For a Kashmiri, it is extremely dangerous either to be a militant or a cop. One is seen to be anti-establishment, the other pro. Yet, there are many families that have both. I once had the chance to interview a Kashmiri cop who I asked: if you know a member of your family is part of the militancy and if they know you are a cop, how is it that both of you don’t shoot each other. He said such families follow some simple, unstated rules: we don’t rat on each other to our groups, we don’t talk politics with each other and we realise that just because we have different political views, it doesn’t mean we can’t have a meal with each other.
In a few days’, the largest, the strangest and the most divisive exercise in democracy ever i.e. India’s general elections 2019, would be over and we will know which coalition will come to power. But more important to millions of Indian houses divided on political lines, they will also come to know whether the husband will divorce the wife, whether the father and son will talk again, whether the two best friends till months ago will revive their friendship, whether buaji will add mamaji back into the family whatsapp group, whether the teacher will now stop targeting the student whose parents had expressed a different political view.
If you roamed around the country during the elections keeping your ears open, you’d have seen a nation divided, at war with itself, as if devouring itself from the inside like a cancer. Brother was after his sibling, daughters and mothers stopped talking, best friends broke up and I’ve also heard of couples heading for divorce for having opposing political views.
But here’s the catch. Elections, like politicians, will come and go. No matter how insufferable, we won’t have to suffer a said politicians forever. But the ones we have no choice about, is each other. When your mother needs blood transfusion, it is not the Prime Minister who will give his blood. The local politician will not pick up your toddler from school when you are late from work. You can’t have a ginger tea or chilled beer with the TV or mobile and reminisce about old times. When you’re depressed, it’s not your chief minister who’ll stay with you the night. When your father suffers a stroke while you’re out of town, it won’t be the perennially screaming party spokesperson who’ll drop him to the hospital.
No, it will be your friends, family, neighbours, strangers – the same people you called names, you fought with, swore never to talk again for disagreeing with you politically, who will do all these and more. And all of us know this. Yet, we allow politicians to instigate us, divide us. Why?
The issue I have realised, is that screen – TV, laptops, mobiles etc. make politicians, actors and news anchors seem closer to us than our own friends and family. We don’t listen to our near and dear ones as much as we listen to these bunch of self-aggrandising liars. Hence, these people who we’ve never met, seem closer and more relatable than our own friends and family. This, is an illusion that you must fight. Like on rear view mirrors, maybe TVs and mobiles should be sold with permanent safety warnings imprinted on their screens: ‘objects in this black mirror are way further than they appear’.
So here’s my request to you all: whosoever wins in a few days, please ensure all of us are not the losers. Please ensure that tolerance is the lowest ideal we strive for, the highest being love and understanding. Please remember that a nation is a living breathing entity, that a nation is foremost its people – and that every single one of them has the right to live under it – no matter what their political leanings, religion, caste, gender etc. Please remember that injustice to any single Indian anywhere is a threat to justice for every single one of us everywhere. Please remember that your parents, your siblings, your children, your friends, your colleagues and neighbour are more important than any politician sitting in Delhi or your state’s capital.
And most importantly, please remember that no matter which party comes to power, we will have growth and development in the nation only if we do one extremely simple thing – hold politicians accountable for every single day that they are in power. And no matter what our differences otherwise, this is one thing we must all unite towards.
But if all else fails, and we cannot get back to how we were with one another before this election, let us remember the simple rules of the Kashmiri cop: don’t snitch on each other, don’t talk politics with someone if you’ll lose your cool and just because you have different views on politics doesn’t mean you can’t share a meal.
Indeed, if you have different political views – that’s what you should do – share a tasty sumptuous meal.
(Satyen K. Bordoloi is a screenwriter, researcher, journalist based in Mumbai. He writes mostly on cinema and politics. He is currently writing a spec script on R&AWs 1971 exploits.)Read more by Satyen K Bordoloi:
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