I write this letter because a part of me and India dies every day! I am a proud Indian. But as I read the news today, deep down inside where emotions are born and die, are suffocated or nurtured, a part of me- in those often unfathomable inner recesses- died. I cried. My insides screamed a long silent screech, silent because I knew in the land of India, my motherland- 15000 miles away- you won’t be able to hear me even if I screamed out loud. You won’t see my tears or feel their burning anger even if I cried out loud. So my tears flowing uncontrollably, my nose weeping and lips wanting to say something that you wouldn’t have heard any way, I walked over to my computer and started pounding my sad, angry and helpless fingers– of a two finger typist– to send this letter to you, the men, women and children of my beloved India.
All my life, I have never stopped thinking of India. For some time now I have been writing about India too. Unfortunately we all know it has had to deal with so much that I would understand if some of you plead numbness and respond: so what is new? I know, as do you, the list of injustices, corruption and violence is long: the cruelties of caste that Dalits, the poor and the powerless suffer daily; religious zealotry turned into violence run amok; the curse of indifference that allows many, particularly the rich and powerful, the politicians, police and bureaucrats alike to navigate zombielike the blinding horrors of corruption, violence and the injustices of life in India.
I had been thinking of the recent violence against the Dalits, and that too, for doing what India has made them do for centuries, skin dead cows. The attacks on the Dalits came on the heels of violence against Muslims for eating beef. Before that rationalists and scholars were butchered for their beliefs and writings. The rapes of women and children continue unabated. I have been wondering, and I am sure you have been too, as to how many Nirbhayas shall continue to be dragged to the altar of uncontrolled, uncivilised and sick animals that we continue to call “men”?
Then this morning I was rudely reminded of how deeply the malaise of cruelty, corruption and the total numbness and indifference to the inhumanity of it all ails Indians; and no I won’t say India, because that may let you and I off the hook for being complicit in the barbarity in the country. Just take the two latest examples that have made me shed voluminous tears and pen this missive to you.
The first is about Delhi of Dil Hai Hindustan Ka fame. A young pedestrian is hit by a three wheeler whose driver walks over to his badly injured victim before disappearing from the scene leaving the man to die. The victim lay there on the road for a long time; scores of people walked by the victim without offering or providing any help– as if to add to the inhumanity of it all one of them went over to the victim but only to steal the dying man’s mobile; over 400 vehicles passed by including a police car.
The man eventually died leaving behind a helpless young family. When I read the story and watched the images of the man lying unattended, someone walking, bending over to steal the mobile, while the man was dying, a part of me died; and a part of India died too. In UP a government hospital demanded and received a bribe to admit a seriously ill child; then demanded and received a bribe to provide a hospital bed for the same child; and then demanded a third bribe of 30 Rupees for an injection the child badly needed. The impoverished and helpless parents had no more money. The injection never came. The child died. A part of me died again, and believe me, a part of India too died again.
Just as happened in the Delhi and UP incidents, a million parts of India suffer a million deaths every day. And parts and hearts of many Indians too die a million times a day. And that too amongst people so totally steeped in religiosity? Or are we just the world’s greatest religious and spiritual pretenders? I am angry. All of it should make you angry too. Are you angry? I am saddened and I am done crying. But I won’t let go the anger.
The anger at the inhumanity of what is going on will give us the strength and courage to help bring about change. Mahatma Gandhi too had confessed he was an angry man. He refused to let India and Indians suffer the million cowardly and humiliating deaths a day. He channelled his anger into being the change he wanted to see. To paraphrase the great one himself: Appropriately channelling the just anger will make us the change that we should want to see.