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Bleed Blue

I looked on my Facebook this morning and saw someone say that they were proud to be Indian because we (I say “we” in the loosest form here) beat Australia in cricket. Sitting in a pub in Birmingham yesterday with my family, it was clear that that everyone was in a good mood. Boundaries and sixes were celebrated with noise that could probably be heard from India. However, this morning I stumbled across a documentary called “India’s Daughter” about the violent Delhi gang-rape of aspiring medic, Jyoti Singh, and it left a bitter taste in my mouth about patriotism.

All over my social feeds yesterday, there were plenty of people that were jubilant about the victory. It created a great atmosphere over lunch, although there were a few people that inevitably took it too far. I watched some of the reactions to players like Virat Kohli and M.S. Dhoni, the vice and captain respectively, as many people created a cult of personality around them. Sure, they are incredibly talented individuals, but there have already been allegations of match fixing with both of them at the very top and not to mention Dhoni’s infamous goat sacrifice scandal 6 years ago now which saw him banned from games.

It is very easy to look at sport in isolation. To watch and enjoy a game at a time, and ignore the politics that is happening behind the scenes. To be honest, a lot of the people who benefit from these games would prefer it that way – so you were not aware of what is going on. And if you don’t think that sport, even cricket, is political…then let me direct you to every India and Pakistan game that has been played since 1947. Whilst I can understand why it is exciting to see Indians of all shapes, sizes and genders colouring their faces in blue paint, donning their jerseys and singing in the crowds, it feels like this doesn’t translate outside of the stadium.

The problem with these sorts of tournaments, is that whilst they are a release from the mire of what else is going on, they do nothing to tackle the ongoing injustices that are plaguing Indian society. Speaking as an NRI (non-resident Indian), I am sure there are many that would label me a hypocrite. However, listening to the story of Jyoti, who had her entrails dragged out from her private parts with an iron rod before being thrown into the road, tells me that a cricket game is not going to fix it. If anything, it is more of a distraction.

Passion and enthusiasm are key. When you hear the cries of “India Zindabad!” during these games, it is fantastic to see the voices of many joining the chorus. Whether they are men or women, young or old. But we pick and choose the parts that we are patriotic about – the conversations about female foeticide, rape, a lack of sexual education, inequality, cultural backwardness, changes in attitude are all swept under the carpet. Not only are we not proud of that India, we choose to ignore it and let those individuals suffer in silence – shaming them for our own crimes of ignorance.

I don’t want to dampen any celebrations. It is fantastic that India are through in a tournament that comes around all of the time, with individuals that get paid too much money and who might be cheating. I mean in reality; I couldn’t give a toss. What concerns me is that we cheer for a nation that seems to be doing well in the ICC World Rankings, but is also dubbed as the “rape capital of the world” in Delhi.

I mean we could practice our bowling and batting, because it is easier. It also means someone (probably not you) will make a lot of money. But does it really make you proud to be Indian? When you watch that and realise all of these things going on in the background, does it make you “bleed blue” as everyone seems to say?

I wouldn’t say that I am that sort of patriot yet.

Opt In

It was a bit of anti-climax. It isn’t the same putting your vote in the post, amongst those who are making their way to the polling stations now, huddled into those familiar wooden booths. It is a technological vaccuum where even the advances in everything electronic won’t stop you from taking a black pen and putting a black ‘x’ in the designated box. And it is totally yours to choose.

The beauty of voting in a General Election for the very first time is that it is like crossing the threshold. A threshold that has very rarely changed in the last few hundred years, that has built the nation and brought it to its knees. And it all invariably starts with you walking into that familiar wooden booth, and marking your choice. It was a very exciting moment for me personally, having been heavily interested in politics since I can remember.

