‘A’ has a habit of talking to the drivers whenever we take a ride anywhere. He just can’t sit idle having a stranger within his radius of 10 meters. I join him sometimes if the person is really interesting. Meeting new people is one of the main purposes of travelling after all. Last year we were going to Chennai from Bangalore to attend a family function and we took a cab to reach airport. I don’t remember the driver’s name anymore but I remember him and his words vividly. From the first moment he struck as a very nice person. Offered us bottled water and wifi password for free. It was hot summer day. We didn’t need the wifi password.
We started chatting as usual. The JNU topic was still fresh. Kanhaiya Kumar was out on bail and rest were still in jail. Automatically our discussion shifted to the topic of the recent trend of labeling people as anti-national and sending them to Pakistan. It is amazing how words of wisdom come from strangest people and places. I will try to quote and translate his words as I remember.
“These politicians and their supporters now want us to hate everyone who is not Indian. Specially if they are Pakistanis. But tell me madam why should I hate a person I don’t even know or have seen him? They are also someone’s sons and daughters. They also work whole day like me to feed their family. Tell me sir, does a Chinese mother love less? When they die at war do their families grieve less? What if I was born in China or Pakistan? These things are not in our hands, right?”
At this point I felt sudden rush of emotions that someone so different from me feels exactly the way I feel. While those days I was discovering lack of empathy and compassion is the new definition of patriotism which disturbed me and made me worried so much, I was overjoyed meeting a stranger who has both the qualities in right amount.
He went on telling more.
“Regarding our own countrymen and fellow citizens, did you ever notice how do they keep the 5 rs pen locked with a chain at the counters of Banks? They (the authority) don’t even trust us with a 5 rs pen and we talk about enemies! We don’t need any enemies. We are even beating our own children at colleges. If they become successful in starting a riot anytime soon people like us will die or protect each other. They will take the first flight abroad to run away. Probably all of their children are already abroad studying or working or they don’t have any family to worry about that is why they don’t care.”
There were more discussions till we reached airport but these two points he made stirred me most. All these fresh incidences of violence and outrage at Delhi University and Jamia Millia Islamia University reminded me of him.