India needs thugs

And an Independence day speech critical of uncontrolled freedom...

I am under no illusions about not living in a bubble. My current universe is a white-collar shop floor + my social media + digi-verse bubble.

My stakes are fairly low. I don’t have to think about not having the next meal or being able to pay the rent for the coming month. Neither am I directly affected (yet) by large global problems of big pharma, water scarcity or personal safety. Yet, like the turd that I am, I whinge about things.

The thing with bubbles is that they can get quite cozy. Your mind on a la-z-boy. And when you pull them out of it - your brain is like a Panda in the middle of KR Puram junction.

The other

I spent the long republic-day weekend back home in Coimbatore. Between religious rituals, the usual generation-gap related friction, pulling out defense for the decision on not making a baby and eating good food, there were some real moments. Overall mood: Happy and slightly uncomfortable. The happy part is from all the time I spend with my parents. The uncomfortable parts are the areas where our world view diverged drastically.  

Mass hallucination is the general state of human-dom. People get elected on it, wars start, religions grow, celebrities emerge and movements and revolutions begin. The wildest and most powerful hallucinogen on the planet is Fear. Anger is also pretty good but has the side effect of some nasty trips. Hope is a feel good buzz. 

Purveyors of hallucination - an incomplete list:

  • Religious men

  • Motivational speakers

  • Your social bubble - old friends, colleagues and family

  • People of your age group, color, caste, religion, etc. 

  • Politicians

  • Celebrities

Pick sides, filter your sources of information and soon you’ll have a deluge of reinforcing messages. Algorithms will do the filtering for you.

My bubble has formed over the last 10+ years. Stepping out of home, finding new types of people, getting married, traveling and seeing things as myself and not as an extension of my parents has partially helped me build my own bubble. The Internet and social media has played a big part too.

In any case, our bubbles increasingly don’t overlap.  I have different answers to fundamental questions than my parents:

  • How to live?

  • Role (or lack thereof) of Babies

  • Religion

  • Modi

  • What is art? 

  • What is work?

  • What is a good time to wake up in the morning?

In each of these topics, I realized that I am one of the “other” that my parents refer to. When I say parents, it’s mostly my dad. My mom, as moms generally tend to be, is way more chilled out in these things. But my dad and I have such fundamental different views on some of these topics (fodder for another day) that its best to do the south-Indian thing of nudging these pesky topics under the carpet and instead relish some thenkuzhal (see below).

India needs thugs

I can’t believe how many people are angling for fascism openly. Forget religion for a second. I discovered a vicious glee at the thought of a fascistic dictator ruling us all during the visit to one of my relatives.

The conversation began pleasant enough - stories from our trip to Japan and small talk about the weather, furniture and whatever else popped into consciousness. Just then, the same quantum physics that injects stupid ideas into my head, made me utter the words Kashmir and Modi. I may have made a face saying that second name that could also be interpreted as me having severe acidity. 

Matchstick into napalm.

Image result for napalm

What resulted was a tirade on how the younger generation was completely brainwashed by vested interests into thinking that Modi and BJP were bad. 

Sample statements from the conversation:

“You haven’t lived during the emergency. Reporters were jailed.” 

“Everyone is just looting off the J&K issue without actually resolving it” 

“Modi is what India needs”  

That last statement is actually incomplete. It kinda gave me a chill. His exact words were, 

“Modi and Amit Shah may be thugs but that is exactly what India needs” 

You can’t argue any further.

Can only do so much freedom

The independence day visit to home also exposed me to the quaint tradition of flag hoisting. Normally, I am agnostic to symbolic displays of patriotism. But I was also curious re-discover the vibe of a community flag-hoisting event - just to see how it had changed.  

The standard SOP was followed. Everyone assembled in good clothes. A flag pole was decorated with flowers. A suitable flag hoisting candidate had been picked. As always it was a symbol of power and hierarchy. Male, check. Older than 50, check. Has a title that says he’s the boss (In this case the president of the apartment association), check. He pulls the rope (ably assisted by a guy who set it up and ensures that there is no snag). The flag reaches the destination, unfurls like a wrinkly tissue. Some petals spill over and the wind which was blowing all this while decides to stop completely and the flag hangs limp. Claps followed by Jana Gana Mana. Post the anthem, it’s speech time. Then there could be some attempts to do ‘cultural’ activities (I say attempts because it doesn’t always succeed) like singing, playing an instrument or ‘decent’ dancing. At this point, everyone is waiting for what comes next -  chai, coffee, chocolates for kids, etc. [Fit Indian snacks here] or a full fledged breakfast. National duty done. Peace out. 

Overall, I was satisfied that the SOP hadn’t changed and concluded that in 2040, we’ll all arrive in flying cars to repeat the same process. But I did notice one thing about the speech. My memory of Independence day speeches were, apart from being boring af, about being good citizen, remembering those that got us independence, and those that are doing good service to the country. This one was a tad different. 

The president of the apartment complex (a nice man by all accounts) lectured everyone on the fact that nowadays we have people saying “freedom” for everything and diluting the word. Ohhkay. He had a strange story. In some district in TN, three young boys in class five were found drunk. They were produced in court (they do that?) and the judge after much deliberation decided that they had to do some community service and clean out a mandapam (homage building) for a dead politician. That way, not only the mandapam got clean but their hearts too, he concluded. Notwithstanding the fact that the last statement seemed to have been borrowed from hundreds of ‘patti mandram’ speeches that spontaneously erupt every time there’s some holiday, it’s the conclusion that drew my attention.  

Not all freedom were equal, the man concluded. We can’t justify everything as freedom, he raged. The story was of the kids. But it was rather clear that he was annoyed with freedom being used as an excuse to protest big government these days. All these millennials and pretend-millennials.  

The unsaid mood: “These pesky, brainwashed young need to get in line”   

These are fun times,