Thanks to Mr. Sundar Sarukkai Professor of Philosophy at the National Institute of Advanced Studies Bengaluru for inputs.
BBD is experiencing a new INDIA of NaMo era in his own birth place at Tola Pathak Bigha, Village Barheta, Block Ratni, P S Paras Bigha, District Jehanabad in Bihar state. This a tiny hamlet comprising of original closely knit 14 families hailing from different caste structure with complete cohesion during childhood of BBD. For all practical purposes, BBD is in his roots after 1969 when he left the place for further education and acquiring skill for better livelihood etc. The birth place is now ruined and identified by only fallen walls and left as such since decades. Passing night with cracks in walls and roof which can fall any time is a new experience, but the complexity of society and behavior of people is rather more troublesome than the challenge of sleeping near scorpions/snakes of all kinds. Now, there is electricity for more than 20 hours in the villages, lanes are being made of all weather connectivity within, but still at least a year away from connecting with all weather motor-able roads. Right the moment, one is forced to walk down from Nagla which is situated on road.
Only a few people from a generation ahead of BBD are left, and 3rd generation after BBD has arrived. Perhaps, only BBD from his biological family is left out to be called as SARKAR (my lord – as per the then traditional word used for his family during childhood).
BBD is experiencing the challenge that belongingness is missing among all, and is being challenged even in the very nuclear family. Father is living with elder son while mother is living with younger son and elder son and mother are not in talking terms since months together. Family pension of INR 1,500 is divided in 3 parts, so the piece of land – whether it is cultivable land or dwelling unit. My faith that being a rural Indian was a simple matter is shattered within few hours. It appears to me that residents of my village are losing their autonomy to define themselves as to who are they and who they want to be seen as.
Sometimes, it seems that to understand our complex society, all that we need to do is to understand our behavior at traffic lights at almost all places in Mera Bhaarat Mahaan (MBM). During morning hours you may find a father taking his ward for school and the traffic police has raised his hand to give pass to vehicles coming from another side – the moment his eyes are shifted to other corner, this man carrying his ward, without waiting for green signal will find way to speed up to his destination, breaking all rules. He does not understand the mindset of a small kid, which is polluted at the very beginning but such stupid and avoidable haste. Resultant effect is seen in subsequent hours. You will find countless people on all short of transport driving through red lights. One does not get a sense of guilt by flouting rules that create inconvenience and annoyance to many who are following the rules. It becomes unbearable more so when they do it right beneath the nose of indifferent traffic police. Such situation makes you realize that while it might be just an another example of rule breaking that seems to be essential definition of being Indian, at a deeper level it is also reflective of a far greater problem confronting our society.
Following rules is very easy, and at the same time very difficult. Class example of traffic regulation observed by we the people during CWG in Delhi, and more so during emergency era of Mrs. G. If you prefer 1st part, it has at least two components: one, the action corresponding to the rules, and the other our interpretation of intention of that rule. So, to follow the simple rules, STOP AT RED LIGHT, is to follow the physical action of stopping the vehicle but it is also to accept the intention or reason behind the rule. Typically, we are expected to follow the action corresponding to a rule and not worry about the intention. Most times, when a driver jumps a signal, he is not breaking a rule per se as much as interpreting it in terms of its original intention. He understands that there is no traffic in front of him and then acts based on his decision that red lights are not meant to be followed when there is no traffic. He acts as independent decision maker who feels that his judgment of situation overrides rules set by a society or to say government. But, there are also some who jump signals because they feel they are not bound by any social norms – more so if his skins are covered by special yarn called white KHADI.
Such ambiguity of what it is to follow a rule is really the fountain head of many conflicts in our society of the day. Should we blindly follow existing social norms or should we be independent interpreters of the rules of society? Sometimes it is comprehended that our individual decision is better than the existing social norms. You may infer that it is useless to wait for two minutes at signal when there is no traffic at all on the roads. How one should act in such case? Does the social norm, even when no appropriate in a particular context, always supersede rational individual decision? Or is it better to have a thinking citizenship, one that refuses to blindly follow rules without interpreting them to see what really suits the context? But the chaos that results when each of us interprets social rules is what leads to traffic jams every single day in every corner of MBM.
It is also this same attitude of individual interpretations of accepted norms that drives much of the conflicts in India of the day, including the issues of governance. The latest conflict of COW Slaughter or EVM or Triple Talaque the debate on such issue and the action/reaction of self appointed protectors of religion, tradition, democracy and the nation is really not that different from the problem of dealing with traffic jams.
Identity is primarily about rules and how we follow. Identities such as gender, caste and religion are largely decided by the norms of larger society, and most times, socialization is nothing but learning as to how to follow those. So how we behave is influenced by the set of social rules, some explicit and many implicit. Living in society is then largely a matter of following these rules, stopping at the SOCIAL RED LIGHTS (SRL) as required. But, since identity is intensely personal, we also repeatedly intend to jump the SRL. We break social rules constantly and in doing so assert our own individual decision making capacity. Choosing our own identity – as to how we see ourselves – is one of the most cherished autonomies that we have. However, this autonomy is what is being challenged today by individuals in small groups who take on authority of defining what our identities should be. Unfortunately, the tendency in defining the rules of what any identity is, role of social media is taking alarming space. Instead of the state or the larger society which was done by people of initial phase of life of BBD, it is increasingly smaller but vocal and arrogant group that have anointed themselves as judge and enforcers of identity. This is exactly like having a group of people standing at signal lights waiting to catch those who jump the signal.
This pathetic situation has arrived because those who are supposed to do the job of creating meaningful social rules have abdicated their responsibilities – just like the attitude of traffic police. In such situation it is but natural that this space is occupied by individuals who suddenly decide to regulate traffic, so too the lack of political leaders leads to small groups taking over the task of regulating the society.
Is not an example of consequence of the natures of our democratic politics? Representative politics is a system where we the people voluntarily give away our autonomy to politicians. Voting for somebody is to voluntarily give a POWER OF ATTORNEY to that individual to speak and govern on our behalf. We gift the politicians the right to govern us in the hope that they will do the right things. But, the behaviors of latest entry of fresh air politicians of DELHI are showing that there is no longer possible in democracy of MBM.
If any individual or a small group start dictating the society with their definition of what social rules mean, instead of a loyal and responsible person negotiating such rules. They then run through society like they run through signal lights while the rest of us sit and watch helplessly waiting for for the lights to change. JAAGO RE.