Friday, November 13, 2015

Tolerance and Intolerance - A non award winning (but extremely good looking) writer's perspective

Image Courtesy Wikipedia commons. Two  perfectly tolerant citizens of Jokoland

I remember an evening from back in school when a bhaiya called our class to share some ragda.(Seniors in school were called bhaiyas. No stereotyping intended and no award wapsi requested). While the rest of the class were asked to take 'murga' position, my stiff back came in the way of an elegant murga (Again, pure medical reasons. Not to be confused with right wing vegetarian preferences) So I softly asked if push ups in lieu would work. Please ?

He couldn't care less as he fondly looked at the hockey stick in his hand and measured the arc he will have to take to land it perfectly on the asses* from Rajasthan in the first row. (* Bums of my best buddies, primarily from Rajasthan. No award wapsi please. Dibakar Banerjee, you especially. You brilliant creative genius and otherwise idiot, please do not return someone else's award)

I was young and push ups were easy. So while I continued, pleased with myself, the Oohs and Aahs from my classmates dealing with their personal Murga situation started bothering me. It is after all a difficult position. Legs straight. Body bent at the waist. Hands through the legs holding the ears.

I was getting off easy. We were in it together. This would not do. I felt guilty.

And so to share the pain I started doing push ups on my knuckles. When my turn to get introduced to the hockey stick came, Bhaiya cocked his head as he tried to figure out the whole knuckle thing. He had the wisdom one develops after getting ragda for years- so he understood that I was escalating my own punishment out of a sense of camaraderie. Visibly impressed, he whacked me harder for trying to be a wise guy.

My limited point is that some of us love to feel guilty. Satyameva Jayete, but nothing Jayetes like an apology.

I have had it with the whole apology situation.

If you like to feel sorry for evil done by fellow citizens, don't feel sorry on my behalf. If it is shit I haven't done, I am not going to be claiming the stink. Behind the cries of intolerance is condescending behavior towards the minorities and apologies for  what a few hotheads and crazies have done or said. Count me out.

No Muslim should bear the burden of responsibility for what fundamental groups do. He should not be feeling sorry for the next outrageous stunt that a Taliban or an ISIS pulls out, and no one should ask them to introspect and move towards a moderate version of their religion. Each person is responsible for his own life. Similarly, behind the clever word play about the country becoming intolerant - is the accusation that Hindus are intolerant. There I said it. Secular. Communal. You do not fool me. I am not sorry, for I am who I was a year ago. You do your own murga. I will do the push ups if I feel like doing them.

Now, that is out of the way, I do have a blog to fill and apart from my first limited point about collective responsibility, I have other points on the intolerance issue that I would like to share. (Feel free to skip them and directly buy my book - the ultimate point of it all for artists)

Point 1: Yes, we are a messed up intolerant country.
No denying it. I agree. I will be the first to do a murga if someone claims otherwise.

Point 2: So is every other country in the world.
Except for Jokoland - a country made up of fanatic face licking labradors.

For every news article and shrill debate on television about how messed up we are, almost every person in every country- deals with intolerance of varying degrees.

Arree Bacha log, give India some credit. This is a wonderful country. Every one in six humans is Indian. We are not a sub-continent. We are a sub-world. Mathematically, a whole lot of the good and the bad that will happen around the world will have an Indian connection. As my maths teacher would always say before hitting me with that darn Camlin ruler, HIPS MATHS DONT LIE.

Smaller countries, countries with populations that will fit into a Mumbai local train with space left for the dabbawallas have registered far more intolerance, ethnic divides, riots, massacres, Justin Beibers than India has or perhaps ever will. Right wing neo nazis still pull off a massacre or two in those ball freezing peaceful Nordics. Every smiling picture below the Eiffel tower has folks in the background mistrusting the immigrants, or mistrusting the French spellings. Remember Australia, America, UK, Russia? The middle east is the middle east . South Africa can't stand knockout games in ICC trophies. Those laughing Buddhists from Burma are not as cute like you expect them to be when their tummies are rubbed.

We are not a monster country. In spite of being monstrously large and complex. Period.

In fact, we are much better off than the rest of the five non Indian folks on the planet. If every ridiculous comment or even the most deplorable violence is thought of as a sum of parts - as opposed to cases of humans being evil humans then you are doing a great disservice to what has been created here.  I will not bore you with the number of dialects, religions, casts, subcasts,  types of dosas as you are likely aware of the complexity at play in India.

