How to Live in Modi’s India

First of all, take a deep breath and calm down. You’ve been through this before, you’ve been through this exact same thing before, and this time you’re actually better off.

This time, you’re not going to be entering a new Modi era with hope, but with trepidation and cynicism.

It won’t be that bad.

Remind yourself this, over and over again.

No! Don’t chant it, you don’t want your aura to attract any negative vibes from the people around you, who might possibly be undercover bhakts.

Now, where were we? Yes. Calm down.

If you see that aggressive news reporter yelling through the TV screen in your office, don’t stare at it angrily. Try not to hear the noise and shake your head over how wrong they are to think that his being back in power is good for the country.

Instead, plug in your headphones and listen to your favourite song. This way, if a Neanderthal co-worker comes and tries to cajole you into “submission of defeat”, you can just work your way through it all.

Remember in this challenging moment that you must rise above in spite of the establishment. Remember that Modi won not because of promises fulfilled but because of how he caricatured an invisible enemy we ‘need’ stand against. An invisible enemy who is such a great threat to our national security, that we may as well die of an agrarian crisis and starvation from unemployment-led poverty.

But at least there won’t be any arrows flying in the dark – jumping over clouds, missing radars.

You must remind yourself it’s okay that a paranoid megalomaniac is running the country because you will not indulge his paranoia. You will not call for boycotting a state and her people; you will not ready yourself for Armageddon; you will not erect a make-shift bomb shelter because – lo and behold – we may have to face the invisible enemy.

That too, an enemy who – when it takes the form of someone more homegrown – is not even worth your time. That enemy is now heralded.

It’s okay to tell yourself that even if there is abject division of ideologies in this country, at least we’re a forgiving lot who gloss over exalted comments about the murderer of the nation’s father, and the assassination of one of our prime ministers. Tell yourself you will rise above it, because even if the latter died due to terrorism, he deserved it because his brand of corruption was so different from the Ambani-Mod one.

Tell yourself that not only will this man take you away from a brand of bygone corruption, but will one-up everyone and actually just block off your own money in a bank, where you may or may not die waiting in a queue for your own hard-earned money.

But see, this is all okay because Modi’s India is selectively forgiving.

Especially, if you’re a heteronormative majority. Especially, if you believe that a soft-spoken boy – erstwhile pappu – is far worse than well, a fascist. Tell yourself this is what your country voted for and you must move on. Because you could keep harping on 2002 – which is all but forgotten, while 1984 remains a collective memory. You can keep harping on about misogyny and bigotry in speeches while they are pardoned by a very efficient Election Commissioner.

But dare you use euphemisms for the almighty Mann Ki Baat talker – no, no. That is unquestionably reprehensible. So just move on.

But we can only move on so much. And for so long. How do we now live?

For starters, look around – how many of your peers and family WhatsAppers are happy about the return of the ‘very first’ everything this country has seen? Are they all happy? Are they trying to provoke you? Don’t get provoked. Instead, agree. Agree to all that they are saying.

They’re only saying it because they feel like they can relate to this 56-incher. They feel they too were rejected and admonished in life – and for that they too want to get back at the people through him. They too want to exercise this abject power trip wherever they can. They too want to believe arbitrary numbers on pamphlets that amount to no mathematics.

Pity them, for they are under a spell.

They don’t realise that someone on a path of vindication and vindictiveness can only ever pre-empt things that befit their narrative. So, slowly – without any traces of post-traumatic stress disorder (which is nigh) – explain it to them.

Don’t be angry, you can’t kick someone when they’re down. And oh! How they are down. Instead, apply a layer of awareness. Once the hysteria has calmed down, quietly whisper into the ears of people: that our short-sightedness during the election season just cost us our nation’s soul.

We caution you: don’t still indulge the aggressor because they are beyond help; they have a bevy of colourful abuses and overarching body language to hide the fact that logic befuddles them.

This is where your true super-power lies as a citizen living in Modi’s shiny-demonetised-unemployed-corrupt-divisive-unethical-censoring-parochial India. You must strive to be the opposite of all this despite your government.

Photo credit: Pariplab Chakraborty

Shiralie Chaturvedi is a writer who loves Murakami and Seth; indie cinema and bands; cries listening to patriotic songs, and is happiest at home with her loved ones.