How do you stay sane in our beloved, insane, Incredible India?
Sonu Nigam’s point about “forced religiousness”, being woken up by azaan (the Islamic call to prayer), had me thinking. I too support the view that in a country like India where we have been secular and plural in our culture for centuries, we cannot be waylaid by hysterical, loud expressions of religion. But this is India. Every street corner has a temple or a mosque or some place of worship. And all year round some festival or tradition gets the high-priests of religion in each neighborhood to champion their God, and more so their clout, to gain mileage for their communities. The loudspeaker on the Indian street is a ubiquitous fixture – it is like stray dogs and cattle or garbage – how can we ever get rid of these? And we certainly can’t expect intelligent discourse on this matter by tweeting to express ourselves. Not with the trolling janta lying in wait to pounce on you and shred you the moment you utter a word or make a point that holds up a mirror to them or that’s inconvenient for them to accept.
And this is not about religion or freedom of expression alone. This is not just about one’s right to peace and privacy either.
It is about the insane Indian culture that declares that hum-toh-aise-hain-bhaiyya, we-are-like-this-only, in the way we conduct ourselves in public. Where there are a million stimuli that assault your senses when you walk the streets. Where every solution in public interest has a thousand problems popping up to prevent or delay its implementation. Where there is scant respect for an individual’s right to privacy and dignity in public spaces. Where sound, fury and mob behavior rule the roost in everything online surely – but hold us hostage on our streets as well. Where we are, as a people, irreverent, insensitive and uncouth about the way we walk, talk to each other or into our mobile phones, park, drive, dispose garbage, relieve ourselves, stand in queues or walk our pets. Where the very way in which we are Indian today demands a review, a critique and repair.
So, how do you stay sane and anchored in our beloved, insane, Incredible India?
The answer is pretty simple – breathe deeply, take it easy, let go and move on. India is not a spiritual country anymore in the sense that it once may have been hundreds of years ago. But India offers you the ability to turn deeply spiritual. If you respond to every provocation that you receive here on our streets, from your neighborhood, from the way you are governed to the way you are transported, you will lose your sanity. And if you try to protest, or if you want to strive to drive change in public behavior and attitude, you will be pounced upon, shredded, trampled on and soon left, battered, beaten, licking your wounds. So, the only way out is to steel yourself.
Practice detached determination. Be clear about what change you want to see around you. Be that change yourself first. But be detached – don’t whine, don’t lament, don’t preach, don’t indulge in activism. Fight the system, legally, constitutionally, if you will, but without expectations. Train yourself to focus only on your efforts and never on the outcomes. Which is why I feel everyday living in India offers you a great spirituality opportunity. To be in this world – and yet be above it! To be shaken, but not stirred!! To be touched perhaps, but not moved!!!
And in case you are not inclined to fight the good fight, if you are not the sort that wants to contribute to saving or changing a system, then just practice plain, good ‘ol detachment. Again, don’t fret or fume, don’t lament or complain, and don’t offer perspective on the rot, any rot, if you are not contributing to fix it yourself.
I am not being defeatist here. I am not even saying India is beyond redemption. A billion+ Sonu Nigams must bloom for change to happen…until then…all I am saying is, here’s an opportunity to train yourself spiritually – to be detached, to be determined in a quiet way, to drop anchor and be peaceful within you first. When you turn peaceful, you conserve energy – that you may well deploy in your fight, in case you plan to take one up. And even if you don’t (want to) fight, when you are at peace, your world immediately ceases to agitate you!