Saturday, June 27, 2020

Being Indian


Most of us are heartily sick of the gloom and doom forecasting headlines that inform us every single day that India has witnessed a record spike in Covid positive cases and deaths. We are then helpfully informed that the numbers are probably not reflective of how bad the ground reality actually is. A favored coping mechanism is to ignore the news, busy ourselves with daily routines, debate whether to bake a vanilla sponge cake with chocolate glace icing which is certain to undo hours of yoga, cardio and strength training, weigh the pros and cons carefully before succumbing to the sugar demons lying to yourself that you are doing it for the kids though you know you are going to finish most of it, then tune into Netflix and binge watch a show to distract yourself from anxieties pertaining to Corona and your strained relationship with the weighing machine.

Every once in a while though a case comes along that shakes us to the core and forces us out of the ennui that has come to characterize our existence. The custodial deaths of Jeyaraj (58) and his son Bennix (31) have sent shock waves rippling across the nation already reeling from a global pandemic. The facts of the case at least the ones that are available and not entirely contradictory are grisly in the extreme. Father and son were beaten, tortured and allegedly sodomized before they were declared dead in a Kovilpatti Govt. hospital which is about 100 kms away from where they were arrested for supposedly violating lockdown rules and regulations at Sathankulam, Tuticorin district. Two of the cops involved have been suspended and another two transferred.

Public outrage has reached its zenith and a multitude of voices have been raised demanding #JusticeForJeyarajandFenix. Trending hashtags don't really fixate on accuracy which probably explains why Bennix has become Fenix. All agree that the token disciplinary action taken against the dirty cops and magistrate is inadequate to say the least. The ruling govt. as well as the opposition have duly called each other out and promised the victims' families compensation to the tune of 25 lakhs. One can only hope that once the smoke dies down and the hashtag stops trending, the fight for justice continues.

These are troubled times and if we pause to introspect, it become abundantly clear that we are also responsible for this brutal,unforgivable system where the rot of corruption has set in too deep. As Indians, we have become inured to doing things we shouldn't because we know we can get away with it. And we are right about that. Folks especially if they are rich and powerful can easily get away with murder, theft and just about anything else provided they have the money to throw at problems or the connections that will help them wiggle free. All of us play along because that is the only way to get along with fellow citizens of a morally challenged nation.

The legal system is in shambles and law enforcement is a joke and a half. The courts are so backed up, that a case is unlikely to see the light of day even after the perpetrator has lived to the ripe old age of 200 before kicking the bucket. Small wonder rapists, kidnappers and extortionists roam the streets like they own it while families of the victims bury their dead and cower in their homes destroyed by grief and fear. As for the rest of us, we are perfectly content to coast along just as long as we or our loved ones are untouched by the madness and savagery lurking outside the cosy comfort and confines of our home, work and lives.

That makes us complicit in this systemic evil as everybody is guilty of wrongdoing at a major or minor level. Are the beady eyes of IT officials raking your dubious company's records? Just buy them a fancy car, a crate of booze, or a trip abroad. In trouble with the law because your son and heir got drunk and mowed down a car killing a family of four or bludgeoned his wife to death with a dumbbell?  No problem... there is always somebody who knows somebody who can brush these things under the carpet. All you have to do is buy a five - bedroom sea - facing apartment for some politico type's mistress. You do it without blinking thanking your lucky stars that you have not been called upon to provide the mistress as well. Your kid can't be bothered with burning the midnight oil for a medical seat? Not an issue... It has already been bought and paid for. So what if some auto driver's daughter killed herself because her decent marks notwithstanding, admission was denied her? The outrage will die down eventually. It always does. Why the hell should we bother about the problems of the poor and the unfortunate?

So we shrug our shoulders and say, THIS IS INDIA. We will remind ourselves of our culture, heritage, philosophy, Taj Mahal. Yoga, Ayurveda, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Kamasutra, Madhuri Dixit, Virat Kohli, P.V. Sindhu and Dindigul thallapakatti biriyani so we can take pride in being Indian and ignore the anti - nationals constantly harping about all the things that are so horrifically wrong with this land like raucous crows. What else  can we do? Everything else is too hard and it is somebody else's problem. Definitely not ours. So there! 


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