Seeing Dan Brown reminded me of Dinanath Batra, because of Nehru. For many years we lived in his shadow, and everyone believed the same things. Communities were never named in newspapers. Our histories were fixed and familiar. Akbar was good. Aurangzeb was bad. The British were kleptomaniacs, but fundamentally decent. Nehru was everywhere, on roads, stadiums, parks and jackets.

Our position on religion was fixed too. No jokes about minorities, unless they were sardarjis. The RSS was a disturbing sideshow, although their pants were hilarious. We respected religion, but we never talked about it. We were homogeneous. We all knew what to think.

But now new ideas are challenging old certainties, and Din and Dan are at the forefront. Din and Dan are like Yin and Yang, complementary and shaped very similar. The influence of each is widespread. Dan Brown has sold 200 million books in 52 languages, and boosted tourism to France. Dinanath Batra has provided nine books to over 40,000 schools in Gujarat, and banned sex education in MP.

Both have taken liberties with Jesus and his family. Dan believes Jesus settled in Scotland, while Din has said "Jesus was a najayaz child of Mary." Both have promoted practices which some would consider strange. Din has suggested feeding cows as a cure for infertility. Dan regularly hangs upside down, wearing gravimetric boots, to improve the flow of ideas to his brain.

A shock

I was shocked when I first read Dan Brown. He was being openly rude to minorities. He was taking liberties with sentiments. I enjoyed it, but it seemed wrong.  I was surprised that it was published in India. The Satanic Verses was banned instantly. Taslima Nasreen was howled out of town. Yet now we have Dan Brown, who accuses the Vatican of employing kinky assassins, giving us speeches and posing for selfies. Something appears to have changed.

Dinanath Batra is equally shocking. What kind of history is this, in which Westerners stole our ideas, and stem cell research began in the Mahabharata, and the negroid races were the result of a heavenly kitchen mishap? This is not what I was taught. It disturbs my Nehruvian consensus.

Even the textbooks we grew up with are now being questioned. Did the ancient Hindus really eat beef, or was this inserted later by Marxists? Why this neglect of Himu? Is it true that Hitler wasn’t really such a bad person?

It’s very easy to be terrified of Mr Batra. He looks like part of a larger wave. He’s also a gift to comedy. From flying machines in the Ramayana to Ghatotkach discovering the cure for insomnia is a small and simple leap. It’s also easy to mock Dan Brown, who comes up with a new secret society every Tuesday.

But all they’re really doing is thinking the unthinkable. They’re asking new questions. These questions disturb us, because we had agreed not to ask them.

In America, all this is perfectly normal. America is full of Creationists, who choose the Bible over science. They’re constantly fighting over textbooks. Texas public schools have textbooks that say that the earth is 6,000 years old, and that America is a Christian nation, blessed by the Lord. Now they want Noah’s Ark to be taught in history class, even though this means believing that a small family with chisels constructed a vessel the size of the Titanic.

No more Harry Potter 

They have suppressed books galore. They have objected to Harry Potter, because it promotes witchcraft, and Twelfth Night, because of crossdressing, and even the American Heritage Dictionary, because it contains some very filthy language. What’s happening to my body? has been banned by 21 school libraries in Texas.

It’s not really something to be scared of. It’s new to us, but it’s the oldest of battles. It’s the battle between faith and science, now playing live in India. Today Dan can attack the Vatican, and Din can defend the cows. We can talk about Hindus and Muslims, instead of ‘certain communities’. We can even urge the Parsi community to do it more often.

Faith is out in the open. We can be for it, or against it. But whichever side we’re on, one thing is clear. We are going to have to fight for it. It’s not a walkover any more.

Or we can go and get popcorn. It ought to be a spectacular show.