The recent turbulence in Tibet is turning to be a trouble for India. Though no Indian life or interest is under any threat, India is finding it difficult to respond. It is the Indian response, or lack there of, that is the most troubling. If it was an isolated case of confusion for India, it is no big deal. But this is deliberate and exposes a fundamental characteristic of Indian psyche.
Some have attributed the reaction to fear: comparisons to common poultry are made. People have cited other instances such as the lack of forceful response against religious fundamentalism as displayed in the on going case of Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen. When it comes to Taslima, I am no fan of her as a reader. I think her books are boring: that is a more serious crime in my book than blasphemy. But India’s reaction to her is ridiculous.
Tibet has been suffering in silence for long. It was a source of pride that India gave shelter to the government in exile. But I cannot forget how India handled Tiananmen Square massacre two decades ago. India as a nation does not take a strong stand unless it is a direct threat: this pattern is only going to get worse with time.
I say that not because I think Indians are a bunch of cowards and too scared to speak up. I think it is more sinister. Indians are conformist and lack any conviction. Indians are complacent unless their immediate comfort is under threat. With the recent economic progress Indians got a taste of life outside backbreaking poverty and they are not looking back. Indians are ready to give up anything to fulfill that promise of prosperity: principles and convictions are the first casualties. And that is why I say things can only go down hill from here.
Indian is not a collection of individuals; Indians bask in collective identity. Lacking diversity of individual thoughts and reactions, Indians settle for middle of the road average group response. And in this decade the collective response is everything for personal comfort: all Indian activities are measured and valued against it. Anything that promises personal comfort is good, and anything else is worthless. As a result, Indians are not outspoken about Tibet, there is no outcry against the events in Nandigram, and they are not outraged by incidents in Gujarat. Indians confident in their conformity cling to their comfort.
That makes me wonder when Indians would get freedom; when would India be a free country. Free from self imposed slavery. I understand centuries of inventions and subjugation have left lasting impression on Indian psyche. I understand after suffering in the pit of poverty for so long it is easy to give up principle for the promise of prosperity. But what about happiness? What about a human life? A life of explorations, expressions, convictions, and celebrations. A life that is free from the crippling fear. A life not imprisoned in the narrow boundary of personal comfort.
A country of conformists cannot withstand change; a person without convictions cannot be happy. Life is a subversive humorist. It gives a lot to those who expect a lot out of it; it gives nothing to those who ask for so little. Happiness is like moonlight: the tighter one clinches her fist the darker it gets. When would Indians open their palms and live a little.
It is all right to think. It is okay to speak your mind. There is nothing wrong to be different. And trust me, it is more fun.