Perspective

A few days ago I watched the Veer Das Netflix special “Losing It”. While he is probably the best when it comes to stand-up comedy (the reason Netflix is going for the second special with him, of all the artists), there was a part where he couldn’t stop whining about the beef ban that’s in place in the majority of the states in India. Now, he’s not the first person to do that. In fact, many left-wing so-called intellectuals have been doing that and ironically the same people also diligently share photos or post tweets about how they are enjoying beef in India (which essentially contradicts what they are saying).

Now, I do agree with the whole freedom of eating part and to a very large extent, I support it. I’m saying “very large extent” and not “completely” because we should be cognizant of the fact that with every freedom, comes the responsibility as well. While we can surely enjoy the freedom we want, freedom is never (or shouldn’t be) absolute. A driving license gives you the freedom to drive but it also holds you responsible to drive safely. A voting right gives you the freedom to vote but also holds you responsible to choose the best of all candidates fighting the election since the country’s/state’s future depends on your decision. A job gives you financial freedom but also holds you responsible to manage your expenses. And all the debates I’ve seen so far about the freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of eating – talk only about freedom and conveniently forgets the responsibility.

Theoretically, I should be able to eat pork right outside a mosque or in the middle of a Muslim neighborhood. I should also able to eat out in open during Ramadan in the same area – I have the freedom to do it.

Can I do it? – Yes.

Should I do it? – No.

And not because of the backlash I might receive or worse, I can get killed. Even without those fears, I should not be doing it. If my freedom is making someone uncomfortable, I would try to think of ways to get some solution that will not hurt that person and also doesn’t make me compromise a whole lot.

Essentially, at some point, we should also think about what kind of a person we want to become.

And, to take it to the next level, what kind of a nation we want to build. India is one nation that has always been accommodative to a multitude of cultures. When Parsis were getting converted or executed by Islamists in Iran, they made India their home. India is the only country where Jews found safe heaven and never got discriminated. This is the country where countless faiths have been able to live peacefully. And a part of the reason why this has worked is because of mutual respect extended by most of the other religions as well who haven’t been infected with the disease of evangelism, forceful conversion, and disrespect for other faiths.

Secondly, we also need to take time to understand the history behind why cows are considered holy in India. It’s not surprising that the animal that has been the second most important source of livelihood for millions after agriculture, is worshipped. And it’s not just the milk. Cow dung was used for flooring as well as on walls in the houses as a mode of insulation from the scorching heat outside. It was also used as a source of heat for cooking besides the wood. Cow urine was used for therapeutic purposes in ancient Indian medicine. And of course, the cow has reproductive capabilities. With one animal playing a very important part in the daily life of Indians, cow essentially reached a motherly status and one doesn’t kill a mother to eat her flesh.

To a large extent, the emotions people in the western countries have with dogs, Indians have with a cow. But while protesting against Yulin festival, that doesn’t even happen in the US but all the way to the other side of the world, is cool, protesting against beef is not because it doesn’t have a western endorsement.

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Bhakts, AAPtards and Khangressis

If you are an Indian and follow politics, there wouldn’t be a single day when you wouldn’t hear/read one of these words. And these are not the only ones. There is “presstitutes”, sickular” and much more. The dictionary of Indian media, which is not just restricted to professionals but more and more citizen journalists, has seen a parallel vocabulary in the last few years to refer to different group of people – or if I may say, classify people into different groups.
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A few years back, it wasn’t like this. And when I try to deconstruct the entire scenario, couple of things comes to my mind.

The inherent culture humans adopted since centuries world over to follow individuals, not ideas
I have always believed that people follow ideas and not individuals. At least, that’s what rational minds do or everyone would do, if provided freedom. Of course, it is arguable and there would be a grey area to it. People who seem to follow an individual are not following an individual per se, but the ideas of that individual. So, ideally, the loyalty should be with ideas and not individuals.
However, ideas don’t have a face, individuals do. Ideas are abstract, individuals are physical. So, it’s easy to worship the latter than the former. And hence, perhaps, we have people essentially trying to find someone who can impersonate these ideas. That’s how religions built or chose characters that were representative of all the good ideologies and asked others to worship them instead of these ideas. Even outside religions, groups were created with a face representing those ideas and people were asked to worship these faces. Hence, ideas took a backseat while individuals were given the driver seat. However, this essentially means three drawbacks.

