A few days ago, while riding my bike back home, I nearly escaped a collision with another other bike, rode by some boys, one of who was the younger brother of my school friend. I recognized him immediately, but he didn’t. and started abusing me as soon as our bikes got stable and gauged the situation around us. The boy did all this in great enthusiasm in the middle of the road. My immediate response to him was an apology, even though I am not sure I was the one who was at fault. I also offered him a handshake and tried to pacify him by saying, “Aage se nahi hoga, bhai (This won’t happen again)”, much to his surprise. This reaction was entirely new to him. He didn’t even accept my apology or extend his hand. He simply said, “Agle baar hua toh theek nahi hoga (It’s not okay if it happens again).”
The whole incident didn’t bother me until the day I witnessed Narendra Modi’s passiveness to Rahul Gandhi’s famous ‘across the sides walk’ to hug the Prime Minister in the parliament. Gandhi asked the Prime Minister to stand up, to which the latter didn’t even react to. In spite of Modi’s cold behavior, Gandhi went ahead and hugged him, creating a special event in the history of Indian politics.
Just before this hug, Gandhi had given a No Confidence motion speech and destroyed the lens through which the majority of the Indian population looks at him. He spoke extensively about the inefficiency of the Modi government in the various areas, and guided the house on a trek to the mountain of false promises that the BJP had made in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. In his speech Gandhi mentioned that his ability to ignore the hatred against him was the essence of the Congress Party. He went a step further and said, “I am Congress.” He also mentioned that he would turn this hatred into love for the RSS and BJP. Saying this he concluded his speech and went ahead for the ‘final show of the day’, the hug.
Narendra Modi’s gesture reminds me of my friend’s brother who abused me. It shows the huge room people have created in their hearts to battle hatred. It also raises question about humane values and how it benefits us to first think about each other as humans, and not as members of a political party, age group, caste, or and gender. Modi’s indifference raises further questions about the kind of leader he is, or what he wants the public to acknowledge him as. The incident forces me to think that my prime minister is a leader of a crowd that gets aggressive quite easily and is ready to pick a fight without cause. It also highlights the fact that Modi is unprepared for events that are not scripted. It took him a hug and a few seconds to realise what happened in the last two minutes of the Parliament session. Why are our leaders and our people not ready to hug each other or shake hands, in spite of heated decisions?
Many people have come forward and criticised Gandhi for what he did; they say he crossed a limit. From the time I’ve had a political understanding, I’ve seen Modi damaging Gandhi’s integrity with his words. I’ve seen him speak rubbish about Gandhi’s mother, who herself is a seasoned politician. In spite of all this Gandhi chose to hug his opponent in front of the whole house, sending out a strong message to the world: ‘I am human first’.
And yes, as far as that wink is concerned. I winked every time I apologised for a mistake I committed in school.