Dear Citizen of Youngistan,
You are the talk of the town these days, so, you know, I wanted to talk to you.
You are a student. You seek to be highly educated, but you turn a blind eye to the academic terrorism that routinely cripples and kills poor students in universities. You never acknowledge the privilege of exclusivity. You strut about with the confidence that you will never slip below the poverty line. You never know the pain of exclusion. You would have never lost your home in a slum demolition drive.
On the other hand, you know, with self-assured grace you make up India’s fanciful, much-advertised youngistan edge. You flaunt the fact that you are one of the 120 million youth that your country will add to its workforce over the next decade. You forget that this workforce, devoid of any working class consciousness, shall only serve to launch the latest edition of slave trade. Welcome aboard, dude! The Slave Ship is waiting for you. If and when India’s economy goes into freefall mode, you will be the first to flounder. Just remember that.
You also like to imagine yourself as a sexually restless youngster. Sadly, diktats and death threats make you seek shelter in matrimonial websites with drop-down menus listing 450 sub-castes. You blame this casteism on parental pressure. In your hallowed opinion, caste should be annihilated. You say that this is possible only by discontinuing affirmative action policies for adivasis and Dalits. You have anecdotal evidence to prove that reservation equals ruin.
You also think that India’s biggest problem is a boatload of terrorists from Pakistan. You have not heard of Khairlanji or Gadchiroli or Koodankulam; they are multi-syllable names of places that have never managed to sneak into your sublime conversations. Ultra-ambitious, you only enter lands that require your passport, your visa and your commercialised skill-sets. You are India’s shining, swaggering export. You have sold your soul for a song. You have sold your song for a sophisticated accent. You have sold your sophisticated accent for a sanitised silence.
Most of the time, you do not even speak your mother tongue. You only learn the languages that pay: C++, Java, Python, English. In spite of your mastery over two-and-a-half languages, you choose to remain voiceless. Abjuring violence in the way of old souls, you renounce every aggressive drive to assert yourself.
Maybe you earnestly believe in the development panacea. Maybe you are bamboozled by its seductive, saleable divinity. You don’t realise that government-style development is a devil that walks backwards, drinks blood, feeds on corpses and fattens on millions of tonnes of bauxite and iron. It goes by multiple aliases: Essar, Vedanta, Posco. Like its cross-cousin democracy, development is widely believed to be a rumour to keep rural masses in a hysteric state.
And perhaps, like your home minister, you take pride in being a patriot, unaware of the atrocities of your army in Kashmir and the Northeast and Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and far-flung African countries. You are blase about how your tax money ends up being used for mindless militarisation projects. Since “our republic cannot bear the stain of killing her own children” (as the Supreme Court observed in the fake encounter case of Maoist spokesperson Azad), the state has efficiently come up with an arrangement of convenience in which the children pay for each other’s bullets. The republic remains stainless and squeaky clean. You end up with blood on your hands. Perhaps you sponsored the bullets that killed seven Dalits in a police firing at Paramakudi last month.
Unrest simmers all over society, but as you are extremely busy hanging out in some shopping mall, you have no time to tell your government to behave. How can you talk to power when you do not teach yourself the truth? You do not know who or where the dam-displaced are. You have never shed tears for the victims of Operation Green Hunt. You do not bother to know that hundreds of Tamil fishermen from your country were shot dead by the Sri Lanka navy even as the Indian coast guard roamed the seas. You know next to nothing about India’s flawed foreign policy, not even the fact that your government supplied arms and strategic advice as it actively colluded in the genocide of one hundred thousand Tamils in Sri Lanka in May 2009. You buy the lie that everyone who died in Mullivaikkal was a Tiger and a terrorist. Why, even the discovery of more than two thousand bullet-ridden bodies of Kashmiri youth in mass graves does not drive you to despair.
Would you care to understand the pressing need for plebiscite in Kashmir, or the separate statehood for Tamils in Eelam? You have no sympathy for states that seek to break away. You are taught to think that Telangana spells trouble. In your limited worldview, secession is a swear word, self-determination is suicide.
You are seen only in stage-managed shows where you are called upon to exhibit sound and fury like a fashionable scarecrow. Caught up in consumer culture, you don’t care to educate, agitate, organise. You leave it to the corporates to choreograph your consensual dissent. There is Team Anna’s dream merchandise, and for every metro, a franchise to rerun the same lacklustre demonstrations. When will you learn to attack a system in order to alter its agenda? When will your protest be proof of your pent-up anger? Will you come up with an activism that cannot be appropriated? No other country awaits a revolution as eagerly as ours, no other country needs one as desperately either. This revolution is not somebody else’s business. Where is your characteristic killing rage? Where is mine, for that matter?
I writhe in guilt as I write to you. My searing anger at you is merely an exercise in self-flagellation; I lay no claim to a moral high ground. Sometimes, I am afraid that I am you. My dreams explode but my callousness kills me. I see in you every weakness that shows up in me. I write to you because I believe that you could be the stronger one. Perhaps you will heed the call to arms, some day you will don combat gear. Some day you will step out of your selfish skin and speak up for the people. Some day you will wage war against every injustice and uproot every oppression. Some day your sacrifice will set us free.
Out of habit, don’t look for the ‘Like’ button as you finish reading this. Look for liberation. Learn to fight.
(Kandasamy is a poet and activist)
I enjoyed reading the articles by Meena Kandasamy (All Aboard the Slave Ship) and Shahana Nair Joshi (Trial by Testosterone) in your 16th anniversary issue. Meena’s views are thought-provoking and well-put, and I wholeheartedly agree with Shahana that we Indians still don’t have the sense of humour to laugh at ourselves.
