Saturday, January 30, 2010

We the passive Indians

Saturday mornings are generally exciting and sort of fresh when like good harmonised couple my husband and i have at least 2 rounds of tea while we skim the 3 sets of newspaper and diligently make our plans for the day. At least one particular day it seizes to be a newspaper and is more a catalogue of programmes to be caught and exhibitions to crash. But it was not to be this time when one item supposed to be page three made us sad , more angry and most hurt.
The images of eminent personalities dressed in their designer stuff attending what the paper declared was Australia Day celebrations left us seething with nothing but anger.
If looks could kill and if i had supernatural powers they would all be dead by now. No not dead but something worse...
It's amazing with media making us aware of what is happening to our kids Down Under is this the best that we can do ? At best they could've restrained from such events which would at least seem like a silent protest. And i'm now very much sure that these so called eminent personalities may not be celebrating our own national events with such gusto. What do you call such people i fail in my English vocabulary but i do have a local word in mind which perhaps would best describe such people.
i was thus left wondering the entire day as to amidst all the expensive drinks, food , glitter and glam how they would've celebrated? Did the photo clips of our boys battered and bruised and then some finally arriving home in coffins amidst heart-rending tears ever cross their mind's eye? Surely all of them must be having kids of their own . Would they have attended this function if God forbid (and why am i even saying God forbid) it had happened to someone of their own ?
Until i had become a parent i never understood the angst but now i do know that every time we squeeze our eyes to concentrate on a deep prayer we are trying to battle this innate fear that we have for our kids . Oh God keep them safe from hurt and pain is all we can silently mumble and i'm sure these people may be doing the same too. I fail to understand then how they can be so insensitive and join the opposing team in revelry of any kind ?
Had this happened to Australians in India would the Australians attend such an evening and celebrate India day ?
i don't suppose when Gandhi talked about offering the other cheek he would have meant this and this was the apt time when Satyagrah could've given a strong message. But the double faced januses- can we expect Satyagrah from them?
My anger will subside as it normally does but i'm afraid it should not turn to hatred.


  1. Hi Shivani:

    I wrote a response to your blog but apparently it's too long and can't be posted here. Could you please send me your email address?

    Sanjay Chabra

  2. Dear Shivani,

    I read your blog just by chance, and I read this particular piece, and I was a little perturbed. Not for the obvious reason that might spring to your mind, but to the contrary, it made me realize that most people jump to conclusions just looking at pictures, and make up their minds unwisely.

    Most of what you write is a figment of your imagination. Just last night I saw the movie ‘Chakde India’. If you recall in that movie, when Shah Rukh Khan misses the goal he is caught shaking hands with the Pakistani player and he is photographed doing that. And the world goes crazy after that. He’s labeled as unpatriotic and a ‘gaddaar’. Although that was just a fictional story, it’s very possible that such things happen exactly like that.

    What you assumed looking at the photograph of the celebrities sitting in their designer clothes was somehow eerily similar. Your knee-jerk reaction, which made you even ready to ‘kill’ them (I understand you used it more as a figure of speech rather than as an idea to end someone’s life) revealed a deep-seated and a myopic world-view. Your article was so full of assumptions that I just couldn’t push it out of my mind for two days after reading it. I felt some need to point out that it’s so easy to hate and discredit, and that you yourself are falling a victim to the same benighted and ill-founded animosity, as our peers in Australia.

    Let me begin by just your description of the photograph that set you off:
    You say that these personalities are wearing designer clothes (therefore they became more hateful). (Do you think their wearing simpler clothes, a white kurta-pajama perhaps, would have made a different impression on you? Was it the look on their faces, or perhaps they were wearing expensive looking dark-glasses, that made you feel that may be they do not condemn the violence?) Did their attendance at the function really give you the impression that perhaps they did not care for the racist attacks on our young boys living in their country?

