I don’t, as a rule, make political statements. This is more because of a complete lack of astuteness in all matters political rather than out of any loftier sentiment. This once, though, I’m breaking my own rule. I might suffer from ignorance, but that doesn’t make me any less opinionated.
It hasn’t been long since I came to accept the fact that I have a pathological fear of displeasing those around me. I must have acquired it along with chronic guilt and other debris somewhere in my early teens. With decades of tender nurturing, it is now very strong and has spread wide, deep and tall. The irony, however, is that I am by nature impulsive and outspoken. As a result, I am the personification of the classic tug-o-war between nature and nurture.
So when a young friend started posting blatantly anti-Tamil statements in this Mullaperiyar-ridden environment, I protested merely by not ‘like’-ing or commenting on them. This had been going on for a while. A couple of days back, however, I reached my limit. His post this time spoke about how ‘if we stop buying the rotten, poison-sprinkled vegetables and aged meat that he sells, the arrogant Tamilian will learn a lesson’. Well, at that point I decided that I’d rather give in to my basic instinct than suffer in silence. So I commented. And sadly, it has so far not brought back any counter-comments. And not a single ‘like’ either. But I’m still glad I did my bit. It has broken down a couple of self-built walls in my head.
What was my inspiration? What is prompting me to write this piece now, when I should actually be cooking something decent for my guests who’ll arrive in a few hours? Is it the thought of all my amazing Tamil friends – from Anandan, TKP and Gandhi Sir from my SBI days, to Rency, Betcy and my friends at school? Or is it because of my own two ‘nephews-in-law’ who hail from Tamil Nadu, both very fine specimens of mankind? Maybe a bit of everything. But it was that little comment about rotten veggies that finally did the trick. It brought to my mind the ‘vegetable lady’ from my Madurai days, who used to shell butter beans for me by the time I walked down the two flights of stairs from my flat with money and basket. Later on, she took to climbing those stairs so as to save the trouble for my heavily pregnant self. Her vegetables had always been fresh, and her prices nominal – even more so for me since my house was always one of the last she would come to. And hers was just one of the countless incidences of kindness and generosity that I had come across in Tamil Nadu.
My personal sentiments, however, are of least importance here. What is scary is the collective animosity that is growing in the minds of the people of both these neighbouring states, which can lead to anything in the future. We break ourselves up into Malayalis, Tamilians, Gujaratis, Maharashtrians, Punjabis, Kashmiris – and then further into Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, and everything in between. With a bunch of corrupt politicians driving wedges through each, the cracks in our solidarity are far more potentially disastrous than the cracks in the dam. Why can’t we stop being fragments and consolidate as plain Indians before the deluge begins?