Sunday, December 14, 2008

26/11/2008 - The Enemy.

'We are meeting the enemy, and it is us.' (unknown).

Living 2 continents away from ground zero is frustrating because the only way I have been able to vent my frustration is by writing.

In the days following 26/11, I have engaged in (mostly written) discussion with a variety of 'types' -- the indian techie in the US who believes in some sort of generic solution that he can't quite identify but believes has something to do with 'our bloody politicians, yaar', the indian political science student at the London School of Economics who is 'frickin pissed off man!, and we should just nuke that basket-case country, Pakistan', the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) cadre who thinks 'you people who don't pay tax to your own country but leave it to go to America needn't trouble yourself worrying, we have the situation under control', the rich, aloof kid living in South Mumbai who spends her time between 'Mango', the Cathedral and John Connan school, and the Bombay Gym and would you leave her out of all this please! , and the khaadi-loving, liberal indian yuppie with kohl-lined eyes, and a careless cigarette omnipresent between her slender manicured fingers. She has of course, been to pretty much every protest march, candle-lit vigil, human chain organised and is a member of every facebook 'fight terror' group there is.

Everyone is talking, everyone is angry, and everyone is saying the same thing -- our leaders have got us here. They've let us down time and again, and are nothing other than a burden on us taxpayers.
Wonderful, isn't it? If there's any one thing that the 2 billion of us can agree on, it is that our politicians should be put into a big hole in the ground and nuked. (there's cricket too, of course..)

The expression of this collective rage is something very inspiring, motivational, no doubt. To me, it is also confusing. In spite of having identified the problem (and not just once, we do it every time a disaster exposes the utter chaos and lack of planning in our emergency response), we are doing little to address it. Why the slip between the cup and the lip?

I have a theory -- Blaming someone else makes us feel like we're contributing to change. And oh let's not forget, less responsible for those 190 dead people.
But we ARE responsible. Because of our inaction. Because we chose to forget that we have a responsibility beyond just voting these guys in. Because it is our duty to give voice and action to our frustration and BRING change. Because our complacency makes us take Democracy for granted. Because we have forgotten Gandhi and the thousands of others who fought with their blood that we may live free lives and have a say in how our nation is run. Because there is too much hate for us to be able to look beyond our linguistic and religious differences and work together to root out the scum in our leadership.
So, seriously, how did WE let this happen?

An event like this was naturally followed by much discussion between some friends and I. We have spent our high school years together, and stayed in touch much longer after that. These are my best buddies in the whole world. Talking to them at a time like this made me realise how different we are. How, in the deepest recesses of our minds, we cling on to ideas branded onto our minds by that microcosm that we spend most of our time in -- our families. And how if you read between the lines, our responses belie our different perceptions about the degree to which we 'belong' to this patchwork quilt called India.

"Why can't we be like the US? They haven't seen a single attack since 9/11"
"The US is different. They don't have a 14% muslim population that has been persecuted since 1992. They don't have insurgencies."
"That is humbug. Muslims govern with us, study with us, work with us. There are quotas for them. They are part of indian society"
"But that is on paper, look at Godhra '02, look at the social, economic and educational status of muslims today"
"Well, look at '93 blasts in Mumbai by muslim extremists. And there are plenty of poor Hindus too"
"The BJP government has-..."
"The Congress is no better"
"At least they don't slaughter minorities"
"Stop it you two. This is irrelevant to the discussion. The enemy is Pakistan. The US needs to nuke it"
"The US can't nuke anything. That idiot from Texas is gone"
"Nuke Pakistan and bomb their civilians like our were bombed, you mean?"
"Better than doing nothing, right?"
"The govt. should shut down madarsas"
"That is ridiculous. Madarsas are schools"
"Yea right!"
"Discontent muslims in India is not an irrelevant issue. It is our biggest failure as a democracy"
"BJP is just trying to safeguard interests of Hindus"
"By systematically persecuting Muslims and Christians"
"Christians convert tribals by offering them rice and money"
"Oh yeah, so let's go burn their churches and rape their nuns"
"That's not what I said. I just think people should be respectful of Hindu culture"
"You mean INDIAN culture"
"Well, India is 84% Hindu"
"Yes. 84, not 100"
"The problem is that our politicians are not doing anything. What do minorities have to do with the issue? Besides, these terrorists are all Pakis.
"Well who voted these politicians in?"
"Not me for sure"
"Yea right. Cos you've never voted in your life"
"Hell no. Better saving the energy. Where have they got us anyway."

Do our parents transfer their 'baggage' to us? Will we, to our children? Our cynicism, our hopelessness. This negativity, thick and black and dense, that we have allowed the system to beat into us, and have accumulated day by day as we fold the morning's newspaper and shake our heads in dismay. Will this one day, be my gift to a bright eyed young one, whose fresh open mind and eagerness to change the world will make me fearful of the disappointment that I am sure will meet her?

We are our enemy. In so many ways.