A two-day break from office, due to unbearable pain in my wisdom tooth, prompted me to ponder and debate my personal relationships and professional conduct.
Withered by writing all day about foreign visits, MoUs, government schemes and initiatives and picking ‘pan-India’ stories in ‘national interest’, I felt frustrated at my workplace.
In the past few months, we have had the revocation of Article 370, the Ayodhya judgement and now the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) – which have all taken a toll on the people one way or another. Worse, the government is trying to make us believe that these decisions are being taken keeping ‘national interest’ in mind – a narrative that has been amplified by several media organisations.
Hyper-nationalistic sentiments peddled by the media have also entered our homes, souring familial relationships. My family distanced themselves from me ever since they got the hint that my beloved friend from Assam is my boyfriend too.
My ethno-nationalist parents, middle-class Delhites, like many other mainstreamers believe in WhatsApp university. They belong to that vulnerable section of mainlanders who cannot empathise with those on the receiving end of atrocities, whether it’s Kashmir or the Northeast.
They get easily swayed by the majoritarian views of a Hindu rashtra but won’t admit that they are being biased towards one community. They are those Delhites whose identity and culture comes under threat when a person from Bihar settles in the city. But it’s a-okay for them to let immigrants in from neighbouring countries come and threaten the linguistic and ethnic culture of indigenous masses in the Northeast.
They don’t object because this influx is not going to affect them personally. But I get where they are coming from. Years of conditioning and selective exposure has made them indifferent to the idiosyncrasies of another community’s culture.
Perhaps this is why my mother doesn’t approve of my relationship with my Assamese boyfriend.
Also read: Letter to My Right-Wing Uncle
The traditional mindset and inflated mainlander ego of my parents has made them believe that those from the Northeast belong to the margins.
Why? Is it because they are nestled away on the borders, far from the national capital? Or is it because our history books never chronicled their struggles, mass movements, rich culture, resources and languages?
How many of us know that what Assam lost during the Assam movement which left more than 800 people dead? Do we know about the Nellie massacre, the Assam Accord, the two-and-a-half years of unrest?
The sad part is, neither does our leadership, nor have mainlanders like my parents tried to understand the nuances of Assam’s history and culture.
My father often says, “There is a lot of land in the Northeast. Immigrants can be settled there and government is boosting tourism too and building infrastructure there.”
It’s convenient to pass such judgements sitting in Delhi.
Humanely, it is difficult for those in the Northeast to give away regional aspirations and their sub-nationalist pride.
Secondly, people in the Northeast are not socially on the margins as is parroted by folks like my parents.
They might see my boyfriend from Assam’s Jorhat as a separatist as he reports about anti-CAA protests and supports them.
We, mainlanders, fail the Northeasteners on an everyday basis.
We take their resources, cultural esteem, autonomy and then, when their frustration mounts, we call them militant, fringe elements and what not. This is cyclical.
Politically, if CAA gets implemented, it shall change the demography of the Northeast.
Personally, it can change my relationship with my family and my love. The former will treat me as belonging to the Jawaharlal Nehru University brigade with ultra-leftist views. The latter will perhaps ‘other’ me for belonging to mainstream.
Stuck between, I stay calm and I write my story.
The bottomline is that the people of India, far or near ones, deserve compassion, love and empathy – be it your friends, loved-ones, or just natives, whom you don’t know.
While I write this, I overhear my parents discussing a culturally exclusive list for my ‘ideal life partner’.
“See, marry anyone – but not a Muslim or an SC/ST,” they say.
A couple of years later, they might change their stance and say, “Choose anyone – except Muslim, SC/ST, Bengali, Bihari and Assamese.”
And I’d probably nod and laugh at them.
I still love my parents and so does my partner. And this, I believe, is the power of humanity that gifts someone the courage to love and to see beyond social barriers and political orchestrations.
Priyamvada Rana is an IIMC alumni who is currently working as a journalist.