The All-Knowing Narendra Modi Ought Not to Ridicule Red

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Source: The Wire

Photo by Frederic Legrand – COMEO/Shutterstock


One is here not talking about the bull who balks at the red rag, although I have never understood why he does so.

Presumably, he sees in the red something as puissant as himself, if not more.

But, let us leave the bull aside.

After all, how does one hold a conversation with a bull? That is why we must resign ourselves to the bull’s subliminal urges which remain beyond human comprehension.

The question before us, however, does not pertain to any bull but to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s alarm at the Samajwadi Party’s red headgear.

After all, for someone as steeped in the metaphysical subtleties of science, religion, culture, and politics Modi must know the irreplaceable status red occupies in all four realms of human symbolism and iconography.


Modi’s love of science may not be too well known, but his glee at everything technological greets us every day with one or the other new scheme for improving Bharat and the larger human universe.

So, let us consider the technology of human biology: why, after all, should god have chosen red for blood, not green, white, or saffron?

Given that blood it is that carries life-giving oxygen to all body parts, this choice of red must remain a deep mystery embedded in the divine principle of creation. But one that spiritualists like Modi must ponder with requisite curiosity.

When martyrs and bravehearts bleed, they bleed red. Surely, no nationalist may disregard that inescapable fact.


Leaving aside other religions for now, as a Kashmiri Hindu brought up in the veneration of Shakti, red is the colour of the cloth that is used by us to drape idols of Kali, the mighty destroyer of the anti-national Mahishasura.

Do recall that on Ashtami of the autumnal Navratra, devotees of the said goddess gather nubile women, drape them in red headgear, and sing hymns to them as representations of Kali, Durga, and the other seven manifestations of the goddess.

Not to speak of the Bajrangbali, Hanuman, whom all proper Hindus venerate as the first among Lord Ram’s acolytes. And, is not red this god’s favoured attire?

Most of all, is it not the red vermillion that most denotes the so-called twice-born?

Is it to be thought that a Hindu-Hriday Samrat such as Modi can have overlooked these iconographies of Sanatan Dharma?

Think also that when ashes of the dear departed are consigned to the holy Ganges for after-life, the urn is tied with a red cloth. What greater tribute to red than that.


Here is something Modiji might consider with deep reflection: why is it that anytime he graces some public function, be it at home or abroad,, it is a red carpet that is laid for him to walk on, not green or saffron? Surely, this must be because only red is seen as befitting the royalty of such a one as Modiji?

Whence the phrase “red-carpet reception.”


Think how in many parts of the world national vanguards have attempted to bring about orange revolutions. Yet, their memory and efficacy have failed to survive.

It is only red which continues to bespeak any proper revolution that has ever brought about great transformations in the human condition, however we deride them or seek to belittle their import.

So it is not easy to escape the all-encompassing significance of red in the natural, religious, cultural, and political lives of evolved human beings.

We do not know, of course, whether these many considerations have lain behind the Samajwadi Party’s choice of red headgear, but we can see that, even unbeknown to them, they have hit upon a hue that answers to all expressions of collective human creativity.

There may thus be a touch of envy in Modiji’s discomfort with the contending Samajwadi cap that, among a hundred thousand attendees, carries an unsettling message to those whose study of colour has remained atrophied by their insecure commitment to lesser shades of symbolic accoutrement set to lose their tint in the face of a mightily gathering red.

Red, therefore, may not be alarming in itself. But when in full bloom, it does have the effect of alarming  the faint-hearted whose colours may be wearing off.

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