I’m going to put it right out there – I’m not a fan of Modi. Given what happened under his rule in Gujarat, and how divisive several of his policies have been, I don’t agree with him and I don’t like him.
And given our new-age media, that tends to show us news, related to our existing beliefs, so as to make us feel like the whole world agrees with us, lately, I’ve been coming across a lot of anti-Modi posts. Most of them are warranted. The economy is struggling. The CAA-NRC is discriminatory at too many levels. And generally, the country is a mess.
But there’s one criticism of Modi that I find myself disagreeing with, and that’s the use of the term ‘chaiwallah’.
Factually, it’s not incorrect. Modi did sell chai when he was young, so I’m not disagreeing with the accuracy of the claim. What I disagree with is using the term ‘chaiwallah’ as an insult.
Because if ‘chaiwallah‘ is an insult, then you’re basically insulting every single person out there who sells tea. And along with them, you’re also insulting all the people who take whatever job they can get, to make ends meet, and support their families: basically, a large portion of our population.
It’s an insult based on class, and it’s not a far jump from the insults we’re already used to hearing, based on caste or religion.
I know. It’s hard to fathom that a person who used to sell tea, and whose educational credentials are up in the air, is now the Prime Minister of the nation. Growing up, I used to wonder why there were no ‘educational criteria’ for politicians.
But honestly, having been part of our education system for all these years, I no longer feel that I can place a high degree of trust in educational credentials. You can have the most educated of men committing rape and other heinous crimes. And you can have the most ‘uneducated’ people showing utmost kindness or giving the best guidance you could hope to get. The seal of an education degree doesn’t often add much to you as a human, except an item on your resume.
Moreover, while we like to think of education as a right, in reality, it’s a commodity to be purchased. And only people coming from a certain amount of class privilege can afford to purchase it. I don’t mean to insult anyone who feels proud of the education they’ve received, and worked hard to get, but my point is that the education we boast of is a privilege. And to look down on someone because they were unable to afford this privilege is unfair. Especially if it’s coming from a group of people who claim to be fighting for an equitable and just society.
As much as I disagree with Modi, I’m actually proud that our country gave a “chaiwallah” the opportunity to become the Prime Minister of the nation. It’s the one part of his story that I actually find inspiring.
Critique Modi. Critique his policies. It’s our right and our duty. But don’t bring your criticism down to the level of attacking him for once being poor, because that’s not so far from insulting someone on the basis of religion or caste.
He was a “chaiwallah”.
That’s a fact. It shouldn’t become an insult.