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Hating the “other” is a false cocoon: Let’s fight intolerance- Aug 8, 2012

It’s driven me to despair, these killings in Wisconsin. Of course, the defenses kick in and the mind begins to write it off, but I despair. I despair at how intolerant we are becoming in a world that is increasingly diverse, multicultural, where social chaos is increasing at a rapid rate…And what do we do? We crawl right back into the false safety of the cocoons of our mind. We construct alternate realities where America is for whites, Assam is for the Bodos and Ranchi is for girls who, well, do not wear jeans!

It’s not just about identity. It’s about the false comfort of hating the “other” because we cannot understand the chaos. Amardeep Singh puts it beautifully in his piece for NY Times titled Being Sikh in America. “Would it be any less tragic if the victims in Wisconsin had been Muslims gathering for Friday prayers?,” he asks. He wonders about “how awfully precarious the American dream can be” in the context of thousands of immigrant families who settled in the US admiring of the equal opportunity and economic prospects.

It’s the same everywhere. The dream of prosperity and peace is becoming increasingly precarious and among the many factors sabotaging it, intolerance seems to be the hardest one to fight.

Amardeep claims that we are being naive to expect intolerance and hatred to be countered by education and awareness. That, for me, is truly heartbreaking. I, like many liberals and idealists, hold on tightly to the idea that meaningful debate, discussion, education and the rest of that wonderful stuff will change the world. That is my own false cocoon. I know that.

So where do we go from here? How do we change the game from fighting the “other” to fighting the hatred of the “other”? How do we offer non-violent solutions to frustrated people, which we all are in some measure? I have started by looking into myself and identifying what the “others” are for me and systematically trying to rationalize and hopefully reduce my own prejudices.

We need to address this, somehow. And urgently. For this I know. It’s hatred and intolerance and not climate change that will end the story of the human race!

 

A sense of belonging (Goa in my heart)

In today’s world, we choose to live where we work, not where we ‘belong’. I say this as I return from Goa, the land where my father grew up but I never had the fortune to live in and fully experience as a child. As I grow older, however, I am drawn to Goa for the sheer sense of belonging and connection I feel when I am there.

Shama and Arnav- Sone pe Suhaga

Ramukaka and Ajji- The binding forces

The cousin gang- Sheer nostalgia

Now accustomed to a metro life, I cannot say with certainty if I will be able to adjust to actually living Goa’s laid back lifestyle and honouring the highly intertwined social and family commitments that I will be a part of were I to make the move. I do, however, increasingly feel the need to move away from the stresses of city life. The unnecessary chaos, noise and hurtling pace we set for ourselves in the Delhis, Mumbais, Bangalores of this world. I keenly observe the degrading quality of life in the city I live in (Gurgaon, which despite being a suburb, is every bit as chaotic and fast-paced as Delhi, sans the character and other saving graces!). No longer do city dwellers have the right to fresh air, fresh vegetables, greenery, space to walk in, silence and peace, etc, etc. We must embrace the noise, the pollution, the stale fruits and the high prices in the attitude of a city lover. We must convince ourselves that the trade offs are worth the price we pay- better options for education and entertainment, for instance. And certainly better jobs with better pay packets.

Ganpati Bappa Morya- Tradition brings us together

Putting up the matoli- a tradition unique to Goa

Our ancestral home

I don’t buy the argument though, trapped as I am in the same vicious cycles as everyone else. Each time I go back to Goa, I yearn for the simplicity of living in my hometown, surrounded by people I know and love and a culture I sort-of understand. I envy m y cousins who, at least at this point in time, can experience a high quality of life with the unique benefits of a community that retains its rural ambience while being able to access urban amenities, with good governance as an added benefit.

But most of all, I miss living in a community where I feel I belong, where I don’t need to make so much effort to form a connection, where I am not a nameless faceless dot in a sea of struggling humans, but me, Mukta Naik, daughter of so-and-so, mother of so-and-so, niece of so-and-so…… Many may seek and thrive in the anonymity that large cities offer and till recently, so did I. Lately though, I’ve started to yearn for the simpler things in life and appreciate what life in a more traditional milieu offers! A sense of

Aadyaa and Mummy

The view from my childhood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

belonging, continuity, identity are important factors we are tending to ignore, even as our sub-conscious struggles to come to terms with our environment and seek anchors in a vaccuum. I may not be able to move to Goa today. But going there every year reminds me of my need for identity. Thank you Ajji, uncles and aunts, cousins and friends in Goa for keeping me connected, rooted and happy 🙂

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