India, Religion

Once you label me you negate me

Someone at the office mentioned that her father did not want her studying in a Christian institution for fear that his children would get influenced by the western way of life. Not only is that the daftest thing I’ve heard this year, it is this very typecasting that I’ve always had a problem with. All my life I’ve had to answer obnoxious questions about why I don’t conform to the stereotype people have in their minds about my religion or community or even gender. I happen to be a non-meat eating Catholic who also has never had an alcoholic drink in her life. There has not been a single instance when this has not shocked the recipient of this information. How are you Christian? They ask. Turns out the Lord makes us in all combinations. I did not choose this particular lifestyle for effect nor was this done to land a Brahmin cutie, I genuinely cannot stand the taste of meat. As far as alcohol is concerned, I just never felt the desire to have that sip.

Food and drink aside, my biggest pet peeve is the assumption that Christian women are fast and loose. Bollywood also did its bit to drive home this popular misconception- every woman with a child out of wedlock had a Christian name. Julie? Bollywood’s ladies of the evening are invariably Christian. They wear dresses, drink beer, and 9 months later they’re knocked up all the while wearing a larger than life crucifix around their neck whilst kneeling down in a church, hands folded and sign of the cross made. So the fact that I’m not as easy as Sunday morning also comes as a surprise.

The hypocrisy that is India really gets to me. We’re so against the western culture but we will sell our souls and our Indian passports to move to the US or the UK. The very same parents that reprimand their kids for becoming westernized love telling people that the kids are in the abroad. Not every jasmine headed, salwaar wearing woman is as pure as driven snow. Tons of tyre marks on the snow sometimes. Kissing in the movies is taboo but pelvic thrusts and simulated procreation in the form of dance sequences are perfectly ok. Wearing dresses is provocative but sarees with pallus that have thrown caution to air, leaving very little to the imagination is what makes an adarsh Bharatiya naari. We pride ourselves in our low divorce rate but if we had a tax for all the miserable marriages in this country, we’d make up the fiscal deficit nicely. I’d much rather a divorce than be stuck in a marriage where one hopes to exercise the only exit option available (death and preferably the spouse’s) sooner than later. We frown at hugging as a form of a greeting but we’re also the land of the Kamasutra and the Khajuraho temples. Both of which I’m told can make 50 shades of grey blush. (I studied at Christian institutions and haven’t cracked open a page from the book. Shocker). We’re also a nation of 1.2 billion and growing, it is safe to say that our favourite past time is not trying to outsmart Ramanujan so we might need to retire the coy Indian charade. We love to think we are cerebrally endowed. We are not. We learn by rote, comprehending and assimilating very little along the way, leaving school none the wiser than when we joined it. Out of 1.2 billion people, if there are 5 million people with an above average IQ, arithmetically speaking we did not win at the brains lottery vs. let’s say the US with 300 million and maybe 1 million people with an above average IQ. We have our merits, we work harder than most people for one. But we need to chill out with this false sense of superiority about our culture and this paranoia about the supposed western influence.

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India, Politics

Power is not a means; it is an end

This has been quite an entertaining week. There was the royal wedding and then there were the shenanigans that we’ve come to call the Karnataka elections. The BJP is making it increasingly difficult to follow through on my previous self-righteous post about having a balanced view of Indian politics. I do not think that I am being melodramatic when I say that if the BJP’s antics in this legislative assembly election is anything to go by then we’ve got to be very worried for 2019. The campaign itself was below the belt on every account- they did not campaign for better infrastructure or health care or education. They had a one line manifesto- a Congress mukht Bharat. Which would’ve been perfectly okay if the BJP could put their money where their mouth is. They even brought in what they think is their trump card (pun intended), the PM. Our PM is multi-faceted. How many people can bend facts out of shape or get embarrassingly hugsy with every world leader or be unabashedly, obsessively, and passionately in love with oneself (a monogrammed suit with one’s own name, now that right there is some serious commitment). Also, knowing the correct spellings of words is too mainstream and so passé. Spellings are what our PM makes it. Who needs grammar and diction when you have a 56” chest? That is India’s biggest streanh. Mental note to self-must Google the Hindi translation of Lang lebe unser ruhmvoller Führer…sorry I meant Modi (excuse the typo) because I am no aunty national.

Granted Siddaramaiah with his lethargy was never a solution for Bangalore. Or any city. But when a post poll alliance, regardless of how hurried it is, is the majority needed then one would assume that they would be the Government formed. That’s generally how democracies and elections work. Clearly our Governor thinks otherwise. I think if the Governor was going to invite the BJP to form the Government despite their lack of numbers then why have elections in the first place. Maybe the Governor is a forward thinking individual- being a republic is overrated anyway. I feel we aren’t giving his loyalty enough credit. After all he put loyalty above the Constitution, now that takes guts and obscene levels of dumb.  If your very job is to uphold the Constitution, then find ways to abandon the law (and one’s principles) in a less blatant manner. 15 days when the BJP themselves asked for 7 to prove their majority? Such a delightfully simple man.

