The Complicated Truth About Separating the Personal From the Political

My mother is cooking dinner in the kitchen and here I am, sitting with my laptop, listening and typing out my thoughts.

She says, “Rajneeti aur apni zindagi ko alag rakhna padta hai! Tumko kyun itna farak pad raha hai? Khud me khush raho (We are supposed to keep politics and our personal lives separate. Why bother? Just be happy with yourself).”

(Pressure cooker whistle blows).

My mother is simply trying to ‘tame’ the anger inside me, a trailer of which she saw just a half hour ago.

Why was I angry, you ask?

A while ago, a random aunty from the neighbourhood had walked up to me and handed over a pamphlet saying, “Kal Valentine’s Day hai beta, mat manana – ye humari sanskriti ke khilaaf hai. Humare dharma ko barbaad karne ki sazish hai. (Tomorrow  is Valentine’s Day, don’t celebrate – this is against our culture. It’s part of a conspiracy against our religion).”

The pamphlet.

Yes, in 2020, a stranger has the audacity to tell me about my future decisions. I don’t want to go on and explain how I fired questions at her and how she had nothing to hit back with except words like ‘dharma‘, ‘sanskriti’, ‘hindustan‘, ‘khatraa‘ and so on.

But the question is not about what she said, it’s what my mom said – can we really afford to keep politics around us out of our lives? Should we?

I am 23 and I work at a digital marketing company nestled in the National Capital Region. While this might be enough for you to read this article, it’s not my complete identity. Here I go again – I’m 23, employed and a Brahmin.

Now, coming back to the question.

When I see my uncle forwarding a WhatsApp video and saying “Sahi kaha, goli maaro saalon ko (they are right, shoot these people)”, can I really afford to keep his political opinion out of my personal life?

And then, when he forwards an image of a boy to my father saying, “Ye ladka iske liye perfect hai – MBBS ki degree aur apne caste ka bhi hai (This boy is perfect for her – He has an MBBS degree and he is from our caste),” can I really afford to ignore his thoughts?

When I know that he wants to publicly talk of killing a group of dissenting students, how do I stop thinking about how he, and most of my relatives, would react if I marry someone outside my caste – or worse, someone outside my religion.

How do I separate politics from the personal when some relative randomly adds me to a WhatsApp group called ‘Brahman Ekta Manch’ without my consent? How is it not a political act when I can’t tell them about my feelings for a boy who might not bring ‘ekta’ (unity) to our family because of his caste and ethnicity?

Also read: Letter to My Right-Wing Uncle

How do I ignore their political ideology, which expects women to produce ten kids in the name of religious expansion, when I don’t want to produce even one?

Here I am, trying to convert my internal conflicts into words but, I wonder, what about the other girl in my neighbourhood who got the same Valentine’s day pamphlet? Does she know that she, herself, has the right to choose who she loves?

But does that really matter? I am aware of my rights, perhaps she isn’t. Regardless, none of us have the agency to decide who we love, and how and when do we celebrate it.

Maybe the next WhatsApp forward will decide it for us.

Rashmi Mishra is a spontaneous person, trying to observe, learn and unlearn something everyday.

Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty