The Pulwama terror attack has left us all shaken. Indians around the world are furious and want revenge, any sort of revenge. Some want to scrap cricket matches with Pakistan, while some are pleased with the threat to cut off Indus waters to that nation. Last Saturday, some people at Karachi Bakery in Bangalore obscured the word Karachi and coloured the board in tricolour. Although the police has arrested nine people for the act, just because there is the word Karachi in its name does not mean it is run by Pakistanis or by terrorists.
Isn’t this exactly what the terrorists wanted to do? To spread terror, anger, hatred, make us fight amongst ourselves over our surnames? Divide the country on the grounds of Hindu and Muslim and rule over us from their dens in some faraway country, all the while mocking us. And thus, they have succeeded in their mission. Our soldiers guard our borders so we can be safe within the country. But this does not mean we are absolved of the responsibility to keep the peace within the country. It is our bounden duty to ensure peace at all times. If we remain united inside, our brothers remain safe at the borders.
This newspaper had quoted a martyr’s wife as questioning how people of the country spit on the roads, take bribes, hate each other, cheat and steal and then want the soldiers to maintain peace. The problem is that we do not trust each other and this is the fact that terrorists use to their advantage. They paint us in the same shady colours that is inside our hearts. We only care about what is good for us — selfishness has become our innate nature. Notice the generation currently in schools and colleges. They are learning to think of themselves first, and then, if time and inclination permit, they will think of the others.
The millennials think that it is necessary to get things done by hook or by crook, as there is nobody who can help you out but yourself. The idea of helping yourself is good, but what is good for oneself might be bad for the others, this is the problem. It is building up distrust among all of us. Communication teachers have a hard time getting past this attitude of the students because they are taught to ‘believe in thyself’ but not taught to trust others as well, as they keep saying, ‘You never know’.
There are many instances of how distrust inculcated in us. Let us take this one. Begging is a crime in this country because beggars could be imposters or cheaters. Also, there are secret coaching classes which teach one how to beg, where the students pay ‘commission’ for losing a hand or being blind singers on the trains. They should not be encouraged. But if there is a teenager, who, instead of smoking and eve-teasing on a Sunday evening, sings his lungs out playing with two curated stones in his hands, a ‘generous’ tip of five rupees, sympathetically delivered, looking into his eyes with pity becomes a reason to appear a fool in the eyes of one’s fellow passengers on a train.
Are all beggars imposters? Do all of them have bungalows they rented out or big sacks of money stashed away in their huts? Just because we read of such incidents in the newspapers once in a while, it puts a question mark on the begging community. Of course, begging has no place in any country — but not because beggars are untrustworthy, but because it is poverty that we must eradicate first.
Here is another one. Since the onset of palatial shopping malls, Indians have become ardent advocates of ‘branded’ items. We will not go to a small vendor in the local market to purchase a similar product but would prefer to visit a mall and buy it and delude ourselves that we got a bargain as it was on sale. Waiting for the biannual discount sales has become a trend. If the local vendor sells a shirt for Rs 1,000, we want to wait for a sale to buy a similar shirt for Rs 1,500 which is the price after a 40 per cent discount.
How did this deep distrust of the local vendor creep in? Why do we have infinite faith in famous brands and immense scepticism when it comes to local offerings? We seem to have become colour-blind and are so blinded by the glitter that we cannot see beyond it. These are just a few examples of distrust. India runs on assumptions, not hope. We have lost trust in humanity, in this century. We do not trust anyone because they lie, they cheat and they conceal things. Little do we realise, we are viewed in exactly the same way by those we mistrust.
This is not to suggest that the world is just black and white. There is a whole spectrum of shades in between. Reasoning, according to Aristotle, empowers us to differentiate between true and false. Let us have honesty, integrity and trust in our eyes, to find it in others, as John Keats said, Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
Four centuries ago, Pandit Banarasidas had written his autobiography, Ardhakathanaka, entirely in verse, probably the first of its kind. In it, he speaks of walking from one city to another with two of his relatives, losing his way and entering a dense forest. Some robbers surrounded them and took them to their leader. Pt Banarasidas pretended that he was a Brahmin. The leader asked them to sleep peacefully and dropped them off outside the forest with due reverence.
Even the goons trusted a lie because there is honour among thieves to follow their principles; whereas the ‘honest’ today have no values to follow, in this advanced 21st century. There could be just one possible explanation for the distrust — we ourselves lie, cheat and hide. It’s we who are the cheaters, and this is what causes us to distrust others. We ourselves are not genuine. First, let’s find a solution to this problem by finding the goodness, truth, integrity and honesty inside us. Only then will we learn to spot it in others.
Pragya Jain is an educationist. Views are personal.