Grace as new-age Satyagraha

Grace has become much less common than even common sense! Indeed, rude behaviour, if that is symptomatic of a graceless society, abounds in our daily social interactions, at home, in public places, offices and finally on the streets where this can easily turn into road rage incidents which sometimes lead to violent crimes.

Most people following politics in India today will testify to the fact that the quality of grace is becoming conspicuous by its absence in any political discourse either inside the parliament (or any other legislative bodies) or out of it (say, in TV studios of big national news channels). Political opponents are routinely seen to interrupt each other and blatantly usurp the debating space to voice either one’s partisan position, premise, speculative promise of an intangible beneficial fall out of this or that government policy as a foregone conclusion or, holding a contrarian view point, express apprehension of an unmitigated disaster and a dark future guaranteed to unfold from the same policy, depending on their relative coordinates vis-à-vis the political divide.

Just look at the comments people proffer in the ubiquitous electronic space, in respect of the e-paper or ezine articles, blogs and the social media postings. The proclivity to post comments is often not commensurate with minimum required knowledge about the subject, basic civility to engage in a conversation, attitude to learn and contribute to take a discussion thread forward. On the contrary, utter arrogance and extreme and foolhardy self-righteousness often characterize such responses. The more sensitive the topic is the chances are that the author has to walk a sharper razor edge so as not to offend one side or the other and invite virulent comments. To be fair, sometimes the original blogs/postings themselves are tendentious, judgmental, make sweeping statements, and include tasteless insensitive pictures, almost as if spoiling for a fight.

Intolerance of any view, worldview or even perception other than one’s own is often found in individual or group interactions, and this probably is pointing towards a fact that Indian society is becoming increasingly intolerant. Our prescription of economic development and the way its fall out has been managed has unleashed not only irreconcilable aspirations among various sections of the people but often an ugly conflict between simultaneously prevailing centuries as a part of this modernisation project. We are a divided, indeed, very fragmented society with too many identities – ethnic, caste-based, religious, regional (even sub-regional), and of course political identities, to defend from each other’s perceived pillory.

Just imagine, on the other hand, how different our world would have looked if we, at least the majority among us, could pause in our fast-faster-fastest track of furious one-upmanship before complete derailment and choose, individually, to be the slower coach and address each other with that famously under-used quaint Indian phrase ‘pehle aap’ (you first)! Or perhaps could have reconsidered the strategy of withering contempt for our opponent, whatever his or her identity, in real life (or virtual) and be prepared to acknowledge the inherent ‘otherness’ as a matter of diversity of ways of life, much like the bio-diversity, to be protected and celebrated rather than being demonized, hated and demolished.

I wish we could, in a new form of Satyagraha, disown the inept puppeteers of our economic and political choices, manipulators of our taste, and all those who goad us in our every waking moment into frenetic competition, as if our life is but a dissipative twenty-twenty match between India and Pakistan winner taking all, for space, for the right of way, for the wherewithal for conspicuous consumption now and the security to keep doing the same in a distant future. And make these choices and respond not in anger and antipathy but in awareness of colours that the colour-blind would never see.

I wish we could try telling one of the two children fighting over a trinket, “Let go off it. Let the other have it and just see what happens”.

And persuade the stalker to take the ‘no’ for an answer, admire the candle in the wind and move on.

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