Why Blaming Modi Won’t Make India a Better Place for Indian Muslims

Hindu Muslim Unity in India

It’s a trend seen worldwide – to blame the Indian Prime Minister and the country for its alleged mistreatment of Indian Muslims. I say “alleged” because certain journalists present the scenario as such – that all Muslims are being targeted and attacked. This is absurd for someone like me, who stays in the country. I have had NRIs ask me if there are attacks happening 24/7. I had to explain that, no, you won’t see bodies strewn around like in actual war-torn places.

The journalists should stop portraying the situation as such and misleading our diaspora worldwide into believing we are a nation that is constantly rioting.

Yes, some Hindu extremists are attacking Muslims, but then some Muslim extremists are attacking Hindus as well. There is bound to be some form of extremism and violence where there is religion. This is true for all countries. Not everything is Islamophobia. Not everything is Hinduphobia. We should stop flashing our victim cards and start focusing on finding practical solutions to the actual problem India is facing – our disunity.

In India, we have seen religious polarization increasing over the years. Blaming Modi has not made the situation better for Indian Muslims. In fact, the divide has increased. A major culprit is social media. It is now for everyone to see that pointing fingers is not improving the situation. In fact, it ends up agitating the ones who are big supporters of the Prime Minister and may even lead them to become more hostile toward Indian Muslims. These are the people you need to pacify and not agitate further. Similarly, viewing controversial content like the BBC documentary can upset the ones who are not Modi supporters. They will most likely feel more bitterness towards Modi, even if they have never faced discrimination. This, in turn, would make them feel more polarized, distancing themselves further away from fellow citizens who support him. Totally counterproductive. So why are channels like the BBC working so hard to increase this polarization?

Follow Peace, Not Hatred

Modi has been reaching out to Muslim communities to bridge the divide. This is what the country currently needs. All communities should work towards creating a better India. We should hold talks, discussions, and campaigns and use social media to propagate peace, not hatred. We are one, and we should start behaving as one.

Hatemongers on social media are not looking for resolutions, only drama. They use language that is provocative, unfriendly, angry, and violent. Such people are rarely peaceful or solution-oriented. The first thing citizens need to do is unfollow such accounts on social media. Do not share their accusatory content on your feed, either, even if they support your own community. The more hatred you see on your feed and the more you engage with such posts, the more polarized you will feel over time.

Using Nonviolent Communication (NVC)

In my previous post, I talked about Nonviolent Communication (NVC). Wouldn’t the world be better if countries and communities just sat together, lay down their resources, focused on needs, and came to an amicable resolution? But in real life, we resort to violent and judgmental communication like blaming and pointing fingers. No one has become better with violent, critical language. In fact, people become more defensive and non-receptive to what you are saying when you use an accusatory tone.

Focusing on Needs

So, what “needs” should people focus on during conflict resolution? The main thing to understand here is that people who conflict are operating from a place of fear and not anger. People attached to their religion are afraid their community will face discrimination or violence from “others.” When we think about it this way, things make more sense. Fear evokes empathy as opposed to anger. So why not concentrate on talking about that fear and request ways to make each other feel safe? What does the other party want to hear? Listen and give them that assurance. This assurance should be given by authoritative figures. Someone their community will listen to and follow.

How better would the situation be if each warring nation and community acknowledged each other’s fears, empathized, and comforted each other? “You have nothing to fear from us. We treat you as our own.” This phrase can calm the agitated and anxious, provided all communities sincerely work towards it, finding ways to gain each other’s trust.

Avoiding “Us” Vs. “Others” Mentality

It is always “us” vs. “others” instead of “Indians.” This is where the problem lies. To shift our focus outside of the community and to focus on nationality is proving difficult.

If we continue to have this “us” vs. “others” mentality, we will not be able to address our disparities efficiently. For any kind of conflict to be resolved, that feeling of “one” should be inculcated first. Maybe the communities in India should go through counseling sessions like how couples do when they face marital issues. Therapy is the need of the hour. But here, each individual will need to take on the therapist’s role and advise their near and dear ones.

Am I glad the BBC documentary is banned in India? Absolutely. We do not need more agitations or religion-based violence here. We need our people to unite and make India a peaceful place. This cannot be done with hurtful words and allegations from ourselves or the (actual) “others.” We require our communities to actively connect as one. Only then can we work towards building a better India.

An Ode to Nonviolent Communication

Holding Hands - Nonviolent Communication

Happy to announce I am now 100% nonviolent after reading Nonviolent Communication (NVC) by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg.

I am also 100% lying.

Because, like all good things in life, NVC takes effort. And practice. Having just finished the book, I only have an idea of what to say but no practical experience.

Conflict resolution is an interesting topic to me since we have to deal with conflicts in every aspect of our lives. How can we be stern and kind at the same time? How can we get the best out of any situation? Being able to communicate effectively is an art in itself.

I have always taken away something, if not everything, from every book I’ve read – a new kind of awareness. What I took away from this one was to take a moment to step back and focus on needs instead of the more apparent negatives during an argument. It helps with forgiveness. It keeps you calm. So it’s a win-win overall.

What is NVC?

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a practice that must be consciously ingrained in our daily interactions to see results. It includes letting go of your judgments and interacting with the other person to focus on each other’s needs instead of playing the blame game. We attribute violence to physical and mental abuse. But here, the author talks about negative communication as violence too. Things like incessant blaming, judging, silent treatment, and mocking all form a part of violent communication.