However, I can’t help feeling like the tokenism behind voting should have more value than it does. Amongst many of us, it is as much about telling people that you are going to vote, as well as actually doing it. An exercise in democratic responsibility, as well as a vanity project. It is a curious juxtaposition between generations that have kept their political views to themselves, and many of us who are bold enough to post our explicit political views all over our social media profiles. It is a positive notion, I must admit, that so many people want to be more involved, but I am worried that we sometimes don’t see how important this actually is.

I know there is no need to point fingers at the engaged, when there are many others that have no interest or time for the way in which this race pans out. It isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Also, there is no right or wrong reason to vote – it is a very personal dimension and there are a plethora of reasons why an individual might choose one box over another. Yet, do we take the time to understand who and what we are voting for? Can we ever consider the implications of such a decision on one ballot paper on one day?

It sometimes makes me feel like it is an ‘opt in’. You tick a box (or rather cross) and suddenly you align with a certain viewpoint, a major issue or a charismatic leader. You endorse the way that they work, who they believe in and you give them the right to decide a part of your future for five years. It is the terms and conditions at the bottom that we miss – the small print that surfaces months after the wooden booths are taken down, and the pollsters go home – the devil, as someone said to me today, is in the details.

So cross that box. Smile at the fact that you made a little piece of history. But realise that this is just the beginning, and that it is time to start holding those to account after the banners have been taken down. It will be a very exhausting night. And for a few groups of people, it will be a celebration amongst all the chaos…but the real winner should be you.

Because this should never just be an ‘opt in’ – this is a statement of intent. This generation will not be deceived again, not this time.


How Far Would You Go?

Charlie Brooker is a provocative genius. His new series, Black Mirror, has received wide acclaim for his subversive, dystopian analysis of the frightening progression of technology in our modern age. And I am absolutely hooked on it. The first episode of the second series entitled ‘Be Right Back’ looks at a woman dealing with the recent death of her husband…she is dealing with the silence. Be warned, there are going to be spoilers, but I will try not to give too much away. Before he died, he was obsessed with his phone, posting regularly on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, giving him a huge online footprint. In the episode, there is a new piece of technology which allows her to “download” his personality into a doppelganger who acts based on his “online” personality. He walks; he talks…like nothing has changed.

So this got me thinking about the human psyche and our obsession with our comfort zone. When the extremes of death take hold of us, we strive to cling on to any bit of normality that we can get our hands on. Whether that is getting on with work or getting up at the same time every day, we all need a constant. But if we had the chance to go back to how it was before, so you didn’t have to feel the hurt, or hear the silence, would you do it? If there was a chance that you could rewind your life back to the last known good configuration? My question is how far would you go to escape from the reality that slaps you in the face?

My question is not whether you would or not. If you had the chance for a redo, I believe that you would take it – human beings have an innate perfectionism and greed that would be quenched if they got the chance to correct their mistakes or go back to when they were happy. My question is how far would you go? If you could give an arm or leg to be with that person again, a small fee or a big sacrifice, what would entice you? A lot of you may be sitting and thinking that these are the words of a desperate man incapable of getting past a stumbling block, but I assure you I am thinking rationally. Brooker makes an astute point: can we actually deal with the fact that things will never be the same again, or do we choose to accept it knowing that there is not an alternative?

Many of my friends who watched the episode were horrified by it. It disturbed and scared them. They struggled to comprehend the motives of bringing someone back from the other side. Personally, I do not blame her. Would you begrudge a grieving widow the opportunity to be with her soul mate again? Or could you see the consequences of it? That that figure is but a shadow of the person that once was – a thumbprint that cannot evolve, or grow or move forward. Very much like the social media accounts that we associate, contribute and dismiss on a daily basis. They act as impersonal “personal” accounts that seem to stand the test of time.

Can anyone then really die? When we can so easily look back over what they said, what they looked like and what they stood for? Can we actually let go of anyone knowing that a part of them is only a click of a mouse away? Needless to say, I do not have any answers to these questions. All I know is that if this technology was possible in the future, at the click of button, could we resist the temptation of seeing or hearing their voices…just one…more…time? Truly ask yourself. How far would you go?