Haters are contagious. Direct contact with an infected person is hazardous and could scar you and your progeny for life. I kid you not. Don’t touch anything they went near. Ask for a change of seat if you find yourself sitting next to a hater on your next flight. Going to a multiplex could be fatal. Talking to a hater is definitely dangerous. Don’t. Even. Inhale.

Scientific observers say this outbreak could spread to nearly the entire population of this country by 2019, although a small percentage of people, this writer included, were born with antibodies that are resistant to this particular toxin. The only option left to such people is to distribute the love running through our veins, and to do all we can to help you survive the contagion.

The disease is not restricted to India. Scientists across the world are still analysing the far-reaching effects of this new plague. It is yet to gain diagnostic legitimacy. Nobody knows where it originated. Is it new? Or has hatred always been there and we just didn’t notice it?

Is it bacterial, viral, fungal, protozoan or just a by-product of unemployment, fake news, global warming, electing political strongmen and roller-coaster speed change? Either way, the survival of this pathogen depends on its host’s ability to invade other humans and be nourished. Only then can it continue its spread to new hosts. To stop its spread, you must simply insulate yourself from those infected until they find the antibody and spray it over the populace from a crop duster.

Meanwhile, here’s what you should know. This pathogen has evolved for the digital age. Unlike many traditional communicable diseases, the risk of contagion is not greater in areas with poor sanitation. In fact, Swachh Bharat practitioners and Indians with an internet connection might even be more at risk.

Your high income level and/or your Ivy League education won’t deter this tenacious pathogen, though there exists a clear correlation between its ability to multiply and certain other factors:

Environmental: Did your parents ingrain the difference between “us" and “them" when you were in school? Did they enunciate “Mughal" with a sneer?

Geographic: Do you live in a high-risk state such as Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan?

Ethnographic: Are you a member of the majority community?

Dietary: Are you 100% vegetarian? Do you smell meat everywhere?

Visual: Do you like to colour everything saffron?

If you said yes to all of the above, you are especially vulnerable. The only way to avoid this pathogen would be to immediately identify an interfaith life partner and migrate to a Scandinavian country such as Norway.

Take proper precautions. Exit all high-risk WhatsApp groups. Avoid all living bovine creatures. Remember, you live in the land of communicable diseases. And this one is worse than its predecessors malaria, typhoid, amoebiasis and cholera. Like influenza, it is contagious before your symptoms develop. Unlike influenza, though, it remains contagious for more than seven days after you become ill. In fact, once you have succumbed, curing you will be extremely difficult.

Haters are not like zombies, easy to spot because they shuffle awkwardly together in herds, dress raggedly and are sensitive to light. They are not vampires either—garlic and the afternoon sun won’t save you. They could be anywhere, including in your home or your office.

So what are the symptoms you should guard against? Early onset: You feel easily hurt, outraged, offended, you believe you are the persecuted majority. Elected representatives who are clad in saffron and don’t bother to disguise their hate speech are your heroes. Kashmiris enrage you. You think that your government is wasting huge resources and funding on this state, just so its inhabitants can throw stones at soldiers. You start seeing any building or locality or neighbourhood with three Muslim residents as a “mini-Pakistan". You believe the film Padmaavat was based on a real person. You don’t recognize the authority of the Supreme Court, only your local leader. You’re sure there was something sinister about Saint Teresa. You begin arguments with “Whatabout…". You think the real fake news is being spread by those media start-ups who have made it their business to debunk fake news. You thrive on televised hatred. You are convinced that reports of bovine-related terror attacks are exaggerated. You believe demonetization fixed India’s black-money problem. You think “plural", “secular", “syncretic" and “idea of India" should be banned words/phrases.

You know you’ve turned fully when you can’t see the bigotry and racism that lurks between the colours of our flag. In fact, by the time the symptoms get hold, you start seeing life in a binary of patriotic vs anti-national. You have mastered the art of othering all who are not like you. Hindu vs Muslim, beef vs pork, Ram vs Allah, and Diwali vs Christmas. You don’t notice bovine lynchings, you’re too busy tracking the rise of the Bombay Stock Exchange index. You won’t rent your house to a Muslim. You certainly won’t let your daughter marry one. You begin every morning fuming at the azaan from the neighbourhood mosque.

You know you’ve gone to Defcon 1 when you become a vegetarian fascist who believes bovine life deserves more protection than human life. In the final stages of this disease, you are one of those people in that live video of a lynching. If you’re too white-collar to dirty your hands, you are the person who sends a cheque to the man doing your dirty work in the YouTube video. If you’re here already, even love can’t save you.

Priya Ramani shares what’s making her feel angsty/agreeable.

She tweets at @priyaramani

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