This week, during the TN assembly polls, I became aware of an incongruence: having once been (and still being) an active participant of political debates with my friends, parents, relatives, peers and acquaintances, my opportunity to vote in the elections, which I had given up only because I couldn’t produce enough evidence to procure the voters’ ID card, was not what I thought it to be. I realized that I knew little about the various political procedures that constitute the “inter-webbing” of the Indian political machine, and how much of it was as a result of historical incidents and how much of it was as a result of jurisprudential debates. The breakdown might seem pointless at this juncture but I did feel embarrassed because I believe that all of that only makes me a more informed voter—while knowing none of it doesn’t make me “less informed” to vote in the ongoing polls. So, I went online immediately and ordered a copy of Ramachandra Guha’s ‘India after Gandhi: A history of the world’s largest democracy’ (not without some research first: WSJ’s recommendations—I don’t think it’s surprising that I trust a foreign publication in this regard—it’s an assurance of objectivity).
When we don’t question something, it starts to resemble a truism at some point of time, sooner than later; even so, doubting everything at hand becomes, much sooner than later, counter-productive: the ideal way to live is somewhere in between, and it is in adjudicating the ratios thereof that we all are led to different opinions and judgments in different matters. When the same applies to Indian politics, by virtue of being easily observable that it’s the world’s least likely democracy, I believe that the standards by which it functions is not one or few, but very many. All those standards work together, pushing and pulling every idea or suggestion, until it has made its circuitous journey to the top, where it finally becomes a policy and, given enough time and sufficient political stability, a rule-of-text. These rules-of-text are what make the nation, or at least keep the nation from becoming what it definitely shouldn’t be, and such an existence I feel has to have had a significant historical component, a backing of sorts composed not only of that much of good reason but also that much of precedence.
The survival of the Indian democratic institution is not threatened by everyday-occurrences such as corruption or sedition—they only threaten the nation, not what runs the nation. At this point, the choice (of democracy) may be called into question, but when every other alternative has its own, and burgeoning, share of disadvantages, the argument for democracy will and shall be sustained. The survival of the Indian democratic institution is predicated on the understanding of its foundation by the people who participate in it. It is not a matter of one-point-something billion people casting their vote for the least-of-a-few-evils from his/her constituency and resting for the next four years; no! Indian politics has never been served by looking at it through a lens of isolationism, a practice that might otherwise seem fruitful on paper, but seems to hold much promise in its continuance when seen as a constantly moderated projection of history into the present. For, what can keep a very unlikely system going if not for being the cohesive expression of the hundreds of millions of people who have never once known censorship or pan-cultural integrity, hundreds of millions of people all of whose lives have been derived from the one history that defines them all together?
It is for these reasons that I decided to buy a book that cost much more than what I would usually pay to satiate passing whims. However, whimsical as I may have been, I would like to seize the opportunity and, once and for all, be done with the chapter of Indian politics so that I may assuage the guilt that arose out of an attrition between who I was as an individual and who I was as a citizen of the nation. The high cost also has its advantages: I won’t be allowed to shelve the book anytime before I’m done with it. (A book is the one commodity that always will justify its cost for me: if it is good, then it was a sensible purchase; if it was bad, then I now have an opinion on an author and his views—and how they conflict with mine, thereby outlining my views more starkly—and the book becomes a sensible purchase. It’s surprising how anyone can’t see the ease of my argument—and, by extension, is anything less than at least a “semi-avid” reader—because it arises only from the knowledge that the publishers take care in maintaining a certain quality of the content.)