Not just Kanhaiya or Rajdeep, all of us Indians are anti-national

Let’s not rush to pronounce judgment on others before first looking at ourselves in the mirror.
I agree that what Kanhaiya Kumar and his associates did at JNU is debatable, questionable and condemnable. I also agree that the way the Modi Sarkar is handling the issue is debatable, questionable and condemnable. I agree further that Rajdeep Sardesai’s definition of who may be an ‘anti-national’ is set in the context of the political and constitutional debate that rages on in the country.
But what about you and me – the millions on social media who are passing judgment on Kanhaiya, NaMo, Rajdeep and whoever else? How national and patriotic are you and I?
I believe the right way to define a true national and patriot is someone who does not – violate traffic rules, drink and drive, pay a bribe, watch pirated content online, evade taxes, avoid voting, throw garbage on the streets or circumvent the process of law in any manner. I can add a few more criteria but even at the most basic level, a large part of our population will fail on at least one of these fronts. For instance, in Chennai, we have a High Court ruling that bans the riding of two-wheelers – by both the driver and the pillion rider – without helmets. And yet everyone, including my own daughter, rides without a helmet. We have a High Court ruling again in Chennai saying autos must ply by metered fare only. But neither do auto-drivers follow that ruling, nor do we users follow it – including me, everyone pays over the meter. So, technically, we are flouting the law, aren’t we? I must confess I have paid bribes – to Train Ticket Examiners, to traffic cops, postmen and linemen from BSNL and the Electricity Board – in a past Life. I don’t both have the means or the intent any more to pay bribes but that does not absolve me of my anti-national past. And, sadly, most Indians watch pirated movie content online. In every way that tantamounts to stealing of intellectual property – simply, it is theft. And that’s a crime as defined by a designated law in our country.
If all this isn’t anti-national, what is? We have this very glorified, holier-than-thou attitude which makes us believe that anyone acting against the interests of the country in matters concerning national secrets or acts of violence alone is ant-national. Any action against national interest – in any respect – is anti-national. Period. So, if you don’t dispose of your garbage responsibly – which 99 % Indian’s don’t do – you are anti-national. If you drink and drive – which most Indians almost always do – you are anti-national. If you pay a bribe – which every Indian does – you are anti-national. If you don’t wear a seat belt and/or speak on your mobile while driving, you are endangering your Life and the lives of several others – and that, clearly, is being anti-national!
Truly, therefore, in some manner or the other, every Indian, wittingly or unwitting, acts against the interests of India. It is because of our collective lack of righteousness that our country’s poor continue to get poorer, that our politicians continue to be more brazen and corrupt and our country wallows (continuously) in the cesspool of ‘developing nations’.

In the Bowl of Saki, a guide for everday living, Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882~1927), teacher of Universal Sufism, says: “We are very good lawyers for our own mistakes, but very good judges for the mistakes of others.” What he means is that we must stop justifying (advocating) our actions and judging others and instead judge ourselves first. So, my dear fellow anti-nationals, let’s stop opinionating and preaching on social media. Be it Kanhaiya or NaMo or Rajdeep or whoever, let’s look into the mirror first!
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Comparisons get no one anywhere

Learn not to compare people or yourself with others. Know that everyone’s Life design, including yours, is unique.
The other day we were at dinner at a friend’s place. The conversation veered around the new Indian Super League that features football clubs from across the country competing in a never-before format. Someone wanted to know who owned the club from Chennai – Chennaiyin FC. When she was told that it was co-owned by the Bollywood star Abhishek Bachchan (AB Jr) she remarked sarcastically, “Now that he’s not doing well in films, he has taken to sports, is it?”
She then went on to berate AB Jr: “He’s not a patch on his legendary father. His father is such an iconic star. This guy pales in comparison.”

