Unfortunately, I was born—in India, which is the fortunate part of my existence—either 20 years too soon or 20 years too late.
I had always wanted to be old enough to belong to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s time, but I was barely out of kindergarten when he died. Oh, how I would have loved to be a journalist then, interview the prime minister, interact with the intellectual, romance the man… As I grew up reading his books—the books he wrote through his years of incarceration in British prisons—I fell in love with him and have always envied my mother’s generation simply for belonging to his times.
Now I wish I was born 20-30 years later so that I could escape the worst of today’s situation—of belonging to a profession that has largely sold its soul to the current dispensation, of having to know and feel deeply about what India was under Nehru and what it has become today, of having to be faced with such bigotry and Islamophobia that it is almost inhuman… of seeing my country go to the dogs… or should it be, literally, the cows?
But then I think if I were born 20-30 years later, unfortunately, I would have had to be bang in the middle of Narendra Modi’s policies, have had my education messed up, have had to go hungry as there would be no jobs to be found even after all that skewered education based in unestablished and unscientific ancient theories or imaginary ideas of past glories that would have skewered my opportunities of even seeking any employment abroad.
And then, unfortunately, I would not have known what it meant to belong to a great country led by greater prime ministers like Nehru, Indira Gandhi and the others. Unfortunately, then, I would only have known a prime minister who thinks you can get gas from the gutter to boil your tea or use cloud cover to escape detection of your planes by enemy radars.
Unfortunately, then, I would have grown up a bumpkin having to take my prime minister at face value and believe India’s voting population is 600 crore and not a total of 140 crore, voting or non-voting. That Kabir, Swami Vivekananda and Guru Nanak, born in different centuries, used to miraculously somehow time-travel to get together for great philosophical discussions…
And you know what? The history books would not have told me any better because, unfortunately, students now read only about how Prithviraj Chauhan killed Mohammed Ghori instead of being vanquished by the latter as is the truth, and how Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel loved the RSS instead of the fact that he wanted to permanently ban the organisation after its involvement in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, and lifted the ban only because Nehru’s liberal conscience did not permit him to ban it.
Unfortunately, then, I would have had to be confused by Piyush Goyal’s belief that Isaac Newton wrote the theory of relativity and Albert Einstein, born more than two centuries later, came up with the action-reaction formula without which the rest of physics, including the theory of relativity, may not have had much base to stand on.
Unfortunately, then, I would have had to take lessons from the China sympathiser Kiren Rijiju on nationalism and grown up believing there is nothing wrong in threatening the judiciary while at the same time keeping mum on the Chinese having established a whole village in my state inside Indian territory. Unfortunately, then, conceding Indian territory without a peep to China would have been my idea of nationalism.
Unfortunately, then, I would never have known a country that respected and honoured its women, gave us all our rights, including adult franchise, without even having to fight for it like British and American women had.
Unfortunately, then, all I would have known was that women and little girls can be raped, killed, burnt in my country with the perpetrators going scot-free simply because they belong to the ruling party. Unfortunately, then, all I would have known was that the cow produces not just gobar and gaumutra but also oxygen and that the peahen conceives by swallowing the tears of the peacock.
And if I had been born after my time, I would never have known the value of free speech. As a journalist, I would never have witnessed debates of a high order and quality in parliament. Unfortunately, then, I would only have known a prime minister mocking a fellow MP in the Rajya Sabha for her full-throated laugh as a demoness or one of his party men dismissing a fellow woman MP as a ‘prostitute’ for exposing the fact that like the prime minister he has no legitimate degree from any university.
And, of course, then I too would have had to settle for a degree in Entire Political Science that taught me nothing instead of the one that honed my political understanding so fine that it propelled me towards a career as a political correspondent of some repute who today annoys the bigots no end by simply knowing better than the bullshit they are fed and made to swallow without question, ad nauseum.
And, of course, if I had been born 20-30 years later, today, unfortunately, I would think that it is okay to belong to a nation that has sold itself to just one crony capitalist. So much so that I would never have known what airports and railways were before 2014; that the Supreme Court and judiciary were fiercely independent; that history was what actually happened in the past and not born out of the imagination of a bigoted mind about how it should have unfolded in unseemly terms; that climate change was real and not just old people feeling cold in their bones; or even that India was truly a free country in the past where governments did not misuse agencies to intimidate the Opposition.
Unfortunately, then, had I been born later than I was, I would never have had the opportunity to be a proud Indian at home and abroad. Unfortunately, then, Narendra Modi‘s statement abroad would have come very true: what did I do in my past life to be born as an Indian under this completely democratically illiterate, obnoxious, odious and potty-mouthed regime? Unfortunately, that would have been my only idea of India, then.
So, I am very fortunate to know the difference between then and now. And know that India is bigger than the whims of a petty politician, the wheels will turn again and we will have better leaders rooted in our democratic values to govern us again.
Until then, unfortunately, we are condemned to put up with sectarian, provincial, small-minded picayunes who fancy themselves as Vishwagurus!