I'm not a fan of dynasty politics, disagree with many policy initiatives undertaken by the UPA and believe that like in the United States, Indian politicians too should release their health records annually. However the reaction to Sonia Gandhi's admission into the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in the United States has left me gravely concerned with regards to who we have become as a people.
As a comedian, I personally believe in the secularism of jokes i.e. no one and nothing is sacred and that it is never too soon. Often we as Indians are perfectly comfortable with jokes being made about, say, Michael Jackson after his death because he is not a national symbol unlike a Sai Baba. In Sonia Gandhi's case too - I am not averse to jokes regarding the situation (Sonia being hospitalized might be the one chance Manmohan Singh has to make a decision on his own) but what matters is intent.
As much as I might dislike Jagdish Tytler/Suresh Kalmadi and make jokes about them, I wouldn't want any physical harm because honestly, I feel we're better than that and believe in the karmic notion of everyone living through their own fate. So the sheer number of people wanting Sonia Gandhi to not survive her illness was somewhat - frightening. I wouldn't wish such illness upon anyone, even if it was someone I hated from the core of my being.
Where does it stem from then? Does it have a moral dimension where we can't see where the line between politics or humanity ends? Is it a larger disenchantment with the political "system" so to speak where we feel everything must burn to the ground before India rises like a Phoenix? Or is it just that media like the internet amplify gut reactions that might change after an individual reasons with oneself a little bit more? Does her ethnicity being constantly re-invoked smack of Edward Said's thesis of Orientalism and how societies apply binary opposites to explain itself? But mostly I want to ask - what happened to us?
Gursimran Khamba is a pissed off writer, stand up comic, podcaster, social media junkie and lover of all fried foods. Except bananas. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/gkhamba
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