I am not going to defend AB Jr, though I must confess that I like him. People do have mixed views about him and his work – just as they do of any film actor. I believe, for instance, in Mani Ratnam’s Yuva (2004) and Guru (2007), AB Jr was exceptional. And he has been consistently good in several other films – although many of them have not been very successful at the Box Office. I haven’t met him personally but I know several people who have worked with him – and all of them uniformly attest that he is an exceptionally warm, friendly person, a livewire on the sets and a thorough professional. Indeed, AB Sr, the venerable Amitabh Bachchan, is a Super Star. And he is light years ahead in the business – not just ahead of his son, but of almost everyone else! So I wonder why we must compare father and son – and, therefore, constantly judge AB Jr with a clear, unavoidable bias toward his father?
All of us have this urge to compare ourselves with others and others with still others. Comparisons lead us to one of two outcomes – a superiority complex or an inferiority complex. Both outcomes are manifestations of the ego. The truth is that you compare yourself with others because you are egoistic. So, if you stop comparing, you will have effectively dropped the ego.
Osho, the Master, asks us to learn from nature. He cites the example of a man standing in front of a tall tree and saying that he feels small. There are so many small trees and shrubs around this tall tree – but they don’t express their “smallness”. They simply go on living, swaying in the wind and co-existing in the presence of the tall tree. Why does this man alone feel small in front of the tall tree? Osho tells us that only we, humans, compare. And that’s because we allow our egos to lead us. Similarly, we are the only species who judge others. A is better than B. B is inferior to C. AB Jr is not as good as his father. NaMo is better than Manmohan Singh. Shoba De is better than Arundhati Roy. And on and on we go. Passing judgment. Comparing people. And presiding over our ill-informed, half-baked opinions – reassuring ourselves that we are the most important specimen in our species.
Comparing yourself with others and feeling superior leads you to insecurity, and through that to suffering – because you never want to lose that social (superior) status. Comparing yourself with others and feeling inferior leads you to suffering because you are constantly pining to become something or someone that you are not. Bottomline – in either case, you are inviting suffering into your Life. You must realize that no matter how hard you compare yourself with others or judge others in comparison with others, comparisons have absolutely no use. You will be who you are. And people you compare yourself – or others – with will be who they are. Comparisons, therefore, are a total waste of time and precious personal energy. They get no one anywhere.

The intelligent way to live is to know who you are and simply be at peace with yourself. And even if you don’t know who you are, just being at peace with the way you are, avoiding comparing yourself with others, is the way to be! 

Be unruffled, be who you are

Don’t bother about what others have to say about you. Let them say what they want to. You simply be yourself.   
Dr. Manmohan Singh and Ms.Gursharan Kaur
at NaMo’s swearing-in ceremony
Picture Coutesy: Internet
Yesterday’s swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi and his team was indeed a great moment in Indian history. Such a grand, peaceful transfer of power in the largest democracy in the world – it made me feel very proud as an Indian. I was particularly inspired by the outgoing Prime Minister (PM) Dr.Manmohan Singh’s demeanor. He was cool, calm and cheerful. The whole nation had ridiculed him and continued to do so, even as the live TV telecast of yesterday’s ceremony was on. For instance, Suhel Seth, socialite and strategic brand advisory Counselage’s founder, thundered on NDTV, “For God’s sake, for 10 years, we had a PM who did nothing!”. Such exaggerations have been a consistent feature of all political commentaries during Dr.Singh’s tenure as PM. Yet, barring a couple of times, Dr.Singh has never deemed it necessary to clarify. I am not here to moderate a debate on whether Dr.Singh was an effective PM or not, or appraise whether he fell abysmally short on communicating with the people of India, or even comment on whether his leadership of the various crises his government and the country faced was good enough. All I am seeing as a learning here is that he remains unruffled by others’ opinion of him. To the extent that he graciously participated in the handover of his office – without even letting a glimpse be evident of the gloom that has enveloped his party and erstwhile council of ministers, thanks to the mauling they received in the just-concluded elections.
Now to be able to stay true to yourself – no matter what others say – well, that’s a phenomenal quality.
Contrast this with how sometimes you – and I – get bogged down by others’ opinion. In fact, if you observe yourself closely, you are most of the time working hard to conform to  other people’s opinions of you. What you wear, where you live, what you drive, where you dine – everything is dictated by a societal norm and you, just as everyone else, fears any deviation.
Some years back I met a Sanskrit scholar and yogi, attached to one of the five seats of vedic learning in India. He knew I had worked at one time with India Today. He wanted to know if I could help him get into the “famed” ‘India Today Power List” that the magazine brings out annually. Now, here was a man, whom ministers feared. Actors and industrialists revered him. Yet, he was craving to be in listed in a social pecking order? I asked him why. He replied, “Saar, it doesn’t matter who I am. What matters is who I am compared with.” This is what’s happening to everyone. The Times of India this morning carries a story titled: “Who sat where; the ‘other’ pecking order” – in reference to where celebrities sat among the 5000-member audience at Modi’s swearing in. Apart from personal comfort – of either viewing or traveling – it does not matter where you sit in an event or an auditorium or on a plane. To me, most of the 5000 people in attendance at the Forecourt of the Rashtrapathi Bhavan yesterday were uncomfortable – sheerly because of their choice of clothing. In the 38-degree-plus heat of a summer evening in Delhi, people were wearing suits and bandhgalas and silks sarees and full-sleeved designer clothes. These people would have been better of thinking about how they were feeling than worry about where they were seated!
Indian society, in particular New Delhi’s power class, holds you hostage to pride and prejudice. You become the dumping ground for people’s opinions of you. You then try to be many things to many people. And, in the process, sadly, lose your own identity. People praise you, praise you dress sense, applaud you for where you live – and immediately you have become a victim. You are now a hostage to their opinion. You cannot live any other way. Then, as will always happen in Life, your business fails or you lose something – power or position – and people don’t want to have anything with you. And you start grieving that loss of social acceptance more than what you have lost in real terms. You are driven by what other people think of you than who you really are. This way you have become society’s slave, imprisoned by your own insecurities and craving for social acceptance!
But the one who does not think much of others’ opinions is free. Such a person is fearless of societal branding – aware that just as when society can pin a label, an opinion – let us say enormous praise over something genuinely well done – it can also take off the label when there’s a drop in performance. Pretty much, perhaps, like in Dr.Singh’s case. Neither success nor defeat affects such a person. Nor does praise or criticism. Such a person always responds to all that is said – good, bad, ugly – of him or her with a, “Thank You! It does not matter. I am who I am.” This equanimity is what leads to inner peace!

