I am 24, and I am not a voter. I have no muddey. I decidedly pressed the NOTA straight, once and for all, from my bed at 18.
For many years, I had used the newspaper only for things like wrapping food, lining the shelves, or to quickly contain accidental spill-offs. I may have had an occasional peek into it for television hours, or for the Sudoku. The only two times when I read the newspaper in all seriousness (pre-2014) were Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in 2007, and then Jagjit Singh’s death in 2011. How profoundly these events changed anything about the world would be one question, but they had some impact on me. Newspaper makes me sad; newspaper is bad: I told myself. Things changed around 2014. Around then and the year before, fellows at Facebook decided upon certain algorithmic changes that would make it more like the users’ “personalized newspaper”. That is how, before I could decide to follow the news, the news was following me (or so I like to believe!).
To back up my supposedly silly argument, I would like to bring to your attention the fact that there have been studies to report how news is bad for us and how regular consumption of news can be super-toxic and is linked to stress, anxiety yada yada. Newspaper-haters have written elaborately in the past about all the ill effects it has on our mind and body, so I refuse to take the pain to lay off similar factual intricacies.
2014 was also the time when prime ministerial elections in India were scheduled to happen. Newspapers were doing rounds with some really effective sloganeering for acche din that were about to come. My tenants’ child, only two years old then, would excitedly return “Modi Sarkar!” to every suggestive “Abki baar?” One ignorant day, I mindlessly shrugged my ignorant shoulders to his shout of “Modi Sarkar!” and the next thing I knew, Narendra Modi was the Prime Minister of India. This whole shoulder shrugging thing is powerful, I tell you.
About the acche din, if there’s anything you should know, know that they had already come by the end of 2019! India had already had pink currency notes; and unlike so many people who died without knowing if it is the Ram Mandir or the Babri Masjid that is going to make it, we lived to find out. Ah, now I can die in peace. In other news, Tibetian dumplings, or momos as they’re affectionately called, made it to 10 steps from my house. Our helper’s son got married, twice. Kanye West turned Christian. Whether or not Modiji would like to take credit for all of it, there should be no doubt that din could not get more acche than this! At the advent of 2020, I decided that there would never be a more exciting time to shred my socio-political ignorance (or semi-literacy) and add the newspaper to the rest of my daily reading.
Newspaper-reading is no child’s play. It is an art. And if you are new to it, like me, the big danger involves you taking everything seriously. Like the first week of January’s speculations for World War 3. News of World War speculations is not very different from the final coming of Christ. If so much is going to end so soon, why write the board exams at all?
I took up the challenge every alternate day. One thing that fascinated me far more than anything else is my own willingness to believe a certain narrative to some news and reject the opposing counterparts. Any amateur social scientist would quickly label me as center-left. Why? Why am I left-leaning? What are my biases to think the way I think or believe the things I believe? There began my own version of A Tale of Two Brains. I began a practice that I now call Think and Think again. I would take information input and observe the pattern of thoughts that would come naturally to me. I would make the gist of things I thought. And then think over the things I initially thought and whatever could be the reason for me thinking them. Such mindfulness is complicated. One may draw some parallel of the process with Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow which I discovered sometime later. The whole point was to challenge my ‘cognitive ease’ and have a breakthrough into a balanced mind.
The truth about Truth is that Truth can be anything. And anybody can be speaking it; even people who we may not like very much. Oftentimes, it can be required of us to go against our mental wiring to some extent to land into the arena where the truth is being served. The virtue of being aware and educated is to challenge our very own default wiring whenever necessary and have the heart to embrace change if needed. I am aware that this post has gotten too serious and philosophical too fast!
The truth about Truth is that Truth can be anything.
And anybody can be speaking it; even people who we may not like very much.
So I was saying, five weeks into 2020, the World War has now been postponed for an unforeseeable time in the future. I spent last Thursday hogging dumplings, explaining to my neighbor still in high school how to determine what it all means – the countrywide chaos over the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019. My dear friend’s sister is out there at Shaheen Bagh painting walls and streets with a call to revolution. Several Brahmin acquaintances are posting aggressively on Facebook about how it’s time for India to be declared a Hindu Rashtra. This time I do not shrug my shoulders. In a way, these, in fact, are acche din for a multitude of people who are getting served what they wanted.
I am 24, and I am not a voter. I do not stand with anybody. I have no muddey. NOTA. Many verbose people like me have gone mute. We are thinking deeply and not deciding quickly enough. This whole cognitive exercise is getting rather uncomfortable. It’s the break of another dawn. The newspaper guy throws in the day’s newspaper which lands perfectly on the house’s forecourt. It smells of the tales of feigned intentions, maligned ambitions. Today, I think. Today they will decide and tell the truth, but tell it slant. And so will I!
Featured image by Shalom Christopher.