Then yesterday between switching from the BBC to see what Meghan Markle wore to NDTV to get an update on the Karnataka floor test I found out that B.S Yeddyurappa resigned. Never has a human being been more aptly named. BSY seems to have learned a thing or two from the PM. He put on a magnificent show. The voice breaking, the getting choked up while talking about fate of Karnataka’s poor farmers to culminate with his resignation. He went on for a bit though. You know you’re rambling when Siddaramaiah is awake and alert enough to tell you to get on with it. Of course if he had to be CM, the farmers could’ve cried themselves hoarse and their said fates would be buried deep in the Reddy brother’s mines.

Jokes apart, I do not exaggerate when I say that this country is getting progressively more frightening. We’re more intolerant of anyone different than us, of an opinion different from ours, of a lifestyle alien to us. We’re more divided than we’ve ever been. It is us vs. them.  It is Hindi vs. Tamil; Hindu vs. Muslim; Brahmin vs. Dalit. We are also sadly more ruthless. First we react, we condemn, we take out rallies to protest the injustice but then we slowly begin to accept it and it becomes our normal because it does not directly impact us. Our voices die down, we stop getting shocked when someone is lynched on the assumption that they’re carrying beef because it wasn’t our brother that was killed. For some reason, the ruling party seems to fuel this hatred and distrust that each of us seem to have for one another. It was probably dormant but now we spew venom in every direction, we wear our inner Mr. Hyde with pride, our opinions are coloured by prejudice but unfortunately so are our facts.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

India

When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?

Nothing gets my goat more than being stereotyped and/or patronized. I wear my nationality with pride and being from Bangalore is one of the best parts of me. It is a city that I love dearly, despite all its misgivings- crumbling infrastructure, horrible traffic and inefficient systems. I’d like to think that Bangalore is fairly cosmopolitan, there’s a little bit of something for everyone. So it often comes as a surprise when colleagues tell me I seem un-Indian, that I seem removed from the rest of India. The Bangalore I know, is filled with people exactly like me. Sure, Bangalore was always a bit more westernized than the rest of the country. Bangalore always had a more “global” feel. Everyone I know grew up listening to VH1 and watching what we thought were regular TV shows. OK, so I grew up watching the Bold and the Beautiful, nothing like a little pre-Game of Thrones incestuous drama to entertain a 10 year old.

Given this background, I do feel like smacking certain people into next week when they tell me that a. I am articulate b. ask about my very Anglicized name c. ask about the cows on the roads. Sure, I can string two words together in English, but so can a million other Indians. Granted, a majority of us massacre the language on a daily basis, some of us up the frequency every time we talk. Some of us aren’t satisfied with just murder but do the Bhangra on every grammar rule there is but give us a break already- most of us grow up learning 4 languages simultaneously and often do this Google translate type function in our head where we translate our “mother tongue” into English, so it is no wonder that we can’t able to speak like the Queen. This may knock every westerner’s socks off, but there are hundreds of thousands of us with names just like theirs. That said, the sole purpose of being given names that are what is loosely referred to as ‘Christian’ is not because our parents had the single minded ambition of our future colleagues getting our names right. The world does not revolve around you and the Paris climate agreement is proof of that. And no, the country will not be receiving awards for cleanliness no matter how much our monogrammed suit wearing, slightly longer than comfortable hug giving PM screams himself hoarse about ‘Swachh Bharat’. But then again try cramming 1.25 billion people anywhere and you will get the mess that we call home. Given our national penchant for spitting and releasing all kinds of bodily fluids in public places, it does not for a sterilized environment make.

Go ahead and take pictures of the cattle on the roads, the open drains, the beggars, and the traffic. But also take pictures of the fancy hotel you stay in, the plush locality that the hotel is located in, the nicely designed offices you have traveled to. Don’t be surprised when some of us are better read than you are or have eclectic tastes in music. By well-read I do not mean our home grown, potential Pulitzer Prize winning Chetan Bhagat with his complete disregard for English and a good story line, nor am I talking about having Justin Bieber on our iPods.

Don’t be surprised when we enjoy something other than a spicy curry and a “Naan bread” or that we are capable of enjoying a movie without ridiculous dance sequences. Not all our weddings involve elaborate costumes, dowry and an ugly groom and evil in-laws. Not all of us work to support our aged parents. Not all of us meet our spouses on the wedding day. Not all Indian women are shy, submissive, face shielding, giggling morons with no brains behind the kohl lined eyes. A lot of women I know could easily add a few more shades to those 50 shades of grey. Not all Indian men are lecherous, uncouth, animals waiting to molest the first thing in a saree. Granted, a good bunch need to be given the Inquisition. And sure, majority of them were not on the receiving end of divine generosity in the looks/personality/IQ department. But still, stop putting us in this mould. Stop with the false sense of entitlement every time you are in the country. You aren’t doing us a favour with your ‘Namaste’. Give the whole Oprah’s “there is order in the chaos” condescension a break. Stop making the entire country a personal ‘Hymn for the Weekend’ vacation. And finally, stop watching ‘Outsourced’ as your official guide to Indian culture. Call centers may not be the cream of the crop where employment opportunities are concerned but last I checked, they don’t have those in the midst of a bustling slum either.