What I have learnt from the NaMo Wave

The biggest lesson I glean from Elections 2014 is “acceptance”.  

I am not a Narendra Modi fan. Simply, I cannot relate to someone, however brilliant he may be as an administrator, who used religion to build both his party and himself. But this is a verdict that my country’s people have given emphatically. And I can do nothing to change that. So, the best way forward, I discover through my awareness, in such a scenario, is to accept what is and simply move on.

A lot of our problems and miseries come from wanting people and situations to be different from what they are. The moment we drop the “wanting” and accept a situation for what it is or a person for who she or he is, we are instantaneously at peace with ourselves and with everyone else. We often fail to realize that in our wanting people or situations to be different, we are actually letting our ego play up. We are saying that we know better than others how they should be leading their lives or doing things.

Cartoon Courtesy: India Today/Internet
For instance, as the election results started coming in yesterday, my ego told me that the people of India were making a mistake. My issue was no longer with Modi. It was with the people of India. I was alarmed that we were handing over power to someone charged with genocidal racism. Whenever I am disturbed I have learnt to drop anchor and be silent. When I reflected on whatever was happening with the election results, I realized that I was being unduly paternalistic about the situation. Who am I to tell the people of India what to do? They are informed and responsible enough to have done what they did. My awareness again helped me conclude that there was no point in resisting the reality. The people of India had either decided to overlook Modi’s credentials on a key aspect like secularism or they had backed his very ideology that I was uncomfortable with. Every which way, they had voted for change, voted for Modi and he is now our new leader. When this reality sunk in, I simply accepted it. I even wrote on my facebook wall wishing Modi and his A-Team all the best. With that acceptance, I found myself immensely peaceful, within.

Acceptance is not resignation though. And I want to clarify this. Resignation has a quality of discomfort to it. It is really about not being able to do anything about a situation that you hate. So, you resign to it. But there’s no scope for hatred in acceptance. Acceptance is really a celebration of the way people and things are. It reasons that while Life is imperfect it is also beautiful. When you accept imperfections in you, around you, your Life can only be beautiful. Because you are not complaining anymore. Or wishing or hoping or wanting that things were different.

So, the day after the resounding mandate, I am seeing, through my acceptance of my country’s new reality, the beauty of it all. For the first time in over 30 years, someone will lead India with a complete majority. And even if half of what he has managed to get done in Gujarat (I have seen it first hand and have great admiration for what has been accomplished there in the past decade) can be implemented across India, we will be a different, and a far improved, nation. Just as I have accepted the way I am, I have accepted the way my country men and women are, the way our new reality is, and I hope, we will all enjoy, despite the imperfections that abound, the development and governance that’s been promised!