The past year has shown us devastation we were unprepared for. The novel COVID-19 virus came with familiar outcomes. Assaults whose repercussions, even if different in symptoms, devastated nations much like previous pandemics. The virus’s potency easily trumps the fickle thinking and small-mindedness of the human psyche. The agency of this disease is as clever and calculated as the mindsets of ruthless colonisers hell-bent on having their way no matter the cost. Powers hungry to spread their empires’ geographies and steal from the world what wasn’t theirs to have, all to beef up their own coffers.
These last months have made us understand what matters in life and what is irrelevant. Sadly, most of us are colonised by our own minds and our generationally handicapped thinking. Maimed by White privilege and the colonisers’ insidious thinking about us, we now do their bidding and work for them, despite being free of their rule.
India, since the Vedic times, has never successfully been a macho nation. When playing tough, strong, divisive and divided, it has joined the cadres of other broken and failed states. Bharat Mata shines bright only when it is a living, breathing face of a brilliantly kind way of being. Life that connects itself to plurality in a holistic manner envisions a tomorrow where we are richer for being a tapestry of colourful threads and patterns that are at once unique and beautiful. Despite its fair share of carnage and bloodshed throughout history, its maternalistic roots are what make Indian civilisational history one of nurturing and caring, of resilience and strength, of perseverance and wisdom.
Growing up as a gay man in India of the ’70s and ’80s was rather interesting. From the age of three, I knew I was different. Different enough that even though I was never a shy child, I knew I had to create a persona that would fit in while the real me was questioning my life, thoughts, desires, dreams, hopes and aspirations, just about everything that formed my identity. Every day, I questioned my very being and its place in a world, where I found myself a misfit, an outlier.
The virus is novel, but its repercussions are not all that new or odd. When it was levying carnage amongst the poor, our collective vocabulary about it was far from macabre. Our concern for it hung on the outskirts of those places in our psyche where fear grips our brain. As it started hitting closer home, as the rich started losing their lives and children were homebound, the discussions about the virus became more hysterical and front and centre. Like with all things that occupy our human collective, COVID-19 found traction when the haves got affected by it. And then action became part of the vocabulary very quickly.
As I saw our language become nuanced in its verbiage around COVID-19, I found parallels with my own condition as a child and what I see happening for younger gay men and women across India and abroad. There is more awareness now and faces to connect with, to find hope in. While I cried myself to sleep many a night thinking myself satanic or worse, today’s children have role models to look up to.
As incredibly happy as I am about our acceptance of homosexuality as natural, I’m also achingly sorrowful to observe callous and deeply vexing reactions by educated people in nations developed and developing where many still believe wrongly that it is an act of choice. Just as contracting the virus isn’t a choice, so, too, the gender of our lover is nothing we choose. It simply happens. Some things in life do not have black-and-white answers or descriptors; they thrive in the greys and the unknown.
Colonisers long gone, monarchs mostly dead, oppressive regimes of the past now a faint memory for many — we are daily struggling to free ourselves from our own worst instincts. The virus is only a virus. We make its work easier with our inability to find discipline when it is most needed, our entitlement that makes us feel robbed when it is only a year that we have had to curtail our senseless debauchery, and our petulance that insists we are stronger than a virus that has already killed far too many globally.
Our mortal mind, our egomaniacal instincts of selfish, mindless pursuit, and our utter disdain for a civil society that is all-inclusive, is leading us to tango with the virus when it isn’t dancing that we should be doing but a total boycott of senseless frivolity. The choices we make never come from a cloistered place of honest originality. Cultures as old as Mother India have withstood the vicissitudes of time because they saw themselves as much larger than the mortally flawed dreamscapes of the colonisers’ powerful demagoguery. Bharat Mata suffered the looter and the colonist without fear, appreciating that what she would lose in the transaction was only the material. She knew the oppressors would leave behind much to learn, even if only the lessons of what mistakes ought never to be made.
Someday, hopefully, before we are too far destroyed by a virus which we could contain through mindful thoughtfulness, we will deep cleanse our minds and free ourselves of the vestiges of all those dark periods of history, where mankind has behaved reprehensibly and with nary any respect for its own humanity and that which it shares with fellow humans. I look forward to that day when we become one with ourselves, and accepting of the other and our collective identity.
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