This article is about a super-nationalist-lawyer-friend of mine:
February 2016 for Indians has been dramatic, if not gut-wrenching. The media trials of young students without evidence and the display of power right inside and in the front yard of our courts are only a few of the main events.
What is worse is the trend of name calling and labelling that began a few months ago with the ‘intolerant-tolerant’ debate. Lifelong friends from schools, who sat next to each other during Board Exams and maybe whispered an answer or two, without thinking about the other’s religion and political associations, are now thirsty for each other’s blood and abusing each other on Twitter and Facebook.
Caught in the middle of this war was I, and I found something weird and ironical which I’m sharing with you.
I shared the video footage of the lawyers beating up random people outside Patiala House Court and instantly, a school friend, who is now a lawyer, jumped to their defence. Here’s the conversation.
So, no matter what I said, it seemed my friend was not convinced but the tone of his messages became relaxed in the later messages when this friend did not get the same hateful, anger ridden, abusive, emotional and biased responses from me. Rather, I kept my arguments grounded in reason, logic and fairness.
But this is not all that I have to share about my super-nationalist-lawyer-friend.
Last year, one of the social issues I was trying to research was marital rape. Obviously, I contacted my same lawyer friend with my questions.
This conversation with my lawyer friend, who I know for last decade, reminded me of that old conversation.
In the conversation above, neither did my friend shed any clear light on the books they studied in law school, nor any specific information about reform. Nor was the current state of the problem discussed. It all came down to “I’m not socially motivated” and my friend insisted that “I work for fees.”
I totally respect that ‘working for fees’ part. After all, none of us can survive without money. But as citizens of a certain country, or just as human beings, when we restrict our time, faculties and resources only to ‘what’s in it for me’, we are being selfish. We are not the patriots we claim to be. Neither are we the best of humans. And if you need to say that in words, twice, that you are not socially motivated, my question is, what nation do you belong to? What is a nation if not a heap of humans with struggles, problems and cries for help?
I really want to know from you: what is a social cause? What is the issue of untouchability, or women’s oppression, or Dalit oppression? What is poverty, income inequality, access to the justice system, education system, access to proper sanitation, clean water, decent housing and employment opportunities? Aren’t these national issues? How then can we claim to be nationalists when we don’t give a damn about the nation’s issues?
If you work only and only for yourself or your company and never dedicate a second of your time or other resources to any of these social causes above, what kind of a patriot are you? Does chanting political slogans and sharing fake images and selfies make you a nationalist?
I have witnessed this very closely because I was in school just eight years ago. During school, a few of us had the desire to do something for the nation, or humanity, while the rest just wanted to get to high profile posts (not to make a difference in the society, but to satisfy their self-patronising parents who could brag to their friends about their kids travelling to the USA).
As school and college went by, the number of difference makers shrank even further. At the moment, out of the 400 people who grew up with me, there is not one who is even remotely associated with a social cause in any way despite most of them holding prestigious positions as doctors, engineers, lawyers, bankers etc., in India and abroad.
I tremble when I see my friends posting status updates of their latest cars and meals in 5-star hotels but never even give a thumbs up to anything that has a message about erasing poverty in India. If you talk about any social issue, they will instantly label you as ‘boring’ and switch to ‘what gifts did you get on your wedding from your wife’ or ‘what club are we hanging out next weekend’. The income divide is so huge that the children of the upper middle class, the ones who get educated in the most prestigious and expensive institutions of India, are completely oblivious to the struggles of the rest (rare exceptions exist, but there aren’t enough of them). And the reality is so depressing. They don’t want to know about it. They don’t want to talk about it. At most, they might watch the news, despise the government policies (which also is anti-national nowadays) and that’s it.
No wonder Indians ranks a shameful 106th in the global survey of the World Giving Index. One might think it’s because of ubiquitous poverty but looking closely at JNU and many other such issues, it seems that it’s the poor and lower income groups who do a lot more about social causes than the ‘elite class’.
The students of JNU are among those who care. Indian Express covered the home and background of Kanhaiya Kumar, the unfairly arrested student of the JNU. You don’t need some analyst to tell that his passion comes from his humble beginnings. And I compare that with the background of my super wealthy lawyer-nationalist-friend, who has only ever been to expensive private schools and only works for fees.
I’m not the best Indian myself. Rather, I am a regular human being who worries about humanity. A few social causes that hit close to home are the ones that I try to volunteer and fundraise for and write books on because, obviously, I have limited resources and the social issues are endless.
Jumping to name calling is the easiest thing one can do but before we do so, let’s make it clear that chanting ‘Jai Hind’ doesn’t mean you are the best Indian on this land. Similarly, chanting ‘Jihad’ or ‘Kali Mata’, doesn’t make you the ideal Muslim or Hindu either, because ultimately every religion places humanity first.
Featured image courtesy Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee.