Essay topic: India of my dreams
As a kid, I used to be deeply perplexed by this one lingering question in my mind, that later on in my life I could perhaps put into better words. The question went something like this- “What do you think if the colour blue, is the same to me as it is to you?” Now taken out of context, this question seems totally unrelated to the topic at hand here, much like perhaps all childhood queries, that remained, for the most part, still queries but let me assure you it bears as much significance to the topic at hand as ‘oxygen does for survival’ or ‘sunlight does for the flower to bloom’ or some other cliche that may fit here.
Yet again, I dig up the childhood inquisitive query again and pose this question in front of you- “What do you think if the colour blue, is the same to me as it is to you?” Is the definition of what I see blue, what I justify as blue in my mind, a slightly darker shade of a colour that signifies to me the sky (in it’s lighter shade), the river (in my scenery), the colour of loneliness and the colour of jeans, the same to you? Or is it perhaps, in your perspective, how yellow would seem to me? Because if that is the case, I think this would create a rather awkward situation for both of us. To walk around in pair of yellow jeans (Giorgio Armani would be turning in his grave right now), to imagine a yellow sky and to drink…No. No. Maybe we should not go there for now.
In the whole absurd discussion that took place above, there was a word ‘perspective’ that was lodged in somewhere, that is the one word that is going to bring us back on track from this rather distraught discussion. What does the word ‘perspective’ mean to you? Perhaps you may have a different perspective to the definition of ‘perspective’ from the one I have. In my opinion, the word perspective is a point of view of looking at something. It characterises all the different emotions you may be invigorated with when you look at different things. For eg., to you the perspective of looking at a dog would be one filled with adoration whereas for per say a friend of yours who has been bit by one in the past, his/her perspective of looking at a dog may be filled with horror and disgust.
Now what really would happen in the above context is that, even though you may seem to disagree with the perspective of your friend, even though you may feel perplexed by even the idea as to how someone as adorable and as harmless as a dog may seem horrific to someone, you still respect the point of view of your friend and would continue to remain friends with him. You have a ‘tolerance’ for his opinions and his comments and you let him have his say despite disagreeing with him. This makes us come across a new word, i.e., ‘tolerance’.
Now speaking in terms of India , recently when Shah Rukh Khan was asked the question ‘Is India a tolerant country?’, he went to disagree with it, stating India and Indians are ‘very intolerant’ and that this is something that we should change about ourselves. We showed him our capacity for tolerance by disagreeing with his opinions and perspective of things, hurling abuses at him and also commenting statements like “He should go back to Pakistan!” Now two things are discomforting in this scenario- a). Why should Shah Rukh Khan go ‘back’ to Pakistan? He was born and brought up in India. And b). When Shah Rukh said that we as a country are ‘intolerant’, the definition of the word means that we do not have respect for people’s views and opinions. Now when we hurl abuses at him for saying that, asserting the fact that, “He is wrong. We are tolerant.”, we are basically proving what he was trying to say in the first place.
When speaking about intolerance in the country right now, it becomes a mandatory obligation to speak about the recent JNU incident. To be on the same page here, the facts of the incident state that certain “anti-nationalist” comments were said in a crowd full of people by certain students of JNU, some of which uphold Afzal Guru as a ‘national hero’ and a ‘martyr’. They were charged on the grounds of sedition for this and convicted by the police. This, in turn, became an issue of political propaganda that generally all issues in India tend to become. What it did not become, what it should have become, is an issue of civil liberty and an issue of rights and freedom of expression and something that makes 69 years of independence futile. This poses yet another question in front of us ‘On what grounds could you really judge a person to be anti-national? Simply by his views and comments? Isn’t the court of law based on evidences and reaction to an action that has already taken place?’ and perhaps the greatest question of them all ‘Are we as a country tolerant for people’s views and opinions?’
Now I do not say I agree with whatever that was stated by the JNU students. To hail Afzal Guru, a terrorist who claimed the lives of innocents to be hailed as a ‘national hero’ is ridiculous and repelling to even think of. They are wrong and they are stupid, but they have every right to be wrong and stupid. This could be reasoned in this way, if you forbid expressing, you forbid thoughts. If you forbid thoughts, you forbid ideas. If you forbid ideas, you may tend to forbid the ridiculous ideas but in that process you end up forbidding the brilliant ones as well.
This is what being tolerant as a country gives us, the ability to respect ideas and opinions of different factions despite disagreeing with them. To respect ‘perspectives’ of one and all individuals and to live in mutual harmony. Because god knows, major amount of problems that have risen in the country have been the grounds of intolerance. Riots among religious groups, Hindu-Muslim angst, war with Pakistan, criminalising of Section 377 and stating homosexuality as a crime, all of these have their roots grounded in intolerance among the masses.
And this is such beautiful country that we live in that intolerance is a dark mark upon. We’re a country of stories and myths and mythologies and mountains and countless rivers. We’re a country of Gandhi, Buddha, Bhagat Singh and so many more. Do not subject it to something so disdainful as intolerance. Do not take the one thing from us that all the countless martyrs had laid their lives for- our independence.
In the end, I dream of a country where people respect and uphold each other’s opinions. I dream of a country where all factions live in mutual harmony. I dream of a country where war is a myth. I dream of a country where people respect the fact that ‘what is blue to me’ may not be ‘what it is to them’.
And so I lay this adult query in front of you- “Can you respect the fact that for me what is blue, is not the same as what it is to you?”