True, we may not be aggressive about the Sri Lankan Tamil issue or Kashmir issue (All Aboard the Slave Ship) but Meena Kandasamy should not forget that young Kashmiris and young Tamils in the land are no different from the rest: they are all part of the ‘Youngistan’ she derides. And what if our candlelight marches are a little glossy, at least we do more than sit around and pontificate.
Visakha Menon, Palakkad
Since struggle is always strife, there will be debates and arguments. But the bottomline is: reason, not rebellion, should bring a change because we Indians are basically cerebral, not physical. Only, if your voice of reason has to be heard, you have to reach a position of power, which is unlikely in the present structure which favours propaganda, not agenda. Therefore, favour the Dalits because they are humans, the farmers because they are physical labourers and food providers.
Oh, yet another ‘open letter’. Well, I am speaking for Youngistan. It’s very easy for people like Ms Kandasamy to ask such strong questions. But the world is not run by only one genre of people (read: activists). Forgive the poor doctor, businessman, actor, forgive them for still wanting to stay in touch with all that affects their lives. They are not buying opinions, merely seeking processed information. Not everyone can do a thesis in sociology or political science or become a journalist on the road in order to become ‘a concerned citizen’. Maybe she could pardon the normal people who don’t have the most informed/unbiased opinion about the Eelam or Telangana. If everyone in the world had been an activist, she would not have found any of the information she googled while writing this. My sincere plea to these exalted souls: stop looking down on ‘normal’ people.
Deepika Nagabhushan, Bangalore
Yes, in India there is a middle-class hypocrisy. We read, we learn but we still believe in fortune-tellers. We cannot raise our voice against government because we are good boys and girls. What is our future?
Ranjan Mondal, Calcutta
Yawn...yet another Arundhati Roy wannabe.
Whiz Kid, Bangalore
Whatever progress India has achieved and will achieve is not because of vacuous, self-styled intellectuals like Ms Kandasamy but very much in spite of people like her.
Raghu Sundaram, Chennai
Ms Kandasamy should desist from deriding our selfless heroes as phony Gandhians, because people of her kind do not hold Gandhiji in esteem.
R. Narasimhan, Chennai
At the core of Kandasamy’s narrative is the question whether these privileged youth are aware about the disparities, the conflicts, and the politics of our economic march. The sad answer is no.
Santosh John Samuel, Kochi
One of the brightest in my batch at a famed B-school would start his arguments in the ‘business and society’ class with “History teaches us”—whereupon the prof would shred him to pieces. Today, he is on Wall Street but is a symbol in my eyes of how self-absorbed and ignorant of wider realities my generation’s become.
OPEN RESPONSE FROM YOUNGISTAN ~
I've grown numb in my ears listening to these ultra-right wing comrades trying trying to sell me their ideology. I don't mind the fact that i can earn a decent living, so i'm not gonna be bullied into stating that i've done something heinous. I won't be ashamed of my upbringing, nor my choice of study! What i am gonna do is - i'd be grateful. And that, to my parents.
Reservations on caste, just inflames the problem. Does the author expect me to first realize that only a 'quota-guy' gets decent education. And then forget all about caste when i pass out. Worse still, through my career, someone else - not someone better than me, but of a rarer caste than me would always get the easy way up.
NO WAY! i'd protest all right, but AGAINST RESERVATIONS!.. hows that for the author to inspire some agitation huh?
The wrong in society is to point fingers and take stands. Why would'nt the author accept that there are a million perspectives and a thousand right answers for every social question. SHAME ON YOU!
Beautiful article. I have to read this many times. This is written very well. This article covers many aspects. Today's Youngistan is very shallow. It has no idea about how helpless people are in many parts of our country. It has no idea about the power and might of the enemies of these people. There is a very strong reason why people resort to violence, and it becomes inevitable at a certain stage. It seems to me that the survival of some groups of people is threatened. This is going to affect everyone, even Youngistan. Youngistan has non-Indian influences and non-Indian aspirations. Youngistan has a confused identity or a lack of identity which is evident from its imitation of strange practices such as flash mobs in public areas in the metros.Youngistan is sedated, it has lost all powers of critical thinking and questioning, and moreover is devoid of any creativity. Youngistan aspires to be the coolies of the new era, not the pioneers and the leaders. They would rather follow, and surrender meekly. I would like to congratulate Outlook for making this article available online.
Dear Sir / Madam,
So, tell me, what can i do ? :) i'll do it.. (perhaps in the next article,
several i's = youth)
We've passed exams reading about how to remove copper from ores, what happened to plants in dinosaur era, quantum physics, etc....
We don't know what to do now. We have numbed and permanently lost the areas in brain which are needed for judgement. Thanks to our education system.
Tell us, what can we do....
Put it on facebook...100's will come out and fight...
if not for the country / good of someone, just for sake of being "cool" & "in" :p
The political class have faild the youth .. and rather than playing the blamegames the society needs to do an introspection.. something is deeply rotten..
wow.. You, Ms. Kandasamy, are a freakin genius. You are what India lacks. You are that person who stands on the borders of our country cheering our Army men on. You are that lady who is seen in almost all the protests getting her head bashed in by a policeman wielding a 'lathi'. You are the female who stands in all our courts with her eyes tied and holding a weigh balance in her hands. You are the Chairperson of "Buddhistan". You are the person who is trying to make us youngsters (and by the way we dont call our country '' Youngisthan'', we dont even like that name, its some other stuck up old hag like you who came up with that) feel bad for having some fun. Please dont tell us what to do. I would have wrote more but i gotta go have some guilt free fun now. So peace out and try not to write more because if you are looking for support, u aint gettin any. See, I used that half knkown third language of mine and by the way not all of us are software engineers.
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