If I see anyone struggling with their luggage, I pick up one of the bags and start walking with her. If I reach the ticket counter almost at the same time with another person, I ask him to please go ahead. If I hear someone’s noise and feel like shouting back, I quell that instinct. Even if I have sharp sarcasm at hand to respond to someone, I try to smile instead.
It is not like I have always been like this. Every now and then I try to be a better version of myself. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I am left thinking too long and the time for action is past; at others I just take the lazy way out and allow my ego to override my compassion. The reason I am so desperately trying to love my neighbour these days is because I need to reaffirm my faith in humanity, because I don’t want my basest tendencies to become my second nature.
Governments will come and go, having taken their turns at the carousel. People have to live with each other. I don’t want for things to take a turn where, by the time we are able to take the beam out of our own eye, we can’t bear to meet each other’s gaze. Or, in the event that we refuse to face our fears and mistakes and decide to run away from them by running towards each other with a gauntlet, ready to obliterate whatever or whoever we encounter . . . in the event that I end up, fortunately or unfortunately, surviving that day, I don’t want to find myself unable to face a mirror.
I have never been apolitical and never will be. But I am disheartened by and weary of a politics where wishing for peaceful coexistence is seen as a sign of having gone soft in the head. I don’t want to be part of a populace where we don’t look for a tally of common values to strengthen collective bonds but for homogeneity of opinions to act as life support for frail individual egos. I refuse to accept as genuine debate any shouting match with rhetoric and statistics whose sole aim is to score a win and pull the other down, and doesn’t care a fig about arriving at possible solutions. I would not accept self-righteous voices claiming to represent large sections of people just because they have thrown in for good measure some holy cows in their presentation.
I would always try to inform myself over and above my predilections, and I won’t flinch from taking a stand. At the same time, I would reject any rose tinted glasses in whose vista refusing to see discrimination and differences is the same as erasing them. My efforts would be to ensure that my bias does not overcome my knowledge, and to see to it that my prudence does not replace my courage. I will go on challenging the notion that strength is power, or that being gentle is the same as being meek, or that the meek can only hope to inherit and not save the earth. I will struggle to make sense of things, and hope that some things never make sense to me, that I never end up dismissing the method as madness. And I shall continue, ‘naively’ and unapologetically, to treasure what the mind, body and soul remember of love, friendship and togetherness, and to keep on seeking, finding and creating for those memories repeated moments of déjà vu.
Ankita Anand is an independent writer and co-founder of the street theatre group Aatish based in Delhi.