Over the few days that followed Wing Commander Abhinandan’s capture by the Pakistani army, I was added to a WhatsApp group by a friend who promised me that I would enjoy the kind of political discussions taking place on that platform. It turned out to be an echo chamber of ring-wing propaganda, where conspiracy theories and pseudo nationalist agendas found a home. Apparently, the Congress was responsible for the Pulwama attack and Rahul Gandhi had himself drafted the plan to kill those 40 chaps. Oh, and there was someone on the group who thought that the name ‘India’ was ‘sickular.’ The fact that the terms India and Hindu both have a common genesis and share etymology was lost on this erudite crowd. Continue reading
As I finished watching a late-night screening of PK on Monday, I was struck by a deeply unsettling thought: what if I had a daughter who wanted to spend her life with a Pakistani? Would I be okay with it? Despite professing to be a liberal, I was ashamed to admit that I had my reservations about the idea. And as I began to probe the reasons behind this hypocrisy, I realized that my prejudices were a partial product of growing up in a system that constantly views Pakistan as the enemy. Our books paint their heroes as antagonists. Our movies treat their government and people with disdain. Our media, riding on the viewership that comes with such jingoistic and pseudo-nationalistic agendas, feeds our xenophobia. And as we continue to thump our chests and take pride in the histories of the wars we’ve fought and won, and as we revel in our purported superiority over our neighbors, we forget that there exists a similar set of people plagued by the same set of problems we encounter – education, poverty, unemployment, religion – on the other side of the border. And then there’s the question of my own beliefs; if I can firmly endorse freedom of choice and speak-up for the lesser fortunate and marginalized, how is it that I have a problem with this thought? Is this the limit of my liberalism? And therefore, am I only a liberal when it’s convenient and visible? I’m not a father… But I hope that when the time comes, I am able to give my children a future unencumbered from the prejudices and biases of our history.