By Aadya Sinha
Edited by Nanditha Singh, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
Growing up, I was often told, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Today, Mahatma Gandhi’s famous words are more of an overused poster-adorning cliché, than the motto they were meant to be. In stark contrast, Aristotle’s defining belief in “Like man, like state” has been completely lost in the oblivion created by the human tendency to pass the buck. Instead, our quotable depictions are more like; “Poor aamaadmi, destroyed by politicians and babus, troubled by their insignificance. Mango people in a Banana Republic. Proletariats suppressed by the bourgeoisie. Boo-hoo.” We are portrayed as the victims and somewhere we use it as an excuse, a convenient shield that allows us to justify our inaction and apathy.
We neither use the weapons, enshrined in our constitutions to fight the corrupt particles around us, nor do we use our individual beliefs and qualities to fight our own corrupt leanings. Instead, we wallow in an artificial pool of helplessness and apathy, calling it disillusionment. We seem to have tremendous energy to complain and crib; yet we can’t find the time to vote. We nod along with the Prime Time news anchors as they give those in positions of power a dressing down, yet we refuse to do our own research on the same. We complain about rule of law and its erosion, yet we can’t resist that temptation to bribe the traffic policewallah, and escape a deserved challan. Are we so comfortably insulated in our own supposed irrelevance, that we refuse to do anything about it?
What about those of us who are bothered enough to be involved? Here we are, watching the mud slinging that has become political rhetoric like a daily soap, instead of demanding a higher quality of polity. Amidst the fancy jargon of left, right, and centre, we forget to be pragmatic in the realm that we’re meant to wear our selfishness on our sleeve. We stretch issues, distorting them and holding on to them, the way we should hold our self-interest. And then, we get lazy. There is no doubt that politics in this country has been decimated to a new low, the agreement on that is more unanimous than the mandate that has ushered the new government in. Then why is it that we refuse to follow them every step of the way, using the system of checks and balances we have been gifted with?
India needs to grow, but we need to grow with it. We need to evolve beyond voting on caste lines and supporting a party because our families have been loyal to them. We need to stop being the spokespersons for a party or an individual, and become the defender of our vote. Being vigilant is good, but we need to stop jumping the gun the next time the self proclaimed ‘Most watched television news anchor’ announces the era of unofficial censorship, or a politician threatens to secede at the idea of a debate.
We need to stop being the largest nation of helpless self-fulfilling prophecies and start acting like the largest democracy in the world. At the risk of sounding like an overused and underrepresented cliché, used more on posters than in action, we need to “Be the change we want to see in the world.”
My appeal was meant to end there, the norms of writing dictate so, but I feel compelled to write on. Treat this as an elongated post-script, s’ilvousplaît.
I do realise that my sarcasm barely conceals my wide-eyed hopefulness. I also realise that you, dear reader, might be reading this with the same indulgent, yet amused smile that my father wore as he said,” A little too idealistic, don’t you think?” The same tone, which comes from knowing better, colouring your vision.
Maybe, but have you considered dear reader, where the confidence required to ask for a bribe comes from? It’s the unexpressed confidence in knowing that there is a big chance you’ll pay it.
You, dear reader, who has the resources, the time and the initiative to be reading this, it’s you that possesses the ability to think about the long-term benefits of the gradual removal of that subsidy you really don’t need. You can take a look at your carbon footprint before protesting that power cut or water shortage. If it’s not too much to ask, perform your duties to your state before demanding rights from her.
Then, my dear reader, maybe, just maybe, in an alternate India not too far in the future; as a child shows her father a similar piece, he might just indulge her with a smile before saying, “It’s not really required, is it?”
with all my dramatic and amateurish idealism,
Aadya is your textbook bibliophile, as redundant as that statement sounds out loud. She finds solace in all that is and all that can be written. She is also utterly obsessed with politics, as a’pol’ing as it might get.