Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Hindu "Identity Crisis"

Terror. Fundamentalism. Politics. These are big issues. Certainly not ones that should be brushed away under the carpet. After all, it's a matter of life and death. It's a question of existence versus obliteration.

As India comes face to face yet again with the gory ideologies of fundamentalist groups, the debate is thrown open on TV shows; the newspapers are all about it. It's a free for all. From Arundhati Roy advocating secession of Kashmir from the Indian Union, to Singhvi (the Congress mouthpiece, literally!) almost "justifying" the occurrence of terror strikes today because "they happened when the BJP was in power too," everyone is throwing in their two cents worth.

As I try to make sense out of all the din, I desperately look for a voice in the political leadership of this country to echo the nationalist sentiments that are raging within me. All I hear is a string of emotionally bankrupt statements that refuse to call a spade a spade. With the exception, of course, of Narendra Modi. I admire the man for his ability and courage to speak strong, to speak clear. He comes across as a man of substance. Not like the Congress leadership that scurries to protect their minority votebank even before anyone has been accused of a crime! But wait - there never was any need to accuse, because the ones to be accused did that job for us - they accused themselves of the crime even before they committed it, and proudly strutted their accusations about while the country watched on helplessly.

But what to talk of the political leadership? Let's talk of our very own people. The SIMI ( a known Islamic fundamentalist organization with tentacles spread all over India) lashes out at the Hindus in its emails, calls us infidels, and openly taunts us before unleashing mindless terror on the streets of our cities. But what do so many of our educated middle class Hindus do? Start playing the self-righteous tune. "Why just the SIMI, even Hindu "fundamentalist" groups must be banned!" Like all of a sudden, the SIMI is such a dear precious friend of ours and we just cant see the poor thing being victimized. I even heard some Hindus go to the extent of suggesting that the bombs were planted by Hindu extremist groups. To them, I say: Gosh, people, get a life, before it's snatched away from you by these devious rascals who want to establish Islamic rule all over our country.

I am appalled at the logic which seems to go something like this for some of our philanthrophic Hindu brethren: the fact that most terrorists caught happen to be muslim is a problem. Never mind that the terrorists were motivated by an ideology that quotes the "misinterpreted" Islamic texts in and out.

It looks like our self-righteous Hindus would only be happy when for every muslim arrested, one Hindu is arrested too. Wow. Now that's taking the "Hindu Muslim Sikh Isai bhai bhai" thingy a little too far. I call it the "school assembly syndrome". Remember those school assembly songs, in which Hindu-Muslim-Sikh-Isai were conjoined together in the lyrics, almost deliberately? Well certainly to the point of making the whole unity thing so cliche.

But seriously, we Hindus have the unique quality of "catching our own tails" whenever the situation demands that we get our act together and face the enemy. I know a cute little pomeranian who does just that. Every time she's angry with someone, she won't bite the person she's angry with. Instead, she'll start going round and round in circles trying to catch her own tail, growling at it all the while, as if her tail is the reason for her current troubled state.

I say to her, leave the tail alone. It's the least of your problems. At least for now.

It doesnt surprise me anymore, the knowledge that throughout history, the Hindu civilization was manipulated, raped, and plundered so often. And almost so easily.

We turn against ourselves at the drop of a hat. And this is because we lack a common identity. We fail to see the common thread of "Aham Brahmasmi" and "Tat tvam Asi" that binds our beliefs from North to South, East to West. We peck at each other, like hens in a coup; fight over the petty details of who eats rice and who eats chappati, and who worhsips Vishnu and who worships Shiva. Countless times, I have heard North Indians snootily state that "we don't eat so much rice, like those South Indians." I mean, come on! When you cant get over these inane differences, how in God's name are you going to tackle the big issues? The ones that really matter?

Unfortunately, when under stress, we Hindus tend to distance ourselves from our Hindu identity. Just the opposite of what other communities generally do. In the process, we make ourselves extremely vulnerable to external forces, such as the SIMI.

And the sad truth is that we are prepared to watch our people be maimed on the streets but we cannot seem to muster up the guts or the will to embrace our inherent commonalities and come together under one Hindu identity.

A Moment...

A moment of tranquility. Standing on the soft sands of the shore, looking out to sea. The breeze dancing around me. The rhythmic roar of a wave, as it rushes toward me. The wave is as mighty as it is gentle. One moment it leaps into the air, falling over itself in it's eagerness to reach the shore; the next, it gently caresses my feet as if holding them in its tender embrace.

I am one with the Universe. In that fleeting moment, somewhere deep within, a memory stirs. As old as time itself, perhaps. It reminds me of me.

A moment of revelation. I am the soft sand. I am the dancing breeze. I am the roaring wave. I am the beauty of all three, and more. I am movement, I am touch, I am sound. I am thought. I am feeling. I am spirit. I am the confluence of the Universe's best. I am... life itself.

 © Sai Ganesh Nagpal