So often, by settling for the diatribe, we miss the dialogue. By spouting vitriolic and foul language we miss out on what must be venerated and engaged with. By defining ourselves through other people’s weaknesses and struggles we lay bare out our own hollowness. As we turn a page, I share a few thoughts about my view on India’s hopes and ambitions, complexes, and complications in an attempt to capture our grammar and soul.
Keep the dialogue on the straight and narrow. Don’t lose the conversation politicians – not everyone seeking to speak is a goon or troublemaker. Separate the wheat from the chaff. India deserves this. It will not be easy, but there’s no other way. Absence of peace is not war - it is dialogue and more dialogue.
The good news is that there is an undercurrent of change in India, not yet defined, difficult to capture and even more tenuous to lead. To anyone who says s/he knows what’s happening in India, my question is this– what are you smoking? This undercurrent is beyond electoral politics and fiefdoms, dynasties and accompanying decay. It is about a people rearing to go and an economy struggling to break decades-old barriers that are based neither in civilizational knowledge nor sound economic policies. We are an agricultural society of 1.3 billion people in transition and we speak a thousand tongues living between a few centuries. Scaling and implementation are not our only problems.
Over the past months, the focus of what I speak and write has been this– listen to young people. Whenever I am stuck or struggling with words thought and word, I write for a living and I turn to what young people are reading and podcasting in many languages around the world. They are angry and disappointed, hopeful and funny. Some are actively engaged, others less. But one thing is certain– in their search for answers is the cutting to chase from rotten structures and accompanying. The time is not far when fence-sitters will have nothing to sit on except their heap of lies. The young are prescient, sometimes skipping entire generations of corruption as they mature past fake and fickle Gods.
The old must make way for the new. Responsibility is the other side of democratic rights, something many Indians, including politicians don’t grasp. The “I” surfaces at the drop of a challenge to the “we” and the “me” is omnipresent. This applies as much to left and right-wing “intellectuals” (who else) and is peculiarly Indian. It stems from a failure to look at issues without placing oneself right in the middle of everything. It may also be called ego.
Young people may veer off the track every now and then but didn’t it happen to you when you were their age? Were you never confused between what you grew up with and what the work of the world and even your elders taught you? Questioning is not disobedience, distraction is not destruction. Wherever they are and whatever is agitating them, young people are in search of guidance and mentoring, not data and conferences because generations of lectures have lined a few pockets and failed most people. Insulting them would be to ignore the writing on the wall.
READ | Justice For India
India is an old civilization and a young country. I am of the view that civilizations that seek to bring back their past glory without modernising systems, enabling processes encouraging job creation will not fare well as democracies in the 21st century. Where China has succeeded (and it's not a democracy), Greece and Italy have failed. Persia, Iraq, and Japan have their own struggles between civilizational cultures and modern societies. There is no one answer.
The word for what is happening in India is certainly not revolution! It’s a phrase called growing up. Revolutions are for television star speakers and digital divas that from the security of their gated communities and the glare of camera lights tell the rest of us to go and fight. Don’t take them seriously. When the lights and makeup are off, they gang up and laugh at us– you and me and haggle about late payment of appearance fees. My favourite entertainers are televisions evangelists who fight to keep other evangelists out, like gangs securing their shrinking territories.
Ganging up or dancing on pinheads is a distinguishable Indian trait, seeking comfort in numbers that hide people’s incapacity to stand up for what they believe in. Groups become gangs with all the negative connotations attached to it ranging from latent bullying to foul language on twitter. Martyrs all, to them I say this– if you’ve survived to tweet about it, it couldn’t have been that bad. The joke is on you.
If you define yourself by the weaknesses of others and their missteps you are a coward incapable of individual thinking and reflection. Engaging with difference and diversity even if it means setting all your pre-conceived notions aside needs the courage of conviction and faith in your democracy. That’s a tall order between television appearances (pocket money for most), Twitter vitriol-spewing, running from book festivals and fake handbags where more of the same gets regurgitated. Nothing shines like fake including speech and faith.
Gangs will always behave like gangs be they political, social, economic or even within families. There will always be outsiders and people who bring in winds of change will be ostracised. Which is why I remain very positive about what is happening in India and other parts of the world because young people are prescient. I trust them.
Signing off, I have this to say. Comparing India to the United States (US) is silly beyond belief. America has long been a major economic and military power. India has a long road ahead. We need them more than they need us, but there lies the cut. India needs to better define the scope of that interaction. Self-respect is not bravado- quite the opposite. The media and responsible commentators have a role to play here. WaPo and NYT don’t even influence Americans (remember Trump won), and their influence in India is sub-zero except for gangs and gangrenous conversations who beg to be published in America and London. Till such time you beg to be recognised in these settings, you’ll remain a beggar. Let that sink in.
There is no civilizational crisis in India– there’s a job crisis and a public health crisis. In the preceding lines I wrote that I sensed an undercurrent of good. I believe it will no longer be co-opted and divided, bought and sold by the wailing left and the “see we told you right.” It will be India’s India, it will be lead by communities of people with similar goals and aspirations beginning with jobs, access to health and education.
We, the people of India don’t need intermediaries to translate our dreams. Middle people are warmongers who double-dip, cause mayhem and run. The sooner we discard them, the better for us all.
Happy New Year!