1. One cannot differentiate between criticizing an idea and criticizing an individual 
Unfortunately, these days, any criticism of an idea is also taken as a criticism on an individual. Of course, political parties have vested interests in doing that but even the citizens get carried away in that. This sets a dangerous trend where meaningful discussions lose importance and the conversations are focused on defending and attacking individuals instead of talking about the rightfulness and wrongfulness of the topic in hand. It happened in the recent Anupam Kher video that went viral.

2. Following an idea is confused with following an individual 
Secondly, it also builds an assumption that everyone who supports an individual, will continue to support her/him irrespective of the situation, which might not be the case. I remember a classic line from the movie “12 Angry Men” where the second last juror says ‘I don’t believe I have to be loyal to one side or the other” when he is confronted by the second juror for changing his vote. The second juror somehow assumed that the individuals were taking sides instead of taking rational decisions.
People can confront an individual on a given issue and support the same individual in another one. It is always possible!! It also helps in removing biases during debates/discussions when you know that the other person can get convinced if your point is stronger and, at the same time, you can change a stand at any time based on what facts you have on your plate at that time.

3. Contradicts the notion that no person is perfect
And this is more for people who feel an obligation to defend an individual, they support, all the time. A lot of times we hear, nobody is perfect. People make mistakes. Following an individual, instead of ideas and principles, makes you obligated to defend the individual even when he/she is wrong. And that’s when the whole argument moves away from “for and against the issue” to “for and against the person”. There would be some notions which would not make any sense at a given point of time and would perfectly fit in, later on.

We have moved from the time when a BJP veteran supported a hard core Congresswomen when she did the right thing and she asked him to represent India in an important UN conference in spite of him being an opposition leader because he was the best man for the job.

The rate at which the quality of debates is deteriorating and people are pitted against each other, soon we might see a day when we will only be talking about individuals and who said what but not the real issues.

Goodness

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Photo Courtesy: USA Today

It was a sad beginning to the morning when I read the headlines on Times of India website – “At least 56 people killed, 70 injured as train derails in Spain”. I pray for the ones who lost their lives. However, here, I am not to talk about the deaths of the victims or sorrows of their relatives or the people responsible for this tragedy (as one theory refers this as terrorist attack).

I want to talk about few lines I read while I was going through the details –

Clinics in the city were overwhelmed with people flocking to give blood, while hotels organized free rooms for relatives. Madrid sent forensic scientists and hospital staff to the region on special flights.

Firefighters called off a strike to help with the disaster, while hospital staff, many operating on reduced salaries because of spending cuts, worked overtime to tend the injured.

It was good to see this kind of reporting, which is normally never done by Indian media. But then I went back to the headline and saw “Reuters” which led me to self-correction 😛

Tragedies – natural or manmade – are something you cannot avoid completely. These are realities of life. But there isn’t just a negative side to all tragedies. There are some positives as well that comes out of it. Unfortunately, our media repeatedly fails to bring out the positive sides of it. A part of the reason, I feel, that we think our country is going to dogs is because good things never reach us. Like in the Spain tragedy, where Reuters cared to mention about the great giving nature of people of Santiago De Compostela, hoteliers giving priority to humanity over business, fire fighters and hospital staff who did not forget their duty in spite of work issues, it would be so good to see Indian media following the same. So much influence on public mindset, they owe it to this country.

I started writing my blog in 2008 and discontinued after about 6 months. In the beginning of last year, I came to know about The Better India through one of my friends. The fact that the website is devoted to spread good things happening around the country itself excited me. I started writing for them and eventually I started writing for myself (this blog) as well. It was TBI that reinforced my belief in the existence of humanity and the fact that nothing can happen to this country as long as able administrations like Hyderabad Traffic Police and people like Udaybhai, Raghubhai, Ankit, Meeraji and Richard are here.

The description about the devoted citizens of Spain also reminded me the amazing discipline Japanese people exhibit after disasters – mainly natural. Western world was shocked by the rare display of tremendous calmness and discipline among Japanese after the 2008 Tsunami. While the rule in the rest of the world is that looting follows any natural disaster, they were yet to hear any such thing from Japan. Japanese are role model of how you respond to tough times. It reinforces the fact that humanity exists within every human being (Japanese are not the mutants). It is up to how you let the inner human being come out.

While we do have to solve our problems and one cannot ignore the wrongs that are happening in the society. But today, as it appears, the 10% wrong and 90% right are projected other way round by the Indian media, which creates a very depressing scenario. It’s time, Indian media understands that and learn from Reuters. Till that time, let The Better India try and keep the balance.