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Might is not always right

As kids, we were taught to share and live by the rules of the family. Now as adult citizens, we must re-learn to share our space and adjust. And if we can’t do that, then the government has got to make us adjust, writes Kushalrani Gulab.

india Updated: Aug 31, 2008 23:14 IST
Kushalrani Gulab

Hate to do this to the parents now that they’ve finally got all the kids out of the house (though if they were traumatised when we were there, it’s their fault. Who asked them to have five children? Certainly not the other four of us), but I think it’s time they reassumed their parental duties.

Not with the five of us, oh no. Thanks to them, we’re all shining examples of Indian citizenhood. For example, we almost never fight anymore. Even over important thi-ngs such as which one of us the place at the head of the table belongs to. This, as anyone knows, is a significant position. When you’re at the head of the table, you’re the boss. With no responsibilities such as passing dishes to other people because you’re so far from the dishes that people have to pass them to you.

When we were young, there was a constant power struggle over this, often leading to violence and bloodshed. But after several interventions by the parents, we learned the errors of our ways. Now, guests are edified by the sight of the five ‘kids’ in the family prettily pehle aaping each other when the meal is served.

This story comes to mind today thanks to Raj Thackeray’s attempts to cleanse Maharashtra of non-Maharashtrians, the battles of faiths in Orissa, and, of course, the Kashmir chaos where everyone wants a piece of the pie. These are more serious issues than my family power struggles, of course, but essentially, they’re the same. In this country, everyone has rights. Everyone has a point of view regarding his or her own individual culture and its place in society and often, it’s a valid point.

But in the same way that the five of us, however different in personality we are, learned to share our space, all of us in India have to learn to adjust. And if we can’t do that, then the legislature, administration and judiciary have got to make us adjust. The way my parents did with us.

We’re lucky that way. At least we’re all Indian, so we could learn to share our space. There’s no such hope for Israel and Palestine, I think, as I read It’s Easier to Reach Heaven Than the End of the Street, by Emma Williams, a doctor who accompanied her husband, a United Nations official, on a posting to Israel. Living among Israelis and Palestinians, Williams details the day-to-day life of both sections of society, and the complete and utter lack of understanding between them is appalling. And there’s no entity, such as a Constitution with common rules for living, that can be invoked. But we have that here.

Whatever else we are, we’re all Indian. It just seems that fewer of us remember that. And that includes our government(s), whose own constituent parties are responsible for this. Which is why, I’m sorry, but my parents will have to come out of retirement. Someone needs to remind us of the rules of the house.