In the blink of an eye, the truth seemed to dawn on me. The variegated nature of a life led so far in perfect harmony with the external world. I speak, ofcourse, about myself. But where do I start? Let me see now....let me start at the beginning.
I always thought that Indians have an uncontrollable urge to be in front. Figuratively and literally as well, if you might have observed while waiting at a traffic signal, every single driver endeavours to squeeze in the small space,just a few feet ahead, and in doing so, satisfies his/her urge to get ahead. Of what you may ask? The perfect beauty of it lies in the fact that he/she is inching forward for the sake of being in front of the person behind. Penny wise and pound foolish is all I can say.
My mind races. And I am faced by my mother who gives me my first lesson in getting ahead. "Make sure you sit in the first row in class. Otherwise, you will not be able to hear what the teacher says and she will not be able to see you."And sitting right in front was an honour that our teacher used to confer on the bright alecs of the class.
We also have an urge to defy. The way historians have glorified the concept of civil disobedience in our struggle for independence has had a profound impact on our society. It has become a norm rather than a last resort and the last time I defied anything, it felt really good. But that also brings me to the problem of concensus-building in a democracy where every individual has a mind of his own.It is a marvel that we manage to agree on anything at all! And to lead such a diverse group of people is in itself an achievement, one that I give due credit for, to the leaders of our country.
On the question of beliefs, I just realised how tied-down we are in our own superstitions. It is a paranoia that has been handed to us as a legacy. I blame it on our lack of education. How else can one explain the importance of one particular day of the week over the other? I am also amongst those people who believe Thursday is holy. Reason : I have complete faith in Sai Baba. And I believe it is His day. And what is it with these days anyway? I have seen people cut their nails ans shave their heads on Tuesdays and Fridays but they have never been jinxed, cursed, hexed .Ironically, I don't cut my nails on these days. I simply put the blame on my mother. Am I being honest? No. The fact is that I fear being jinxed, cursed, hexed. I do. Being educated, if I think so, how can I expect an uneducated person to come off it? I definitely can't. The dividing line between the literate and the educated is becoming clearer now. And why can't we defy this legacy of ours?
We also have an urge to revere. From making temples for film stars to honouring PhDs. with the highest office of our country, we do it all. From blind faith in the multitude of gurus to heinous massacre of hundreds on the basis of religion,we have seen it all. I have always wondered if I could make a Hindu angry by saying that I mistook him for a Muslim. I wonder if, even a small statement like, "you look so much like a muslim friend of mine" to a Hindu would offend him. Deep inside, it probably would because if we look closely, there is a look that many of us endeavour to maintain that identifies us with the flock. It is a basic instinct that makes us form communities. And whether it be the vermilion on our foreheads or the goatees or even modification in our bodies, all of it seeks to provide identity and allegience to a community. We are probably too afraid to be just as we are.
We also lack discipline. That is probably, without doubt, the greatest regret of this country. We can never follow lanes while driving. We can never keep our trains running on time. We always take the other person's time for granted. Now all in the city is spared from dogs and men alike.
But what we do not realise is that discipline is so strongly related to our freedom. Once we lose discipline, we lose a bit of freedom as well. Because we are not disciplined in our adherence to traffic rules, we lose the freedom of managing our time and angrily condemn the government for not making wider roads and enforcing traffic rules. Because we seek to make every erect wall in the city a urinal, we lose the freedom of taking a stroll in the city on foot without drinking in draughts of ammonia.
Finally, though our Prime Minister has said that we are the largest democracy and a responsible nuclear power we are also one of the slowest and most lethargic nations and all for our own idiosyncracies. Again, I must say, it is a marvel that we have reached thus far at all. Hats off to Hind!