Today is Election day. And I, as a responsible young Indian should be casting my vote, but I am not. Instead I am sitting in a coffee shop with a friend, sipping a cup of capucciono and cribbing.. bitching..complaining. Cribbing about? everything. Right from, about my manager who doesnt know how to take care of employee morale, …to pollution in Bangalore.. to the state of IIMs, ..to the deplorable political scene in India..to communalism. Both of us were outraged about the state of affairs. We stirred the hot coffee, nodded our heads in agreement, and watched the stream of people going to vote in the hot sun.
Suddenly we saw an old couple walk up the road. The elderly man was holding his wife’s hand while she tried to walk on the uneven pavement. They must have been in their sixties with silver-colored hair, the lady dressed in a colorful silk sari, with huge gold earrings; the man in a simple cotton shirt and faded trousers. We watched them go toward the election booth and stand in the queue. The sun was blazing, and there was the constant noise of vehicles honking, and shrill voices shouting instructions.
As we the watched the couple patiently wait in queue, my friend remarked “Isnt it weird? That couple out there is actaully going to vote for our future, and we are sitting here, making no attempt to even try and make a difference.” I opened my mouth to argue, a number of defensive arguments ready to spill over. “Whom do I vote for?..there is nobody worth voting for..I dont care for both the parties in the fray, both are sick…what is the point in voting..every party is the same, comes to power, and then forgets the major issues’.
And then I shut my mouth. It was just that I realised that all my arguments were just excuses. The point was that I had an opportunity to at least try and make a difference, and instead I had squandered it away. All these arguments were valid to a certain extent, but the simple truth was that I was in a state of inertia. I was used to just stating the obvious, that I had forgotten that it was time I did something about it or at least make an attempt. I was too busy working a 12 hour shift, sleeping 12 hours on the weekend, loafing, gossiping, travelling, ..too busy to get a voter’s id.
As we watched the couple, my friend and me sat silently. None of us confessed about the feeling of shame until much later. I sat pondering about it , and the only conclusion that I could make was that I was indifferent. And I realised that it was a curse. Not just me, but a lot of educated youth like me. People who can see the rot, but on whom it has not really registered, who kind of want to make a difference, but who are too lazy to do it.
I was reminded of another incident. I had gone to Kerala for Vishu. There is Pentacoastal church next to my house. We have been living there for the past three years without any problems. They have their weekly prayer sessions which are quite loud, but we have got used to it. I was sitting at home, and one of the temple commmittee members came home to collect donations. He was quite vitriolic about the noise and urged my parents to fuss about it. The attitude did not surprise me, but what did was my parent’s reaction. I was astounded to find my mother actually agree that the sound was irritating, and that something needs to be done. I was shocked. It seemed to be something minor, but it wasnt really. I felt that it was the ‘beginning of an end’. It is dangerous when the attitude of the common man changes, when the seeds of communal disharmony are sown in the minds of people who have been living in peace for years. And the tentacles of Hindu fanaticism have been spreading. I live in Kottayam where Hindus and Christians have been living together for years. If this kind of change is visible there, I dread to think of Gujarat. I was outraged and pained. I thought of the kind of future I was about to give my kids, and I was depressed. Hindu fanaticism has distinct similarities to Nazism, the most similar being the ideology. The remaining two days I stayed in Kerala, I tried to think of ways to counter it. I had grand ideas that if a few of us raised our voices, maybe there will be a change. I came back to Bangalore still with those ideas, deferred them for a day, got caught in work, and then finally didnt do anything about it. Is this also the curse of indifference?
Whatever, it is something to think about, and perhaps something to act upon?