So here are some of the key takeaways from the book:

Focusing on needs

The four components of NVC include: what we are observing, feeling, and needing, and what we would like to request to enrich our lives. To summarize, the two parts of NVC are 1) expressing honestly 2) receiving empathically.

Connect your feeling with your need: “I feel.. because I need..”

Something you need to keep repeating to yourself whenever you are agitated. What is it that you need? Focus on each other’s primary emotion (need) instead of lashing out at each other.

Avoiding blame and judgment

Why would people want to tell the truth, knowing they will be judged and punished for doing so?

The more people hear blame and judgment, the more defensive and aggressive they become and the less they will care about our needs in the future. So even if our present need is met in the sense that people do what we want, we will pay for it later.

Makes you think, doesn’t it? Why would someone tell you the truth if they knew they would be misunderstood or shouted at? I feel the more we make someone feel uncomfortable and “dirty” for telling us the truth, the more they will hide it the next time.

Being empathic even with people who hurt you

Blaming is easy. People are used to hearing blame; sometimes they agree with it and hate themselves – which doesn’t stop them from behaving the same way – and sometimes they hate us for calling them names – which also doesn’t stop their behavior. If we sense blame entering their mind, we may need to slow down, go back, and hear their pain for a while more.

NVC stresses hearing the other person a while longer and understanding their feelings before we put forward our requests. Such a method lets the other person relax and be in a proper frame of mind to receive and reciprocate.

Conflict Resolution

The more experience I have gained in mediating conflicts over the years and the more I’ve seen what leads families to argue and nations to go to war, the more convinced I am that most schoolchildren could solve these conflicts. If we could just say, “Here are the needs of both sides. Here are the resources. What can be done to meet these needs?,” conflicts would be easily resolved. But instead, our thinking is focused on dehumanizing one another with labels and judgments until even the simplest of conflicts becomes very difficult to solve. NVC helps us avoid that trap, thereby enhancing the chances of reaching a satisfying resolution.

Why can’t warring countries adopt this methodology, sit together, and discuss resolutions in a non-confrontational way? The world would be a more peaceful place to live in.

An Ode to Taking Fewer Photos and Living in the Moment

Photo by Vlad Cheu021ban

I take a sip of refreshing chai and relish the warmth it brings.

I visit a striking green paradise and breathe in the intoxicating air.

I spend time laughing with my loved ones, engaging in deep conversations.

Time stands still.

I welcome the moment with a big smile, comfortable baggy clothes, and frizzy hair.

All of it, without taking a single photograph to lock the moment.

There’s no pressure to look perfect.

There’s no pressure to get the perfect photographs, angles, filters, and light.

It’s perfect as it is.

In this age of social media, consciously taking a step back to enjoy life has proven therapeutic. It’s a transition that happened naturally for me during the pandemic. A metamorphosis that seeped unconsciously and significantly helped to reduce my anxiety. Along with it came the realization that we don’t have to lock everything in static images or never-ending videos. Sometimes, it’s okay to not record and to take that risk of losing a moment forever. Rest assured, the important things will stick and refuse to detach from you. You don’t really need a camera for that.

The constant pressure of social media, with its likes, shares, and validation, can weaken even the bravest. If our first reaction to a beautiful scenery is to take our phone out and view it through the camera’s lens, rest assured, we are not genuinely engaging. Our mind gets distracted by the constant back-and-forth shuffle between real life and reel life (Instagram or otherwise). The pressure doesn’t end there. Once you post the image, you are then distracted by who liked your pictures and what they commented. Each of these tasks might only take a few seconds. Still, collectively that’s a lot of time wasted navigating away from the present.

Contrary to popular notions, human beings are terrible at multitasking. Our brains are not wired to handle these many distractions. You can get things done, of course, but the overall value would reduce if you indulge in multiple interests simultaneously. Don’t believe me? Try to cut out other sensory reactions when you are listening to music – switch off the lights and engage in your favorite melodies. You will experience it like never before. The vocals and instruments sound sharper, richly intense, and more beautiful, purely because you are only focusing on the music alone and nothing else.

As a New Year resolution, maybe more people should learn to ignore the 24/7 pressure box they hold so tenderly in their hands. You can do more good for your body with this simple act – probably more than a gym membership would be able to.

An Ode to The Street-Savvy Characters of The White Lotus (No Spoilers)

In The White Lotus S2, there are only two types of people – the ones who are street-smart and the ones who are not.

The street-smart ones know how to get their way, even if it’s through unethical means like manipulation, lying, and deceit. “How do you sleep well at night knowing you did this?” doesn’t apply to them. They sleep quite well because, in their world, happiness is correlated with survival, satiation, and goals, not empathy. Due to this, their conscience is clear.

In the real world, we often come across such multi-layered people. The outer layer may be enticing, but the inner layers are complex and dark. It is next to impossible to decode the various layers someone may possess. This is where you take that leap of faith and hope they are worth trusting.

When we get duped, we try to find relief in the thought that the culprits will live their lives in guilt. Or hope karma will eventually get them. Often, it never happens. And that’s what the White Lotus S2 shows – the brutal reality of it all. No one is shown guilty. Or maybe they do, for a second, before the realization dawns on them that their dreams have now been fulfilled. They walk into the sunset hand-in-hand with their partners-in-crime, forgetting the sins of the past and awaiting a sparkling future.

The naive ones, who say and do all the right things, get played and left behind. The only positive aspect of their experience is that they are one step closer to being streetwise.

When the good guys lose, you understand that the universe doesn’t owe anyone anything. It’s up to each of us to subject ourselves to vast experiences and come out of them better equipped to deal with the eccentricities of the world.