Saturday, May 24, 2014

Aatish Taseer on "A Hindu without vengeance, and without apology"

In case you didn't know, NaMo is Narendra Modi.  TsuNaMo is what swept India.

Aatish Taseer has written another thought-provoking essay about the recent elections,  "The Light of Benares".  Maybe I'm biased or pre-disposed to think in a certain way - but Taseer's words resonate with me.

Some excerpts:
And when Modi began to speak, after the interminable bugling of a conch and cries of ‘Bharat Mata ki…’, what he seemed really to catch was this feeling, at once full of sorrow and rage, of hopes betrayed, of a kind of wasted promise. It was as if he spoke directly to the crowd’s restlessness, and rather than making them feel ashamed of it, he endowed it with a kind of nobility. He made their restlessness and hunger and wish to make something of their lives seem like the noblest impulse a man could possess. He showed them their anger in the light of a government that held their talent and energy and potential in contempt. It was amazing: his belief in that vast crowd’s ability to empower itself was absolute.

...And, if I have sympathy for Modi, if I wish to see him succeed, it is because of my sympathy for the people who support him.

It is this India—clear-headed, restless, hungry—that has energised this election. It is the India that some of us have been waiting to see come into being.

It is also my concern for this India that has prejudiced my view of this election. The reason is that I grew up among a class of Indians—privileged, exclusively English-speaking, intimately connected to power and politics—who loathed this other India. They turned their nose up at their bad English; they complained of their body odour; they described them, while doing an impression before a hooting drawing room of people (I’m thinking now of a large mondaine of Delhi society) as ‘ball-scratchers.’ They hated their beliefs and practices; they held their religion in contempt; they lived in open terror of their rise.

Only the Poor were beautiful. The people I grew up among had great reserves of feeling for the rural poor. And through their many schemes and yojanas, their fraudulent plans for empowerment, their concern for tribal art and religion, this crowd of ethnistas and Oxbridge Lefties worked hard to make sure that the Poor never lost the thing that gave them their great charm, namely their poverty.
This was what was new this election. In another time, Rahul Gandhi would not only have been forgiven his deracination; he would have been admired for it.

But cultural rootedness came with problems of its own; in fact, it came with the problems of that culture.
The provincial invariably fails to recognise that in the great countries—let us take Japan as an example—the development of infrastructure and the economy must, if the country is to rise in a meaningful way, and not stumble a few years down the line, be accompanied by an atmosphere in which the human spirit is given free rein. There is no external development—and India, more than any country, should know this—without a parallel development in the internal life of a country. 

Modi must not look away from the spirit of enquiry and freedom that was at the heart of that achievement. He must take as his maxim what one very wise Brahmin here told me it had been his life’s ambition to be: “A Hindu without vengeance, and without apology.”