'It would be nice if we could all just take a deep breath and focus on the only feeling that really matters, and for which previous generations worked a very long time at great cost: Freedom,' says Mitali Saran.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
India is terribly confusing these days.
A modern nation, fizzing with potential, is also a collection of ancient cultures that hang on to regressive practices.
Its democratic right to protest frequently shades into hostage taking.
It talks about innovation and creativity and cries offence in the face of innovation and creativity.
It respects its institutions until it disagrees with them.
It wants to be seen as strong but it has many sentiments, and they all hurt.
The upshot is that everyone feels very bad all the time.
We should rename the country Feel Karni Sena.
I think we're having a national midlife crisis-cum-emotional breakdown, plain and simple.
We've come far enough to look back; the future is scary; and we're not sure whether it's all been worth it, or how to course correct.
The old certainties are gone and we no longer know who we are or where we're going.
Perhaps one useful way to think about this period in the national life is as the world's largest group therapy session... except there's no therapist in charge, so everyone is just acting out and flinging faeces at each other and it's not going well at all.
Feeling bad and acting out has become such a trendy national pastime, in fact, that some people no longer even know what they are acting out about anymore.
The Karni Sena, one of the many self-declared social 'armies' in this country, burned the place down because a film they hadn't seen, Padmaavat, was making them feel so very bad; then some of them saw it and wanted to promote it because it made them feel so very good (even though they were expelled for this heresy).
In the smoking ruins of that kerfuffle, the Sarv Brahmin Mahasabha is feeling very bad about a rumoured romantic scene between Rani Laxmibai and an East India Company agent in the upcoming film Manikarnika; and now actress Kangana Ranaut says that she and her crew are feeling very bad that anyone could even think that they could do such a bad thing.
The Supreme Court said that adults can marry whomever they want, and now khap panchayats are feeling very bad and saying that they'll kill off all female babies, so there.
A Supreme Court judge, D Y Chandrachud, felt very bad about people screaming in his courtroom, and told them not to turn it into a fish market. The National Fisherfolk Forum felt very bad about this derogatory reference to fisherfolk and sent him a notice, asking him to withdraw the statement.
The prime minister felt so bad about nobody responding to his 'good morning' greetings on WhatsApp that he tweeted about it, and now, I bet his phone beeps with good mornings until about teatime.
Hindutvavadis feel very bad about the alleged oppression of 83 per cent of the population, and though they feel very good about being represented by a party at the Centre, that is bent on making minorities and women feel very bad, they also feel very bad that the BJP has presented a Budget that has done squat for the middle class and that the Ram temple hasn't been built and Kashmir still has a special status.
The BJP is feeling very bad that Sardar Patel wasn't made India’s first prime minister, and Deen Dayal Upadhyaya isn't a huge national icon and that Muslims think they're equal to Hindus and Renuka Chowdhury laughed loudly at the PM in Parliament; and everyone keeps pointing out that V D Savarkar sucked up to the British and the RSS didn't participate in the freedom movement, and keeps fact checking the prime minister's speeches and campaigns.
A lot of bad feelings are swirling around. Maybe that's why we're in the throes of building the most humungous statues ever and saying ours is the oldest science ever and the biggest database ever and the largest government scheme ever -- it's the equivalent of buying that little red sports car.
But it is a well established fact that emotions cloud one's judgement.
It would be nice if we could all just take a deep breath and focus on the only feeling that really matters, and for which previous generations worked a very long time at great cost: Freedom.
We could all bend our considerable capacity for outrage towards ensuring that we maintain that freedom.
It includes freedom of expression, freedom to eat the food of our choice, freedom to be with the person of our choice, freedom to be private, freedom of religion, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, freedom from caste discrimination and injustice, freedom from violence an threat of violence, freedom from gender discrimination and injustice, freedom to work, and freedom to be creative.
That would feel very good. Luckily, midlife crises pass, and emotional breakdowns heal.