August 2, 2011

Lessons of Tolerance

Very recently, I was discussing with three of my (girl)friends, all of them from conservative Hindu families, the possible repercussions of them falling for a boy from a Muslim background. They unanimously agreed that their parents would not accept any such relationship, and hence they themselves would never allow themselves to fall for a Muslim boy. It was disheartening to know that even in today’s day and age, people are not willing to give love a chance just because religion comes in the way. The topic was broached again, a few days later, around a couple of other (Hindu) friends of mine, and their response was along the same lines. The gravity of the realization that then dawned upon left me rather disappointed and disillusioned(I could’ve used the word ‘shocked’ for a more dramatic effect). Despite all the ‘All Indians are my brothers and sisters’ lessons taught to us in school, we haven’t really learnt the true meaning of acceptance or tolerance. Each one of us is a flaming bigot in some way or the other, though we may proclaim otherwise.

It was never, however, only about accepting and loving all Indians. We, as children were taught to love all human beings despite their cast, creed, race, religion, gender or nationality. However, the amount of Pakistanophobia and ingrained hatred that still exists among most of us Indians is shocking. There is one friend of mine, another girl, who happens to have her roots in those areas of pre-1947 India, that now lie in Pakistan. This girl happens to be regularly rendered a target of almost heinous terrorism and Anti-Pakistan jokes by all of us, by our group. Sure, if you ask us, we are just having fun, teasing her about being a ‘Paki’, and of course we hold nothing against Pakistan. But lurking sinisterly behind every one of those ‘bomb-manufacturing-units’ and ‘Please-don’t-shoot-us’ jokes, there is a delusional notion that every household in Pakistan houses terrorists. I mean, when we Indians hold such ideas about our neighboring countries, what rights do we really have to cry our voices hoarse, when any South Asian member gets picked up ‘randomly’ for extra-rounds of frisking at airports in the West ??

We, the youth of the 21st Century, still hold on to age-old notions and stereotypes unconsciously bequeathed unto us by our parents and elders, while at the same time claiming to be ‘tolerant’ and ‘accommodating’ only because it is ‘cool’ to be tolerant.I know of people who vehemently claim to be non-homophobic but yet they get rid of a homosexual room-mate, just because he does not fit their comfort zone. I know of people who (still) claim Africans and Blacks are ‘ugly’ because God did not deem them fit to be humans and hence they, as a race, should still be treated as inferiors and be kept limited to blue-collar jobs, despite having ‘Black’ best-friends. I know of people who have been reared by a single mother, who do not hesitate for a moment before narrating jokes of the ‘Women should stay in the kitchen’ or ‘Bitch-make-me-a-sandwich’ genre. However, I have absolutely no right to pass judgments on anyone because I am equally guilty of having participated in a lot of anti-Semitic, anti-homosexual, anti-Islam, anti-Marwari, sexist, chauvinistic jokes myself.

Hatred and bigotry is born out of ignorance, out of refusal to look beyond the parameters of what one believes to be right, out of being non-accommodating to the views and ideas of others. There is hope as long as we learn to think about others and their feelings. There is hope as long as we admit to our faults and take steps towards correcting them. Several of whose stories I have mentioned here might take offence and feel blamed by what I have written. All I can say is that, that has been the least of all my intentions. All I want for you all is to become bigger and better individuals, to learn to love and care more and hate less. Tolerance for name’s sake is abusing the concept of tolerance. Looking within, and cleansing oneself of all the ignorance is a step forward in becoming a true global citizen.


Olive Oyl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Olive Oyl said...

It's so ironic that people can give broken relationships a chance, but not love transcending religion, caste and creed. They are still barriers, and not charming attributes that is part of every person's personal beliefs. We all have a little religion of ours called faith. Yet we are not liberal enough to acknowledge other's choices. There are giant religious Leviathans lurking everywhere in our minds, which we are too weak to fight off, or too compromising to check it's overbearing tendencies.

It will also be interesting to know that there are many who'll marry even a White Greek Orthodox for that matter, but not a Muslim. A quintessential case of social mindset getting the best of individual preferences