I have been quite outspoken about my disgust and concerns over some of the issues unfolding in India. I have been quite open about my support and solidarity towards people and institutions whom I feel are on the right and are fighting for a just cause or for a whole lot of just causes. All this means there has been many occasions where I have had the fortunate or unfortunate opportunity to talk and debate on these issues with friends and family and assert our respective points of view. In the process, many a friendship and relationships have been damaged and lost and a few reinforced and gained. But of late, these instances (particularly the former) have been happening more frequently and the one reason for this, I feel, is because the voice of the protesters and dissenters are getting louder and the star struck followers are starting to feel threatened? I would like to share a recent exchange between a relative and myself. This guy was so mad at the kind of questions I was raising and sharing some of the editorials and write ups by professors and scholars on facebook, he decided to have an intervention and perhaps try and drill some of his sense into my head.
So the section in blue is his message to me and the section in orange is my reply to him. But before that a little bit background to this exchange: A few days back we had a couple of minor exchanges where he sent me a photo shopped image basically calling the media (or presstitutes as the bhakts lovingly refer to them) corrupt and not reporting on anything “good” the government is doing. My reply was to ask him not to follow the media so much nor blindly rely on photoshopped versions of news but rather, read op eds written by genuine scholars who know and have a better understanding of what is going on. Also, I reminded him, no one follows the press as much as the "bhakts" as is evident from the number of trolls and abusive comments they leave under each news article. So relentlessly pursuing media and then getting riled up for not writing whatever they want to hear is not a very healthy activity. In response, (as expected), idiotically he sent me another photo shopped image with someone accusing the media for not reporting another accomplishment made by the government. Again I replied asking him to not follow or rely on the media so much, especially on photo shopped news bits that purposefully omit out the relevant bits and quote everything and everyone out of context.
Then came his intervention which is as follows:
"(smile emoticon)......no “aaaaaa” I not just blindly following the media....if i am following the updates, the reason is that i am actually seeing work happening around me.....be it my own city, or neighbouring areas, i can see change happening at the stations that i travel by everyday,....and believe me...i dont know what the scholarly articles u read tell u....but as a resident of this country at this time....its the first time that i am seeing a govermen work at this pace and with such deidcation,....be it building new roads, taking decisions, or improving the existing facilities, .....given...they do make mistakes,....but for the first time we have a goverment that is at some levels even more responsive than private organisations, this goverment is not jsut talks........we in India are seeing work happenig around us......m not among the ones to be swayed easily by online content....and we nationalists do criticize the govt. when it goes wrong........we are not blind followers.........and lastly......scholarly articles are sure needed.......but we should remember that as far as our country is concerned....people who actually do the ground work are more important..........writing an article is not a very big deal for a bright mind......but getting work done....in a Democracy of over 100 languages.....numerous faiths and consistent pressure of not hurting sentiments....is the actual challenge......and let me mention one thing.........i would like to see how many of these pseudo revolutionaries will be active in JNU......if they have to PAY THEIR OWN FEES.........(smile emoticon)...........i would prefer a revolutionary of reason rather than a revolutionary of convenience..........a 28 year unemployed youth.....who badmouths the country's Prime Minister and stands with a crowd that chants anti-national slogans.....only to later proceed like a shameless schmuck to the canteen to eat food that is paid for the tax payer and is grown on the land that he spoke against.........we should start seeing through these elaborate schemes........(smile emoticon).....but then again........i guess the amount of negative news about this govt. ur getting bombarded by waay more...........still......just letting u know...(smile emoticon)"
And my reply to him was as follows. He probably fainted seeing the length of my response, but what can I say- I got emotional and got carried away!
I hear your arguments quite well about the fabulous ground level, infrastructural work the government is doing (Gujaratis are quiet proud of their roads and infrastructure I hear) or apparently the efficiency with which bureaucrats are doing their job these days.
So yes, you see what is happening around you—roads being built or railway station infrastructure being improved etc etc…which is all good. But when I say read what scholars (people who have the capacity to think beyond just processing the obvious) are writing, it is because they are raising concerns over the costs at which this so called development is happening.
