Some time back, I received a forward of a video made by Kasbah Digital. It was an open letter written to a symbolic person Bhavana (Sentiment) . The letter was signed “we, the people of India”. The video had been shared several times and I guess received fair degree of appreciation from many people. For those, who may not have seen it, I am giving below the content of this open letter. The video had powerful visuals, which I can not reproduce here, but the script will give the broad idea.
How are you? I got a bit worried when I heard about you. I don’t know what you look like, how old you are or where you stay. But from whatever I have seen,read and heard about you, I feel you are a little child. A child who is getting younger as time passes, which is just not right. I am hoping through this letter, I will be able to communicate with you better.
At times you get irritated by someone eating beef. Or when someone says “we need to correct something in this country”. At times somebody raising questions bothers you. It seems you have blisters all over your body,whichever side you turn ,it bothers you. You must be feeling, everyone wants to trouble you-especially the artistic kind. But let me tell you, it is not true. Let me tell you that from reading the news and my day to day experience, I know that you have a lot of well-wishers. And that too in a large number-who defend you by the strongest argument “Bharat Mata ki Jai” They are people who can die or kill for you without thinking twice. Its a different story that we haven’t heard of someone giving their life. But news about their killing people keeps coming.
Bhavana(Sentiments) you are very lucky. Otherwise in times like these,it is very difficult to find such people. It is because of you that a lawyer at lower or high court gets his life. It is because of you that people who do not see eye to eye, speak in the same tone. It is because of you that people recognise that they belong to a specific caste, region or religion. Your contribution towards the unity and greatness which we see written behind trucks is incomparable. I would appreciate if you shift your focus to some other issues as well.- Farmer suicides, Floods, Fire, Vyapam, Scams, Politics and the issues in it. There are a lot of issues that you are not aware of, for once focus on them as well. When you find time, just think about the fact that when so much was happening in the country, where were you hiding?
First wipe your tears.Stop abusing at every situation and come to terms with ground reality. I have just one small request. Be strong,read self-help books, practice yoga,some meditation, and if possible,change your company In the words of Baba Ramadev “It will happen if you do it.So do it.”
I would love to hear from you. Until then take care of yourself.
We, the people of India.
On first reading(listening and watching to be more precise) I found this video quite harmless, sensible and too an extent even evocative. But I also experienced some unease and tried to figure out what is it that I felt uneasy about. I realised that I experienced some identification with Bhavana and felt touched when the letter mentioned the blisters on Bhavana’s body.However right thereafter I felt a huge sense of let down.Not merely was there no attempt to understand the nature of these blisters (let alone healing them) there was a complete denial of any responsibility in the matter with a curt “This is not so”. It seemed the message was that the blisters are a mere figment of Bhavana’s imagination and hence she needs to be counselled to forget about them. I was reminded of a famous couplet of Ghalib- “Ye kahan ki dosti hai, ke bane hein dost nase; koi charasaaz hota, koi ghamgusaar hota ( What does one do with friends, who start preaching at you, Wish they could heal or at the very least be with me in my pain)
As I thought some more, the anomaly of the letter became even more stark. Here was a letter supposedly written by “people of India” and yet the writers had no idea who Bhavana is- what she looks like, how old she is and where she lives. They have only “heard” about her. Clearly their stance is of “outsiders”-well meaning but outsiders nevertheless. The all important question is that if Bhavana is a stranger to “people of India”, then to who does she belong? Are people who identify with Bhavana not Indians ? Are the makers of the video suggesting that distancing oneself from Bhavana is a precondition to qualify as “people of India”
It became clear to me that my unease had nothing to do with the content of the message (in fact, I agreed with most of it). Also, I felt reasonably certain that the intent of the makers was honourable. My unease stemmed from this stance of an “outsider”- who critiques, comments and advises but has no sense of identification. Then why call your self “people of India”. Simply say that while we may be Indians, we regard ourselves as separate and distinct from the rest of our countrymen.
This is a phenomenon I have encountered quite often. Several of my friends and colleagues (who I respect a great deal) often talk about India and Indian-ness in a way that one talks about some other people rather than about oneself. As though India and Indian-ness is something “out there” and not a part of them. In my limited experience with people from other countries/cultures, I rarely experience this. When they talk about their country or culture, you find them including themselves in it. However with a certain category of Indians, it is rarely the case. Their location remains primarily of “outsiders” who are commenting and critiquing but in a way that it excludes them. This is not restricted to only “arm-chair critics” but also includes people who are actively engaged in social action. Undoubtedly, these activists do considerable service to their respective clientele but their essential stance remains that of an “outsider”
The saddest consequence of this distancing and hence disowning of Bhavana by many of us, is that she is hijacked by a host of vested interests who manipulate and exploit her and in the name of “looking after”, leave her even more wounded. If we really want her to heal and become stronger then we first need to own her up, accept her as an integral part of ourselves and stop treating her as a millstone around our neck. Standing apart and preaching will only add to her wounds. Simply put, we need to acknowledge that Bhavana is not some one “out there”- She resides within each one of us and is crying to be treated with some compassion and empathy. It is another matter that many of us have chosen to turn away from her.