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 Rewatching Movies

A still from Wake Up Sid

It was an irregular day in my life. I had not watched any new movies or tv series in the last 4-5 days on any of the OTT platforms I had religiously subscribed to. This is huge, considering I never went a day without new content.

I realized the moment you subscribe to something, your mentality shifts in that direction of wanting to make the most out of it. You want to get your money’s worth. And once things turn into a habit, there’s no looking back. OTT platforms had become a habit. Not watching new movies or series in the last few days didn’t stop me from zealously adding new items to my watchlist, but I wasn’t tempted to start any. Was it saturation? Was I tired of the new?

Out of the blue last night, I felt like rewatching a 2009 Hindi movie – Wake Up Sid. I remember loving it the first time I watched it. I did not remember any of the dialogues. I only vaguely remembered the feeling it gave me back then – the mushy, soft, warm kind. I was curious whether I would feel the same way again. So rewatch the movie, I did.

It’s a rarity nowadays to watch a movie twice, mainly because you are subjected to many choices. Why go for the old when you can make way for the new? With the rise of OTT platforms, we have more on our platter. We add items to our watchlist, just like a shopping cart. We start multiple movies or tv shows and taste a bit of each, just like a buffet. Movie watching is no longer an immersive experience. It feels like a chore we need to finish quickly because we are already eyeing another.

There was a time when we used to watch and rewatch our favorite stories. By the time we were done, we were able to crack dialogues in the movie as effortlessly as the actors themselves. I do not remember lyrics or movie dialogues nowadays, but that’s understandable. Things stick only when there’s repetition.

I feel when we have more choices, we tend to become confused. Human nature is such that we are tempted to try everything readily available. Nowadays, surrendering yourself to one experience has become rare. There’s a mishmash of multiple experiences that you are driven to partake in simultaneously.

I couldn’t stop smiling while watching Wake Up Sid. The emotions are all contemporary, very now. It has aged like fine wine. Everything in the movie from 13 years back is still relevant today – the angst of a man who’s disinterested in regular office work, his journey to understand himself and his goals, and gradually falling in love with a passionate, ambitious woman. A woman who says with conviction that she’s not interested in him but her actions and expressions prove otherwise. Sid is very relatable, and so is Aisha. When the characters fall in love, you end up falling for them too. Their charm is such. The magic of good storytelling is such.

We don’t make such movies anymore. Is it because love stories are nowadays made with the male gaze in mind, or is the female gaze less fashionable? I doubt it’s the latter.

Would I get back to any of the movies released nowadays ten years or maybe twenty years from now? Would I sit and rewatch with a smile or cringe at the corniness of it all? Only time can tell. I think it’s about time our Hindi filmmakers resumed making feel-good movies again — so that the romantics, like me, have a decent movie to cuddle up to on a dreary, overworked weekday night.

Being a Loner in an Extroverted World

Photo by RF._.studio

I have always been a private person, much to the chagrin of my friends.

In distress, as far as possible, I prefer to process my situation without involving a second person. Venting and ranting bring relief to many, but I regain my composure by pondering over my issues – the ifs, buts, and whys. Of course, this is not always healthy because I end up bottling my emotions and eventually bursting like a volcano.

I have lost friends or faced misunderstandings because people could not understand my introversion. I was never rude to anyone, but I simply could not find the energy to pick up the phone and keep in touch. This would upset those who expected more from me and wished to be in sync with my private life. Being a single woman, everyone is curious to know whom I’m dating, why I’m dating him, and what my future plans are with him. I find this intrusive, even if well-intentioned. Maybe I have no future plans with him, but would they understand that? Mostly no. To add to that, I never found the need to discuss my life events, scrutinize them, or share every little info with friends. I find the process exhausting and find it difficult to manage many friends as I get older. I am good as long as I have one listening, non-judging ear. Yes, even we loners wish to be heard sometimes.

In friendship, I realize that communicating regularly helps build a deep connection. This is why extroverts have many close friends. Keeping in touch comes naturally to them. The more friends they have and the more socializing they do, the more fulfilled they feel. Loners, like me, prefer to have that one good friend, with whom we can talk without restraint. We want to invest our energy wisely without draining out. This may give us an impression of aloofness as we are not actively seeking new friends.

What I find uncomfortable about discussing my life is that most would expect a follow-up story. If timely updates are not shared, questions arise. It is why numerous anonymous posts asking for advice are seen on Reddit. There are issues you are wary of telling your friends and family, no matter how close you are to them. You want to talk about them, but without the responsibility of being answerable to anyone in the future. I don’t have a problem sharing my life events, but it’s the questions thereafter I have an issue with – because you never know when they will stop.

My hesitation is not entirely inherent. I cannot put the whole blame on nature. It is part contrived as well. Experience has taught me that some things are better left unspoken. Recently, I let go of my inhibitions and, in a state of vulnerability, told a few friends at a party about my brother-in-law’s infidelity. I was feeling disoriented and needed someone to confide in desperately. I regret it now because what I did in the process of revealing something private was enable my friends to openly judge my sibling’s life, probably till the end of time. My brother-in-law and sister sorted out their problems, but the judgments did not stop. It is difficult to forgive and forget a terrible event in your life when there’s someone constantly reminding you about it. “My brother-in-law took my sister out for dinner.” “Oh, is it? (smirks and eye-rolling ensue)“. After facing the judgments, you hesitate to share your issues if you know there’s a remote chance that the situation might improve later. And what happens when you stop talking about such intimate parts of your life? Friendships become stale.

Self-reliance can be a boon as it teaches you to be independent, but it’s a bane if you wish to establish a solid network. I love to keep to myself most of the time but also love sharing ideas. These conflicting interests can prove overwhelming at times.

I sometimes envy extroverts. They come fully equipped into a world exclusively built for them. While they start life from ground zero, introverts have to start from minus 10. Introverts reach ground zero sometime later in life when they begin to understand the art of faking extroversion. Being an introvert, socializing never came easy. I have now learned to put up a façade of extroversion to please the people I love and work with, but I end up exhausted by the end of the day. I would wait to get back home and be myself. Finding a partner, who gets my true self, is difficult. They usually fall for the extroverted side I reserve for the world and back off as soon as they learn I am not all that. I have been called “weird” for not liking parties and being quiet. But now I am in a space where I get the solitude I need and a partner who is comfortable with my solitude.

According to Susan Cain’s Quiet, most introverts develop this dual personality to keep up with the extroverted world around them. Society expects them to be outgoing, jovial, and giving – such energy consumers for the quiet. It might be impossible for an extrovert to understand how much energy goes into socializing because mingling comes naturally to them. When the whole world is geared towards extroversion in all forms of life, an introvert has no choice but to conform and act as if they fit right in.

The Unseen, The Unheard

Anthem
Photo by Jatin Baghel

An anthem that exudes unity,

Of being one,

Brothers and sisters of the same soil.

But the words are empty,

As meaningless as a liar’s embrace.

As hurtful as a kin’s animosity.

As rancid as a forgotten fruit.

The unseen, the unheard,

Took over humanity,

Over love, compassion, empathy,

Burning them to dust.

Any wonder why hope is lost each day?

Why hearts break so easily?

Why fires light up hastily?

Why words tremble feebly?

We see more harm than good,

More violence than peace,

More hatred than love,

More you than ours.

More “you” than “ours.”

Eyes burn with hope,

Waiting wistfully for the day,

Humanity wins,

Love wins,

We win.

Over the unseen, unheard.