When you talk about “intellectuals and scholars” you talk about them with such contempt and ridicule. Before you ridicule them again, please remember they don’t talk about issues sitting in their office imagining things .they are out talking to people, observing and interacting with people. This is in fact what they are trained to do. And no matter how bright they are, they cannot simply cook up stuff because there is something called peer evaluation…which is something perhaps you are not aware of. They are actually talking about the repercussions these so called “progressive ideas and developmental agendas” have on our society and believe me, a developed society is not only about infrastructural or industrial development. The collateral damages associated with what the government has proposed to do to meet some of their growth targets are not minor in any way. And worst of, it is not just material damage, it is at the cost of people…the most vulnerable people of the country. I can write pages and pages if I were to tell you in detail about the implications of some of these so called fabulous developmental policies on the vulnerable and marginalized communities. I can write and explain to you in detail the schizophrenic thinking that is evident in your own words and actions when you say “it is the people who actually do the ground work that are more important” and yet you are supporting the opposite. When such behaviors become frequent and lacks the fundamental idea of inclusiveness, it is but natural for scholars and thinkers to intervene and raise red flags.
And coming to the people whom you have referred to as “shameless schmucks”- well, I am one such shameless schmuck who has always availed State sponsored education. In fact even my higher studies here in the US were State sponsored. Not only were my fees paid for but I got an additional stipend for my living expenses. I also know a whole bunch of, much-smarter-than-me -schmucks, who have managed to get into even better State sponsored education. So based on that experience let me tell you how one becomes this kind of “schmuck”. They become this by working their ass of! These schmucks don’t walk into these prestigious universities and demand admission flaunting a load of cash (either their parents money or an educational loan), but they get in through a rigorous selection process of writing national level exams and other selection procedures. Even the so called candidates under the reservation category are selected from going through a similar procedure. The reservations they receive is something the “privileged class” don’t get (and whine about) and that is because (unfortunately) their privileged existence have not exposed them to what long term social and cultural exclusion feels like. Anyways, my point is, there is no one more concerned about the State’s welfare than these schmucks because they value the system more than anyone else. Also these schmucks are some of the brightest in the country and each one has the capacity to think beyond all of the chaddi (I mean patloon) brigade put together. So I rather have my tax money go towards feeding these schmucks and enabling them to think than it be used for building some giant, idiotic, serving no purpose statues or temples for various “gods” and “sadhus” whom I have never seen.
Also, I find it truly amazing how these fans of the government maintain what can be called a tunnel vision. They can only see the “on the ground” works of the government and the fabulous speeches made by the leader promising “ ache din”, and are so star struck by it that they are oblivious to anything else that is happening around them. In other words, the people who (so proudly) talk about diversity of culture and language are oblivious to what is happening in terms of the cultural agenda and all the related nonsense the "brigade" seems to be unleashing under the protection of the government. No comments on that I suppose or perhaps you fully endorse it? This brings me to the hypocrisy with which you view the media. Anytime the media does not report on what the government has done (apparently for the greater common good) or report on any of these atrocities, they are “prestitutes” but for everything else the media is fabulous. So morons like Arnab and that Zee TV dude gets hailed and declared as heroes while the rest are labelled as “prestitutes” or “sickular libtards” and what not!
And finally – since we are all here living in a democracy, it is but natural for the people to ask questions and raise concerns. Right now the "leader "is functioning like the "leader" of the party and of the people who voted for him. He is supposed to act like the "leader" of the country, which means he needs to open his mouth and reassure people and find a way to stop these idiots (from his brigade by association) who are running around and creating havoc in the country. And when idiots do stupid things and the government is mum about it, it becomes a moral obligation for scholars and thinkers to open their mouth, and find ways to make them stop.
I forgot to add one more detail. Since you seem to question the authenticity of my concerns regarding our nation because I don’t live there currently, and have implied that I maybe clueless and forming my opinion based on the bombardment of negative press reports coming my way, may I just clarify that I have spent all my years getting an education working and interacting with the poorest of the poor in our country. And just because I live and work in the US does not mean I do not continue to be engaged with them or that I have lost touch.
Writing this took a good half hour of my State sponsored position. So stopping for now and wishing you good luck with whichever way your thoughts lead you.