Men and women dressed in Lucknowi chikan recline on colourful cushions placed across a Persian carpet as the smell of seekh kebabs and words of Urdu waft in the air.
Engineering students flick cigarette ash over the kitchen top as they gather in a tiny apartment reeking of takeout, booze and chai.
Coffee in a couple of wrinkled hands with their arms resting on Italian leather, assert dominance by switching between languages.
What proves today to be a crucible of a desi (Indian) household is unsurprisingly a cultural passage from the English: The Drawing Room.
As India slips into its second phase of majoritarian rule, unresolved identity politics is slowly finding its way back into drawing rooms after being delicately shoved into the attic of “bigger” issues like economy scams.
After the wave of xenophobic turbulence that swept the entire country post independence and partition in 1947 was forcefully curbed, it slowly kept brewing and is now being lured – yet again.
A decade ago, there would be little beating around the bush before hesitantly diving into discussions around politics of caste and religion.
However, the incumbent Bhartiya Janata Party, unintentionally or intentionally, has pushed politics with a capital P, into our little homes with impressionable minds.
The daily dialogue is seeing a shift where the use of caste and religion of criminals, politicians, victims and achievers is increasingly becoming important.
Also read: How to Live in Modi’s India
We hear the country’s leaders say ‘Hindu politicians turn a blind eye to the manslaughter of 1,400 Muslims,’ ‘Dalit man lynched,’ and ‘Sikh neighbourhood’ so very constantly that it has become the only way to maintain a political conversation.
The educated section of society is beginning to see the judgement of the ruling party as a black and white kind of allegiance.
People in support are willing to turn a deaf ear to all party-linked atrocities. On the other hand, minorities are isolating themselves from the entire system without inspection while hating on everything that comes their way.
The middle-ground of having opinions and a healthy discussion about one’s own government is slowly diminishing.
All this is strategically deepening the wound that has failed to heal over the past 70 years.
Governments will come and go, so will their scams, faults and victories, but the impact they have on society will take a long time to disperse.
The nation that waits for its turn to become a superpower in the next two decades cannot move socially backwards in the coming five years.
Setting aside the poetic diversity that makes India popular around the world, let it be clear that the minorities are not going anywhere because the xenophobia in India, unlike the west, is against the people who have called this land home for over two thousand years.
So there’s no bigot’s dreamland where these people can be asked to “go back” to.
The entire country now stands at a three-pronged juncture: do we let bigotry run wild in the veins of our cities, do we sweep the entire problem under the carpet again, or do we address the elephant in the drawing room and finally try to solve the problems of identity politics for the first time in Indian history through audible, clear and awkward conversation?
Mariya Nadeem Khan is a second-year student of International Relations and Organizations at Leiden University, Netherlands.
Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty