A good feeling to be Indian and what’s wrong with that, enough of hurting each other, making each other feel bad….writes Bikram Vohra

Prime Minister, Modi addressing the gathering at the Indian Community Reception, in Dubai Cricket StadiumIt was a ‘feel good’ speech. I don’t care if the Prime Minister was being clever or slippery or merely conning the Opposition in Parliament. Modi managed to jumpstart the session and disarm the prickly hostility that has come to mark the Indian political landscape.

Silencing the Gandhis is not such an important priority because unless you make them important, they are not in command of a very large swathe of the Lower House. Any inclination to cause disruptions that they might harbour were well and truly stubbed and it won’t be easy for them to hold the majority to ransom.

More importantly, Mr Modi has sent a message to his own people to begin rowing together or get off the boat. His speech has set the tone from a more demanding boss and a higher level of accountability. If the list in the ship is being corrected why argue against it. This is also a message to the RSS and the other right-wingers that they have to control their harangue. In fact, this speech will serve as a watershed for marking good behaviour and tangible result. From now onwards, no more stupid racist and casteist comments, no underscoring communal divisiveness and dumping on each other.

Whoever is advising the PM has got it right. The public is a bit tired of the ‘go to Pakistan’ diatribe. They are fed up with the daily diet of relatively minor acts of misconduct amplified into major indictments. Passing comments made into declaration of deep hatred. Tired of the slurs and the insults, this whole Hindu and Muslim equation that only matters to politicians and keepers of the faith, with everyone else just wanting to get to work, make a living, get through the bloody day and come home to the family, the screaming shrillness of news that consumes everyone, all this was becoming destructive. Numb a nation by the endless flow of explanations that follow gaffes.

Electing to armour his speech with the Constitution and its provisions was a stroke of genius. The theme could not have been more disarming. It was also valid, not just a gimmick. What better way to gel the people of a nation than to remind them of the values enshrined in their Constitution. In fairness, most of us have forgotten or never read the contents of this grand document.

Even media cynicism was muted. Against this backdrop of calming troubled waters, a senior editor sounding tired said to me that the case of the Andhra MP, Mithun Reddy who presumably slapped an airline officer in Tirupathi was an issue that had no national import. You want to talk of VIP racism as a system knock yourself out. But people have a hard life and we, in media, cannot become vigilantes and start lynching people through our channels of power. If he did slap him and it is on cctv well, he will be punished, we cannot spend hours agonising over it. Every such incident in a nation our size cannot measure 8.5 on the Richter scale.

It was a point well taken. It is not that one does not care but everything should be in proportion and media has played a relatively violent role in these past eighteen months inflating every clumsy, oafish and thoughtless conduct as if it was a national epidemic.

I don’t know whether it is Modi’s Bihar loss of face or his self realisation that hosannahs abroad are not balm for the brutal reality at home, but he came off hitting the right notes and setting the pace for a productive winter session. What is wrong with that?

It is also true that the people are exhausted by all the negativity. It saps your energy as a nation. For a while the brickbat competition was fun, let’s see who can hurt the hardest but it was wearing thin and the novelty was souring into dismay and disillusionment.

Of course, it would be easy to poke holes into the fabric of the PM’s comments and nail him for a plastic cleverness linked to ‘oh, where were you these past eighteen months and let’s see if you put your money where your mouth is’ but why pre-empt it.

For once, after a long break, it feels good to see some bonding, some common pages, a relief from the drivel about the utterances for celebs and stars and political has beens, a diet that was making us slow witted and dull.

Until Modi is proven otherwise, let’s give him the benefit of setting things in order. I don’t use the word ‘doubt’ because why spoil it? Let’s feel good to be Indian for a change. Maybe the light at the end of the tunnel is not a train thundering down but actually an escape from the darkness of our divides, real and imagined.

Hello there, who knows the ‘achhe din’ stuck on the horizon might, like welcome monsoon clouds be actually on the march.



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