Sex, God, And Country – Part 2 0f 2. [Conclusion]
Aspirations versus Actuality
Right from our days as young kids the dictum ‘Unity in diversity’ has been held up to us by well-meaning people as a self-evident truth while explaining what India is. As adults it becomes obvious to us that those words are no more representative of existent realities than the many other words we learned by rote in school and often still repeat with moving earnestness, including: ‘India is my country. All Indians are my brothers and sisters. I love my country and I am proud of its rich and varied heritage. I shall always strive to be worthy of it. I shall give my parents, teachers and all elders respect and treat everyone with courtesy. To my country and my people, I pledge my devotion. In their well being and prosperity alone, lies my happiness.’ Just like our National Pledge is best understood as a noble and deeply appealing intent – a stated ideal we can and should be striving towards, the saying ‘Unity in diversity’ has relevance when understood, at best, as an honest appeal to what should be, and not what is. Our national character is diverse, no doubt, but there is no unity in that diversity unless we decide that geography is the only factor that gives meaning and credence to the word ‘unity.’
The truth of our nation is much less ideal. The diversity in India does not infuse into a harmonious unity but exists in a state of latent conflict underneath the broad strokes of the ‘spiritual, educated, democratic, liberalized’ varnish our society is painted with. Imperceptible at a cocktail party or cricket stadium, the motive power that shapes our national character lies as a molten mass of raw emotions and naked prejudices; culturally inherited and consistently reaffirmed ideas, identities and ideologies existing in a state of flux without syncretic possibilities. The reality born from this national subconscious is not unity but contradiction. To understand the visible character of India as a nation we need to first understand this twilight zone.
The loud, colorful, dazzling, phantasmagorical display that characterizes the dominant idea of India – like fireworks adorning a night sky – is the visible end result of two very different and often paradoxical realities coming together, sometimes with great sensory appeal, and sometimes with horrific consequences; often, if not always, rising from the same national subconscious. If one enthralls us with the enlightened spirit of public demonstrations by same-sex lovers for their fundamental rights, the other, with equal power, jolts our senses with the dismay, disillusionment and terror of the young men and women stabbed to death, burnt alive or hung from trees for falling in love outside their castes. Both are notions of justice as experienced in our country. The noble vision of social activists fighting against the primitivepractice of child-marriage in our country gets its contrast from the picture of school age children proclaiming sexual liberation by having sex on camera and posting it on the internet. Both are notions of freedom as experienced in our country. The dripping, volatile bloody red of rape, murder, mass destruction and uncontrolled rage Indians unleash on one another in the name of their inherited Gods achieves a somnambulist sensibility against the tricolors of a nation that comes together as one under the bat of Sachin Tendulkar and enthrones him ‘God.’ Both are notions of fidelity as practiced in our country. The black that underscores the ignorance of the largest illiterate population in the whole world is submerged in the jubilant white of a whole nation that feels liberated in exercising its right to vote. Both are notions of life as they exist in our country. Underneath such stark, visible patterns lies the hidden truth of our nation. The contradictions we see, in that sense, are not just contradictions; they are clues to the psyche of this grand spectacle called India.
The Other 2 ‘G’ Debacle
A typical Indian who adorns the walls of his house with framed pictures of his god alongside pictures of his favorite political leaders is an ignoramus. No. He is not. He is the keeper of a secret that binds India together. To hold these disparate forces – one, ethereal, and the other, earthly – within the same reverential framework, all he has to do is look through the eyes of his ancestors – and see the world as a manifestation of a single life source; a popular idea from the rich spiritual past of our nation. And as far as God and Government (politics) are concerned there are enough unifying properties between them for the aam admi to find:
- Both are deemed as powers above him.
- Both are invisible, and are represented by a chosen few.
- Both originated in his awareness as benevolent forces.
- Both can be held responsible for the miseries plaguing him.
- Both work in mysterious ways; that is, beyond the understanding of common folks like him.
- Both have faithful believers and vehement critics.
- Both demand certain discipline in believers, and invoke specific rituals.
- Both promise Heaven in return of his faith: one, literally, and the other, figuratively.
- Both are inherited, and (usually) adopted by default rather than design in his life.
It is not any different from understanding the appeal of superheroes in a kid’s fantasy. No matter how different their costumes are, where they originated from or what their powers, all superheroes personify the same values and ultimately, the victory of Good over Evil. In essence, a superhero becomes the symbol of hope for all mankind. Similar is the essence and appeal of God and Government. For the aam admi, his destiny is irrevocably tied to the two.
My God Vs. The Government
In spite of attributing such a decisive role to them in his fortunes, when it comes to more pronounced expressions of his fidelity to the two the aam admi reveals the inherent contradictions of Indian psyche that guide his actions. He is happy to volunteer money for God but money to Government is involuntary and parted with under the fear of prosecution and jail time. The irony here lies in the fact that the reasons offered by his Government while demanding his money and the predominant motives that inspire him to voluntarily donate money to his God are the same.
For the sake of greater clarity, let’s state the obvious – that God, as understood by His believers – the supreme creator of all things dead and living, would in no way need a man-made tool of trade. Keeping that in mind, three plausible reasons can be offered for Man’s financial munificence when it comes to his God. One, in his misguided earnestness, he applies the principle of trade among men to his relationship with God, and thereby, offers Him money as a token of gratitude for heavenly favors bestowed or as an incentive for the divine blessings he expects to be receive. Two, driven by a more pragmatic sensibility and altruistic inclination, he donates money to God so that the representatives of his God can deploy the funds in the welfare of the destitute as many religious organizations do. The third reason can be that he wants to ensure the upkeep and continued operation of his God’s institutions and thereby, his God’s presence among men in the times to come. A government, especially a democratic government, needs money for the exact same reasons.
