Bhakti

What Gives?

In the beginning it seemed churlish, people in India sorting each other out as bhakts (people of faith) and seculars. Anybody with a little intelligence can tell the two can coexist in one body, a group of people, a family or a society, but in a complicated country of 1.3 billion people who live between a few centuries and speak a thousand tongues, English is a bit of a handicap to capture it all.

Written By Chitra Subramaniam | Mumbai | Updated On:

In the beginning it seemed churlish, people in India sorting each other out as bhakts (people of faith) and seculars. Anybody with a little intelligence can tell the two can coexist in one body, a group of people, a family or a society, but in a complicated country of 1.3 billion people who live between a few centuries and speak a thousand tongues, English is a bit of a handicap to capture it all.

Then I saw lists in newsrooms, you know those talking heads or people to ring for quotes. The names were remarkably the same, segregated as bhakts (always people of Hindu religion) and seculars, right wing and left wing, feminist and conservative. According to this ocean of stupidity you cannot be a person of faith (and certainly not a practising Hindu in personal life) who upholds secular ideas politically, could be fiscally right wing and a feminist without subscribing to ideas and struggles of women and womanhood developed in other settings. In the Indian context that last should read ideas imported from the Anglo-Saxon west where one wardrobe was made to fit all till very recently. There’s nothing urban or rural, conservative or modern about being disrespectful and without manners, especially deaf to lived and acquired wisdom. Remembers, seers are called seers for a reason.

Something is happening in India and nobody can and must attempt wrapping their fingers around it. India is listening to itself and by the likes of it, is pleased with what it's hearing.

Irresponsible politicians are comparing turnouts at Prime Minister Narendra Modi rallies to crowds adulating Germany’s Adolf Hitler. Others say if Modi returns to power, it will be the end of civilisation in India and yet others are comparing the fate of Indians to that of a Greek tragedy – we are a dramatic people and hyperbole is habit. All of the above miss one – Indians are not chasing the American or the European dream and not even the Delhi, Mumbai, Madras and Bangalore dream if one can put it that way. They are crafting their own, far from the lonely ugliness of a petrified few who have gorged on the country’s resources and self-respect for decades only to secure their interests and theirs alone. Irrelevance is a lonely place and technology cannot help when the mind is bilious and blank, faithless, unprincipled and frantic.

Something major is happening in India and the collapse of the Indian National Congress (INC) cannot explain it all. Neither can the spectacular showing of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) star campaigner Modi in the last few weeks of elections. Many polls predict a comfortable win for the BJP and their alliance partners. But there’s something else afoot.

First, I would like to believe it is the end of self-loathing that has brainwashed generations of Indians into believing they are made of inferior stuff, a self-loathing so vicious that loathing becomes a profession irrespective of the matter under discussion. When you are rootless, you tend to get a little ruthless, first with facts and then with the frustration that your fictional world is only that – a desolate land of fiction without faith, fable without fact, comedy without humour. Crumbling citadels of hopelessness resemble the wrath of defeated armies retreating without direction.

Faith is about principles – it is religion for some, a way of life and method of work for others. A life without principles means you are all things to all people, therefore nothing to anyone. That’s scary, especially if your entire life has been one of self-obsession and greed masquerading as public service.

Second, billions of Indians are rising in an unprecedented manner drowning the cacophonous market chatter that is restricted to a few pockets of urban India. They are rising in hope, not hate and they are taking over the levers of democracy whether it is in the amount of information they consume, questions they want answers and choices they make. The levers of democracy have shifted to Indians and a crumbling opposition is evidence of their impatience. The Opposition made a rookie’s mistake by identifying external enemies from day one while pretending no one saw their knives were out for each other within. They will have to rebuild themselves with principles and faith they will now have to earn much like the next government in New Delhi. I am pleased report cards are being put out Modi’s first tenure because it is time we begin measuring success in terms we understand, we the 1.3 billion people of India.

Consider this. People of faith are also people with principles. They take principled and informed positions irrespective of where it is coming from or where it originates. Look around you. The principled are rarely shaken by daily winds because the alliances they knit are not instant coffee.

Faith. If you do not have faith in yourself to begin with, how can you speak about faith or absence of it amongst others? By faith I mean faith in one’s work, in one’s relationship, religion, method of work, relationships – whatever brings out the best in you as a human being. That is principled faith, unshakeable in its direction and unflinching in devotion. Dissonance in devotion is as jarring as strumming an un-tuned guitar.

The faithless from the top are trying to reach out to the faithful at the bottom. Think about it – it’s just an image. India is not listening to the bored and the pampered. India is listening to itself – and I think for the first time India likes what India is hearing in so many ways.

Of course, there’s a leadership crisis that the BJP may be required to fill, but it will be under the watchful eyes of an aware, ambitious and eager India, not the self-loathing lotus-eaters of the past seventy years who walked around in stupor recognising shadows of each other in shadowy conversations of conceit and deceit.

Something is happening in India. Indians will win. Keep the faith.

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