My Intolerant India

It’s nearly the end of 2015 and the one prominent change in my everyday lifestyle in the past few years is the prevalence and influence of social media in my awareness of cultural events, thoughts and dialogue.

I open my Facebook or Twitter account to scroll through the current tide of conversation and feel disheartened to see false projections of a country I call home.

Intolerant India.

Source: Wikimedia

Source: Wikimedia

From ban on beef to national bullying of a random celebrity, when did the nation start having so much time to engage in inconsequential propaganda? What is this intolerance that they would have us believe exists in a country that is the opposite of intolerance?

What are all these religious constructs and divides that are driving people to make irrelevant statements and pick sides when the whole conversation is just smoke and mirrors?

What is this Intolerant India everyone is talking about?

We recited hymns followed by sanskrit shlokas every morning in school. Everyone in school spoke to each other in English even when majority of the school population was Gujarati or was conversant in Hindi.

My mother went to a bank where majority of the management wore turbans and everyone spoke in Marathi, Gujarati or Tamil during lunchtime and still managed to share bits and pieces of grapevine and discuss life.

While she worked all day and attended clients from different backgrounds irrelevant of caste, creed, religion or financial status, our nanny read us verses from the Bible when it was naptime in the afternoon.

Source: Flickr

Source: Flickr

We would gear up excitedly for drives in the evening but my father would tell us that the driver has to leave early as he’s following Ramzan and needs to break his fast. The driver would still take us through alleys where you could smell the fresh kebabs as they sizzled and people thronging around food carts selling delicious dates.

We’d go every weekend to all the famous temples in the city and eventually land for a meeting where my father was building his own. He’d take us to his office in Nariman Point where you’d see him breaking into random Arabic while negotiating with his business partners in Kuwait or Saudi Arabia.

What is this Intolerant India everyone is talking about?

We visited my mother’s maternal home in Ahmedabad immediately after the infamous Gujarat Riots of 2002. Our train arrived at the railway station a little late into the night. As she went from one auto-rickshaw wallah to another with 3 young children in tow, an old gentleman with a white embroidered taqiyah and a long henna-dyed beard spoke to her in Gujarati.

He said, “Ma’am, don’t be worried. I’ll make sure you reach your destination safe and sound. It would be my honor to protect you and take you to your home.”

And reach home safe, we did.

Source: Pexels

Source: Pexels

During Christmas vacations, we’d watch re-runs of Home Alone and The Grinch on Star Movies. We would make a feeble attempt at setting up Christmas stockings and small Christmas trees. My sister would ask my mother, “Do you think Santa will give us a gift this year?”

Mom would say, “Sing your favourite Christmas carols and light candles. I’m sure Santa will make a stop at our house.”

Rest assured we’d have a small greeting card from Santa under our pillows and stockings full of sweet goodies next morning.

How intolerant is Intolerant India?

My parents weren’t in town for one of my birthdays. It was the 2nd day of Ganpati Festival. My nanny knew I love to see larger than life Ganpati idols in procession. She took us to a famous mandal in our neighbourhood. We stood in line for 2 hours just to see the set up. She taught us how to pray and give our respect while we stood in front of the awe-inspiring idol. This is the same nanny who’d get us those sweet round disks after she attended the Sunday mass every week.

Source: Flickr

Source: Flickr

It’s been 2 years that I’ve been away. Home i.e. India is still fresh in my memory. Last I remember, we’d meet people from all walks of life and make friends. The only two questions that we’d ask each other were – Where do you live? What are you?

In response, I’d say I live in Santacruz and I’m Gujarati. We shared our language only so we’d know what language was best to converse in. This is a basic question if you live in a culture where most people are trilingual!

What is this Intolerant India that everyone is talking about? Who coined these words? What are we doing wasting our time giving air time to weightless bullshit? When did we become so sensitive?

We’ve survived so many centuries worth of ravaging, exploitation and cultural amalgamation to build a culture that is so unique and indigenous to the geography that it’s hard to find elsewhere. Each of us has some weird ancestral link to Greek, Aryan, Turkish, Persian, Mongoloid and African or Dravidian genes.

So what in the world is this hullaballoo about Intolerance?

Switch off your news channels. Dump your newspapers. Stop sharing articles/trolls/memes coming from biased sources. The media is giving us what we want to consume. Or what they think that we want to consume. It’s easy to make an issue about a non-issue. No background work required. No fact checking is necessary when you’re making a news story out of something that is barely a story.

You like drama. You have an opinion? Watch Big Boss and make statements about that. If you’re smart enough you’ll know when to engage and when to disengage. 

There’s only one thing that we need to be intolerant about – BULLSHIT. 

(P.S: Watch this.)