Of course, lack of trust in government can be held up as an argument to explain the reluctance felt towards paying taxes. But when we see that almost every single act of subversion the representatives of our government can be accused of hold equally good and true when it comes to the representatives of God, that argument loses much of its credibility. Misappropriation of public funds, use of public office for personal gains, income tax evasions, sex scandals, accumulation of wealth inappropriate to known sources of income, illegal land acquisitions… the ‘criminal breach of trust’ list fits both parties well. Now, if we are to judge purely by results, the poor performance of our elected governments are no poorer than our chosen God. On the contrary, considering that God has the power to work miracles and had more time than any government anywhere to usher in His world of peace, prosperity, and justice for all, it is ironic that people are so vindictive of the failures of a democratic government made up of mere humans.
The second visible, and significant disparity in the expression of his subservience to the two powers above him can be found in the way how involved the aam admi is with his God and indifferent to his Government. Communion with God through prayers is a part of his normal day. Fasting for His blessings on specific days or dates is considered a must, or at least, highly recommended. All important aspects of his life – birth, death, education, marriage, career, children, and house – are made auspicious by invoking God. God is celebrated as much in villages as in towns or cities with fanfare at least once a year. There are widely participated book readings, prayer meetings, induction programs, introduction camps, community nights, and other such public events in God’s name across the nation. He cooks, cleans, clothes, decorates, gifts, swears by his God. Without saying it in so many words, the aam admi has, through actions, and in spirit said, “I, aam admi, take you All Mighty, to be my God, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward”(without the ‘until death do us part’ bit). He has made God an integral part of his life. He feels responsibility towards his God in the same way his feels responsible for his parents, wife or kids. And that is the clue to the failure of democracy as a mode of governance in India.
India and Indian: A Relationship On Ice
Relationships of all kind derive their meaning and momentum from the involvement of the people who are part of it. A ceremony and living under the same roof do not a marriage make. A birthday gift and a PTA meeting do not a parent make. A miniature national flag bought on Independence Day and filing tax returns do not an Indian make. At least, that is definitely not what we mean when we say we love our spouse, our children or our country. We know relationships mean commitment, and demand continuous involvement. Yet involvement first demands interest; and interest arises only out of awareness. One cannot be interested in what one does not know. One can only fake it. Do we try to know our partner and children or do we expect a psychologist to come and do it for us? Is it possible to know our nation only by how our intellectuals and politicians interpret her? Or Is it possible to really become aware of the democratic institution that is our nation (and not politics as it has come to mean today) and the process of governance?
Ask yourself this: how were we as little kids introduced to formal education so that today we are where we are and know all that we know? You and I, as 3-year old toddlers, comfortable in our roles as princes and princesses of our homes, secure and pampered in our kingdoms, were not lectured on how important it is for our future, or how imperative a college degree is for a job. We got started with the curious shapes that we later started to recognize as things called alphabets which, with time, opened our eyes to bigger and bigger things. Somebody had thought of making the whole world accessible to the 3-year old. How do we make the India intellectually and emotionally accessible to ourselves?
If the people of our nation, irrespective of their class, creed, educational achievement, age or gender, have been imaginative enough to self-start and sustain a movement of continuous awareness, education, and participation in their God and His work, is it not possible to imagine a similar movement for the greater good and glory of our nation? Is it not possible to dedicate part of our time, effort and energy to introduce, educate, and inspire one another in the real process, purpose, and practice of democratic governance. Let us – men and women, young and old, housewives and businessmen, brokers and bankers, artists and teachers, doctors and lawyers, masons and managers – no longer be tourists in our own country. We are citizens of India – in all its legal and spiritual meaning. Let us act as one. Now.
All Love Is Action
Just like we volunteer to read, interpret and explain holy texts for the enlightenment of our brothers and sisters, let us volunteer to read, interpret and explain our constitution and its implications in our lives. Just like we take classes outside the conventional classrooms for our young children introducing them to their God, let us take time to teach them the meaning and guiding rules of politics – its real meaning and potential. Let us reach out to the senior citizens of our nation. Let them all – the retired lawyers, doctors, teachers, engineers, pilots, policemen, soldiers, farmers, technologists, technicians, trainers, bureaucrats, … – reach into their areas of expertise, interpret for us the national policies, projects, and plans relating to their field of work in the light of their experience, and help us understand our nation’s direction. Let us learn to know enough to support progress and prevent plunder.
In a democracy of 1.21 billion people, the fact that a privileged minority can hold the struggling majority at ransom is a warning bell, and the last call for action. Let us start getting informed. Let us start getting interested. Let us start getting involved. Let us volunteer to hold open house meetings, community nights, and introduction and induction programs into democracy. Let us not wait to be wronged to find out what our rights are. Let us not wait for someone else to tell us what we can expect from our nation.
There must be at least a dozen international treaties and peace agreements to stop a foreign country from invading our nation. There are economical, political and practical considerations that act as check-points against military aggression from outside. But there is barely any force in our country powerful enough or effective enough today to prevent the disease gnawing her from within. Our nation is sick because the majority, to which she rightfully belongs, has abandoned her. If India was your spouse, your lover or your child, this is the moment when she asks, “How do you say you love me when you don’t even bother to know me.” What would you answer?