Pride and Prejudice

A very weird thing happened last night and that has left me wondering since then. Is it stupid to fight for something that does not directly concern you? Something that has nothing to do with you? Although you have no connection to it whatsoever but you can’t help defending its honour out of sheer love for it.

India is a nation of diverse culture. And officially we are quite proud of it. I remember in our 10th standard we would study a particular question in our History class. India: Unity in Diversity. Explain in your own words. It was one of the most important topics for the board exam and we would blabber on page after page praising our rich Indian heritage for accommodating different religions and cultures over the years and creating a large, diverse fraternity within the country. But is it really so? Are we all a bunch of inspired Indians who take a daily dose of multivitamin pill of nationalism and patriotism before starting our day?

Unfortunately, in reality, Indians are the most prejudiced people ever. And that’s an intra-country, inter-community prejudice. We have been subject to prejudice since our birth. Our educational process starts long before we make it to school to learn all about the saga of a wrongly depicted father of nation. We are taught, directly or indirectly, about the greatness of our own community while belittling the others. That’s how jokes about the generic sardar ji go viral on internet or a south Indian becomes ‘lungi party’.

Last night what started as a normal conversation with an acquaintance (I refrain from using the word ‘friend’ liberally, as not everyone qualifies to be my friend), ended up in a heated argument. He made some seriously offensive remarks about a particular community of India. Honestly, I don’t handle people very well, so I quit the battle field as early as possible. Stupid people make me very angry and when I’m angry I turn into the Hulk. I just smash. So before I started calling the person with various adjectives and adverbs that inevitably end with the f word, I decided to shut my mouth.

However I went to bed with a severe headache owing to all those unsaid cuss words pounding on the inner wall of my brain. Then a sudden thought occurred to me. What am I feeling so angry for? Is it because I am so fiercely a nationalist that a few insulting remarks about a certain community hit my ego as an Indian? It’s been a long time since I realised that there is no such thing as absolute hatred in my dictionary. Whenever I feel abhorrent towards any certain belief, some exceptional phenomenon happens that shatters my rigid idea. Besides, hatred is self consuming and I love myself way too much to let myself be consumed by any negative feeling. But who am I kidding? I was born and raised in a typical upper middle class Bengali environment where I was taught about the greatness of Tagore and Ray and how we are the smartest and most intellectual community in India with a few Nobels and Oscars at our disposal to brag about. Bengalis are famous for being elitist and I am no exception. I might be more liberal than any average Indian, but I am definitely not completely above prejudice. So the nationalism argument is invalid here. Then another idea hit me. And this one actually knocked the wind out of me for the next few seconds. Is it that the reason I am angry because someone I love so deeply also belongs from that very community and I took it as personal insult? I was thunderstruck. I fell asleep feeling utterly bewildered and even twelve hours later I can’t quite figure out the root cause of my unrest.

Is it stupid to stick up for something or someone that has failed you so miserably so far? Is it stupid to defend someone’s honour that never treated you properly?

Usually when in doubt I always look up to the great man who had taught the mankind about forgiveness and compassion even before the birth of Christ. Rising above the triviality of life is not an easy job, especially for stupid, intolerant people like us.  We are always so busy living in a world of our own ego that love is lost amidst the chaos. Perhaps that’s why the idea of defending someone selflessly seemed so outlandish to me. Have I really grown up that much? Have I finally learned how to love without expecting anything in return?

Oh Kuheli, you think way too much.

p.s. My apology to Jane Austen for stealing the title of her book. I couldn’t think of anything original.