Tuesday, 11 March 2014

India on My Mind

This post was re-published in a revised form at Newsinsight.net
Click here to read the revised article.


I am not really interested in writing about politics. And I am certainly not knowledgeable enough to say anything about Indian political scenario. I haven't read enough or thought enough or understood enough to offer any reasonable view or judgment or even some thoroughly informed opinions. I don't watch news channels so I am unaware of the day-to-day antics of various political parties. Newspaper I only read very casually, and not very regularly. But I do try to read a little bit more widely than what is promoted by the particular ideological stance of the newspaper - doesn't matter which one you subscribe to, they are all sold out, to different degrees!

I only have a few personal observations, or you may call them gut feelings or hunches which really don't mean anything much in the marketplace of political commentaries and expert opinions. Or maybe they mean a little something to me, that's all. And this being my blog, I suppose it is alright if I express a few of those things that are on my mind, especially since the coming elections carry such great importance for not only the future of Indian democracy and polity, but also the future direction for India's self-finding and self-becoming.

So it is because of my love for India that I write this. 

I should re-emphasize that these views are strictly mine, subjectively shaped by how I understand, make sense of and feel about some of the things I see, read and hear.

Elections 2014 will see three competing ideas of India at war with each other.

Idea I

One idea of India is based entirely in the view that India is only its physical geography and people, but it is not the 'One Land and One People' kind of view. It views Indian geography divided into different parts, each with its own set of political, economic, social (perhaps in that order) units which impacts the vote-bank-worthiness of that part and finally determines whether or not that part belongs to the winnable category. It views people too in a similar fashion - divided by their multiple identities of language, caste, religion, economic status etc - to assess which groups should be thrown which crumbs to win them over to its side and make them shut up for at least next five years. Some adherents of this view are champions of group-appeasement that is intricately linked to political mileage, while others are champions of political ideologies that are breathing their last. This view does not encourage Indians to look at themselves as Indians first and anything else next. Nor does it in any way facilitate the cultivation of a sense of healthy pride, love, and the idea of working for the motherland. How can it, when it doesn't even motivate people to work for their upliftment, it only tries to 'save' them by handing out doles and giving them a false sense of entitlement and...more entitlement? It thrives on the ruler-ruled, us-them, this-that, rich-poor, capital-labour, group I-group II, and several other dichotomies and divisions - real as well as artificially constructed. Its favourite dichotomy is secular-religious without an iota of understanding what these words may actually mean in the Indian cultural and philosophical context. This view of India does not recognize the Oneness in the Many, does not accept the Sacredness in the Physical Motherland. The idea of an Indian soul or Indian spirit is as alien to this view as some of the top leaders representing this view are to the country called India - either by birth, ideological affiliation, or simply a complete lack of knowledge and non-interest in learning about Indian cultural history.

Idea II

The other idea of India is...well, perhaps not even an idea. It is merely a "today this, tomorrow that, day after something else" type of political mumbo-jumbo masquerading as vision but is in fact nothing more than a fad-of-the-moment or fashion-of-the-day that gets cheers and cheap publicity because of its screen appeal and anarchic thrills. Such an idea-less view of India is so flimsy, empty and hollow that it must be (and hopefully will be) swept aside with a mere swish of a 'broom'. But as my mother often told me some dirt is very obstinate, it may take several rounds of cleaning to get rid of it entirely. This idea-less view of India is perhaps even more dangerous than idea I because it is openly against the spirit of India (though it uses Indian terminology because of its sound-bite value). India has always believed in an evolutionary change - inner, outer, individual, societal. This idea-less view only sells revolution, but it is not a real revolution because that would mean actually working for one. It is a revolution carried forth only by meaningless words, catchy slogans, flashy gimmicks, and dirty brooms. The proponents of this idea-less view are often seen in streets, with their brooms and all, but instead of digging deep into what clean governance may look like they are merely selling the idea of a political anarchy which sadly has some momentary appeal to some sections of the disgruntled educated elites. The torch-bearers of this group desperately try to position themselves as different, but only for the sake of difference in order to gain popularity among the bored audiences of 24x7 news channels. On second thought, they are perhaps different because they are....well, perfect material for nursery-school style show and tell, and that too when done for TV. After all, when a group of 'educated' people can come up with an image of a broom as a symbol to represent their idea of the future that they may like to facilitate for their motherland, does one need to say anything more about the level of mental consciousness from which such ideas emerge? (I read in the paper yesterday that some other bunch has now come up with the symbol of 'chappal'. I mean, how low can things go now?)

Oh, I just now realized I wrote so much about the idea of India that isn't even an idea!

Moving on...

Idea III

The third idea of India is based in the view that India's future self-finding depends on how we see India with an inner eye. It compels its adherents to not just get carried away by what is on the outer surface and instead look for that which makes India India. It acknowledges India's rich diversity but only as a phenomenon of Nature which abhors uniformity. It thrives on this diversity in forms and simultaneously recognizes that these diverse forms must struggle and strive to find their deeper Unity and Oneness in spirit. It views India not only as a physical mass of land but a sacred geography which acts as a unifying force - visibly and invisibly. It accepts that the outer India is not shining, at least not yet, but the glow of the eternal Indian soul can not remain hidden for long. It acknowledges that the path is not easy, work ahead is huge and problems are plenty; but it also knows that when given a new hope under a decisive and firm leadership the Indian spirit (which has probably suffered some serious setback because of bad leadership, poor governance, meaningless dole-giving and handouts) will rejuvenate itself in no time. It asks Indians to work for themselves, not be passive receivers of sops from governments - theirs or others. It asks Indians to recognize their potential and thoroughly prepare themselves to work for their self-finding, and through that for India's self-finding. This idea of India holds Indian spirit to be the ultimate truth of India, and believes that time has come for Indians to start discovering and identifying with that spirit. This idea of India discourages a dichotomous or divided view of society and polity and instead promotes a mutually-fulfilling and effective struggle for achieving harmony without appeasing one group at the cost of others. It does not accept the dichotomy of Rights and Duties, it harmonizes them in the high and lofty ideal of Dharma of an Indian (and eventually of India too), which can be discovered only by first discovering the dharma of a leader, dharma of a citizen, a worker, a teacher, a student, a doctor, an engineer, a clerk, a manager, an officer, a soldier, an industrialist, a cleaner, an artist, an artisan, a mother, a child, a woman, a man, everyone who goes by the name Indian. This idea of India, therefore, first asks you and me to discover ourselves.

Does this third Idea of India really exist? I mean, is it really the basis of any political party's view of India at the moment? I am not so sure. The proponents of idea I and idea II are certainly millions of miles removed from it. No hope there. Perhaps it is time we start figuring out if there is any idea of India presently being sold to the voters that slightly resembles this idea III or at least takes some inspiration from it. Go on, start thinking people!

I also wish to add that if idea III does have some truth behind it and has a potential to chart out India's future that is true to the Indian spirit, perhaps some political party should take it up seriously and throw all its political and ideological might behind it, instead of tiptoeing around it by making some political adjustments here and some alliances there. Instead of making silly attempts to make itself more like-able to the perpetual nay-sayers, publicity-seeking activists and hyper-active rebels looking for a cause, the political party who is most sympathetic to this idea of India should focus more on making this idea a reality.

Let me conclude this very long post by saying that I sincerely hope and pray that my fellow citizens will make their choice wisely in the coming elections. That's all I can do!

Picture credits: 12, 3, 4. 

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This post is linked to ABC Wednesday: I is for India.

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This post has been selected as one of the posts for Blogadda's Tangy Tuesdays, March 11, 2014