I think who we end up becoming as individuals, especially, the basic values that we imbibe in ourselves: kindness, optimism, pessimism, insecurity, political awareness etc. are very much informed by the early conditioning in our homes.
In West Bengal, maybe, my family stands out as an anomaly, because we never had detailed political debates in the house. Even if there were any such discussions between the parents and grandparents many years ago, it wasn’t discussed in front of us. Maybe this was so because my father was away at the shop for over 14 hours a day and my mother was too busy taking care of the house and the kids. None of my parents ever actively supported any party, never campaigned for any local leader of a given party or raised funds for party.
The mandate I had growing up was hide myself in my books and even if the house was on fire your focus should not be diverted. I dare say that I have done this very well, you’d need to work really hard to get my attention when I am busy with something.
But as you get out of your home, meet new people and new cultures, you wonder what is it that you should be busy with. Should you be part of the ongoing political debate that you see overflowing all around you? Or should you put your head down and just focus on your work (similar to what you did as a kid with your books)?
For the longest time, I did the latter. In my defense, I do find the current political environment in India distasteful, to put it mildly. I see a lack of leaders who one can be inspired by. I see a lack of representation of the causes that I personally deem important. To give an example, I see very little representation of sustainability in political speeches. While on the other hand, the century-old debates on religious fault lines are still at centerstage, even though for a good chunk of the population, religion has very little impact on the day to day life. I suppose though my views are urbane and I do not see how my religion defines me. Perhaps in a more rural setting, religion does define your identity. Even so, should that be the cause the common people should be bothered about when the world around them has changed so much?
The tendency to give religious or caste-based color to topics which are far removed from being any of those things has become so prominent.
When you live in such a day and age, not to have a political view becomes difficult. Because now, that student has become a corporate professional who pays taxes. She does feel the pinch when the price of her hard work goes straight into income tax but does not necessarily translate to the kind of reforms she wants to see in the society.
I’m fortunate to have a few left-oriented friends who often provide a counterfoil to my centrist, liberal views. It makes you wonder what would a different world view look be. It makes you think of the larger picture into the future and form your own political philosophies. To that end, I have purchased The Communist Manifesto. Perhaps, there will be another post in which I share my thoughts on the book, but for today, all I can say is: “Interesting.”