    Photos have a very powerful way of projecting an image. A photograph must consolidate the view that is being laid forth in any article. I am sure the publisher must have wanted to evoke the exact response that you came up with. As you saw this picture your blood started to boil. You imagined their cold-bloodedness, their collaboration with the despicable act. By now you are ready to explode, and what acts as a spark that sets you off, is the mention of the word ‘celebrate’. You put two and two together and in your mind confirm that these celebrities, in their expensive clothes are—thoughts at a subconscious level—celebrating the deaths of our children, or some such twisted relationship between words, images and thoughts. Let me repeat --all this acts at a subconscious level. Now that these people have been turned into devils in your mind, you go a step further and assume that these people probably do not celebrate our own national day with such gusto (because you haven’t seen their photos in your three newspapers on the Republic Day or Independence Day on page three).

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  5. continued...

    The mind sees what it wants to see. The eyes and ears all become slaves to it. Our mind rules, or rather, misrules us with reckless abandon. And we give in to it so easily.

    Don’t get me wrong. I do not condone any form of violence towards anybody. I am a pacifist and am against all acts of violence—physical or mental. But your act of violence, albeit just in paper, and just a metaphor, requires a little bit of a wake up and awareness.

    Human relationships are not very easy to create and maintain. Especially so, when we have great distance, speech, skin-color and different culture dividing us. International relationships between countries are even harder. They require great patience, extraordinary maturity and keen awareness that although all the people put together make a country, but they are still two different entities. In the world history, wars have been fought for the slightest of reasons—a perceived insult, a refusal of marriage, a pathetic sense of nationalism, a misplaced belief in superiority of race etc. It would be so easy to start this war, wouldn’t it?

    I do not believe the people who had organized ‘Australia Day’ had anything to do with the muggings or killings of the students. I am certain that only a very tiny minority favors the violence that took the lives of our children in Australia. Most Australians do not condone the violence in any way, and probably love India. As Indian, or actually as human beings, we should all be concerned and sad at what happened. I think we should be concerned not only with Indians being subjected to such terrible acts of violence, but by anybody, anywhere. Our attitude and love should be more humanist and not just nationalist. I’d equally incensed if Australians killed other Australians.

    Like you, I am a father of two children. Every time they walk out of the house I wait for their return with my heart in my mouth. I understand the love and attachment that parents have to their children. But as Khalil Gibran says in his poem—The Prophet, “Your children are not your children, they are life’s longing for itself.” But I love all children, not just my own. These are not just mere words, I really mean it.

    You mentioned Gandhi in your article. I’m a great fan of Gandhi. One statement that I heard that he made changed my life. It went something like this, “The English are not our enemies, they are our friends. They are as much a victim to the blight of colonialism as we are. They just know it.” It takes a great man to see that. Going to attend a function to honor another nation’s special day isn’t turning the other cheek. (I don’t think I can well explain that to you yet).

  6. continued...

    What would you do if you were in the Dalai Lama’s position? I’m sure you know that he lives in exile in India and Tibet has been annexed by China. What you probably do not know is that even after 1.2 million Tibetans being killed by the Chinese repression, the Dalai Lama refuses to hate the Chinese. He says we’re all ‘interconnected’ in this world. To hate them would be like to hate ourselves. He walks on the path of non-violence using dialogue to reach some agreement with the Chinese (who still seem to be so tough to break). He hasn’t given up after 60 years of living a life of a refugee, why then must we shun an entire nation, insult an entire nation by not attending a function on its special day? Surely you realize that if there is a solution to be found to this problem then it’s only through dialog, not sulking and making some ‘silent protest’. Sure, ‘silent protests’ too have a power. But surely there’s a proper place for it as well!

    As educated people in this world we all need to rise above the jingoistic, chest thumping nationalism. I hate and abhor fanatic nationalism. India is great, but so is the rest of the world. I morn the loss of the young boys who lost their live. But if anything that can be done to heal the world of this hatred and petty give comeuppance, is inclusiveness, not exclusiveness. Australia is not the opposing team.

    Just think!

    Sanjay Chabra