-Peepul attacking back in counter-Offence. Different Hum-ho-Akba types naturally fought hard to keep what they perhaps considered their own original franchise, they blew away large and ‘offensively’ sculpted stones in Afghanistan, and later let loose all chaos when some vicious fool decided to cartoon their prophet, but none of this matched another HHA hero who tried a top-down re-design of the Big City of the Republic of Kno-Nothing.
At the time of the Big Attack, SR had just moved into the Big City, having abandoned Beefstekanchal as ‘provincial’, and was presumably settling in nicely with his wife Paddylac and his car Cadillac. In response to the attack, Sulkie’s keyboard thundered. “They don’t like our women wearing mini-skirts! What would life be without short mini-skirts'” Stemming from this analysis came El Sulko’s political position: he decided not to speak out too loudly when Commander of Kno-Nothing, the Election Thief decided to go to war with the rest of the world.
Around the same time, we in the land of SR’s foreparents, us Saare-Kachhas, had greeted the Mousetro’s return from vanvaas with high-pitched yelps of joy. Sulkie-sahab had had a triumphal tour of the country, including his hometown Bom-Marta, this great city of Horibol, and, of course our capital, New Bhenchi. Everywhere he went, The Grand Rosti was chased by a tsunami of press, photographers and fawnistas. But, but, but…despite all the fore and afterglow of admiration, he still had an angular relationship with the government of SJSK. Neither the successors of Naniyaad Diladenge nor the JaishreeHum-wallas’ administration were about to offer the great man so much as a Sahitya Apparition award. And, for us admirers of the remnants of the leftist, contrarian, political man, this was yet another thing to add to his fast-depleting saving-graces: at least the guy was not a government mollusc like that Sir Vidiamort fellow SR himself scathingly calls ‘Lord Naipaul’.
Alas, alack, ’twas too good to last. Now the departing premier Mr Baloney Stare has offered him the most parochial of awards available in the world and Sulkie has accepted with silky alacrity and fulsome noises of gratitude. “I feel thrilled and humbled,” he has said. Prithee, why dear chap' Why-for-ko are you, South Bom-Marta’s greatest literary tiger, humbled, exactly, by the stale-Imperial offering from this departing wreckage of a spineless politico'
The question for the rest of us is what we do now and in future about the undead mass of Offence-pimps who have once again rolled out of their all-too-shallow and all-too-open graves; but that will, one suspects, have to wait till after the ex-great man finishes his next tour of Saare-J-S-Kachha, wait till the dying out of all the sycophantic shouts of “Sir Sulkman, Sir Sulkman! Offendie, Offendie, this way, Offendie!”