Practising what we preach, are we?

Updated: Jan 11, 2020, 07:42 IST | Lindsay Pereira | Mumbai

Indians like to give the world advice about life, peace and a lot more. It’s sad that we don't seem to believe in following them ourselves

We Indians love to talk about peace and Ahimsa. But where was the peace and Ahimsa when students were being attacked and police paid to serve and protect the public were wielding lathis on unarmed folk. Representation pic/AFP
We Indians love to talk about peace and Ahimsa. But where was the peace and Ahimsa when students were being attacked and police paid to serve and protect the public were wielding lathis on unarmed folk. Representation pic/AFP

Lindsay PereiraClichés about what it means to be an Indian continue to sprout across the world like mushrooms in dark places. It sometimes feels that this has always been the case, was even centuries before The Beatles turned to our shores for dubious advice. For years now, we have revelled in our non-existent sense of superiority about how we approach life. We promote meditation, vegetarianism, a healthy respect for life, and swamis in white robes, who can supposedly share secrets of the universe to anyone who pays them well.

I'm sick of it though. I don't buy the narrative, wholeheartedly reject the sustained PR campaigns, and am willing to go out on a limb to declare that Indians are possibly the least peaceful human beings on earth. It's obvious, at every corner of every single street, that we have an anger management problem. It manifests itself in the horns we uncaringly blare outside schools and hospitals, the shoving that comes naturally even when there aren't that many people to push through, the high decibels at which we shove our religious beliefs down the throats of those around us, and the cuss words and threats we distribute like confetti.

The West has always had a distorted idea of what India is like, primarily because so many of us love propping up that doctored image. For instance, the myth of vegetarianism conveniently ignores the fact that approximately 80 per cent of Indians consume meat. A number of studies have repeatedly shown how official data about food consumption is considerably under reported because our food habits are almost always caught up in one of the million cultural or political issues. Here's a shocking statistic: only 6 per cent residents of Chennai are vegetarian, while 75 per cent in Punjab follow vegetarian diet. If this doesn't turn everything we thought we knew about food on its head, what will?

Then there's that joke about how we are god-fearing, warm and hospitable people. We may be warm, but our warmth towards foreigners and strangers is directly proportional to the colour of their skin, something conveniently left out of the guidebooks and blogs we publish. We may be welcoming, but students from African nations may not necessarily testify to that, thanks to our eagerness to label them as drug-traffickers, often without proof. That warmth also magically evaporates when it comes to renting out our properties to single parents, people of different faith or religion that isn't compatible with our own peace-loving beliefs.

We can talk about peace too, or Ahimsa, and how we love lecturing the West about our commitment to follow both. Nothing about our country is peaceful, because all the peaceful spots have long been taken away from us. Nothing about our country is non-violent either, and the last weeks of 2019 have showed us just that. Where was the peace and Ahimsa when students were being attacked, buses were being burnt, and the police that are paid to serve and protect the public were wielding lathis on unarmed folk? Our commitment to peace is paper-thin and disintegrates the minute we step out in public. That's why we rage against neighbours, think nothing of assaulting strangers and intimidate anyone and everyone if it helps get our job done. We don't opt for peace because the concept of calm has always eluded us.

There is something deeply rotten in the fabric of Indian society that allows us to condone murder and violence against the weakest among us. If we really did value life and treated each other as manifestations of the divine, we would have been horrified by the kind of place we live in now. Our silence indicts us. We have voices, but fail to raise them when it matters, and we would certainly pay a price for being mute spectators.

It is naive to assume that we will change anything about ourselves. History has offered us a thousand lessons that we continue to ignore, to our peril. Like moths to a flame, we continue to damage ourselves, falling for the same parlour tricks and accepting the same narratives that vested interests use against us like clockwork. It is probably what has always made our country such a pushover for any power — foreign or local — that knows what buttons to push. Our history books are the testament to that; it has told us how we were divided by our rulers. Unfortunately, not many of us read.

When he isn't ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper

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