If you are going to be taking these looneys seriously, link everything out of proportion, write petitions out of convenience, shout vague accusations and zero solutions from rooftops - then you should know there is no place in the world without an intolerance problem. We can all move to Mordor. Nice and peaceful, surrounded by mountains, a place where only rings are burnt.

Point 3: The country is no way at its intolerant peak
I understand that this is a loaded statement. There is both hope and danger in this observation. But truth be told, we are no more intolerant in our own history today than we were yesterday.I respect the fact that some artists and folks who say we are getting intolerant are worried about the future while extrapolating  recent incidents. This sentiment is fine by me. But if the past is anything to go by, we always find a way. Worst case, we will have to send back Make in India desi terminators in 2030 to fix things.

Examples from the past have been provided ad-nauseum. You know them. So if you are so particular about tolerance, how did you overlook them then? Something does not add up. Maths don't lie.

Point 4: Confession. I like to make numbered bullet lists.

Point 5: People are up to mischief. Everyone. Right Wing. Left Wing. Fuselage.  

This is good in a strange sort of forward looking way, but bad in a very nasty way.

I did say that we are no less or more tolerant than anyplace else, which brings me to an important point supporting what I hope is the bigger sentiment behind the protests.

We have a reason to protect what we have.

To the credit of all these writers, this whole hue and cry strangely helps because the right wing (across religions) now know that even if politically motivated, foreign fund driven, due to eating Chinese noodles or whatever - the country does not take shit if we try hanky panky. The voice that we have found protects the future and can be thought of as a pre-emptive strike to stop any misguided escallations.

So, then you confused writer. Shouldn't we be protesting harder? Parab, I notice you have an Arab in your name.

No, everything in the world should have a balance to it. This disproportionate response from leftist, rightist, center forwards from football will and has sharply divided the country. It is like digging a finger into wounds long closed. The Hindus think 'Oh My God. Nothing has changed but they are calling us ISS and the Muslims say Here we go again. Why is it always us?

Our intolerant response to the intolerance has brought the fault lines in the open. Those who think it is a good thing, lets talk about it, put up a tent and do an aman ki aasha samelan - it is NOT. Fault lines always exist. Civilizations have dealt with it for thousands of years. Conflict across eras burns bright like the Sun. Peace is the morning dew. Fleeting, transitional, temporary.

Put two people together, similar or different - they will have issues. Anywhere in the world. People are messed up. Remember that real real people like you and like me made Prem Ratan Dhan Payo.

Peace is achieved by  talking about how brilliant the weather is not about faint lip stick stains on a collar. You did this. You did that.  Sure, lets talk about it. But also talk about other important things happening around.  Big Boss 9. Kohli Anushka. ISRO ke rocket. Stuff flying out of Arnab Goswami's nose. Balance.

To conclude, keep the peace in these super charged times and don't you go joining your own mobs. Like a friend of mine ( A Muslim, if you insist) mentioned on Facebook - I see NEWS channels. I see India intolerant and burning. I see social media. I see India on fire and fuming. I step out of my house and I see all friendly faces and smiles. Wondering where is the GAP? 

Then someone responded to his post saying, your info is limited to yourself and open your eyes and you will see lot more than smiles (This was a Hindu by the way)

Two statements which are both correct in this nation of contradictions. Two wonderful thoughts with the speakers reversed from what you would expect in any other society or country. This is what makes us wonderful. This is our twisted, ancient, brilliant, tolerant, open minded culture. This, and I look towards the sky dramatically before kicking the air and shouting, THIS IS INDIA.

Have your own opinion. Do not be influenced. Remember, everyone has an axe to grind. The media, the politicians, the artists. Especially the artists. Give yourself and your country some credit. Agree or disagree - but make that choice using your own wisdom and not what is the flavor of the season. Do not trust anyone. Do not trust me. I may not have an award to return, but I may have a book to sell ? Ok ?

Rustom and the Last Storyteller of Almora by Gaurav Parab [Hachette] was listed by the Times of India and Business Standard as one of 5 weekend reads , The Hindu calls it a Genre bender, The Statesman ‘An Almost Perfect Debut, The Lucknow tribune calls it a debut to remember, The Pioneer calls it Cinematic, The Vistara Air inflight magazine a Good Book on the Shelf, the Sakaal times says its ‘sheer brilliance in storytelling’ while the Bangalore Mirror calls it an unforgettable story. It is available in leading bookstores and online here

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