Nostalgia is no longer what it used to be. But if there is one facet of Indian life that deserves a heartfelt lament in these polarised times, it is the disappearance of the middle path from the national discourse. In Parliament and on campuses, in TV studios and on the ubiquitious social media, indeed even when we sit across the table from those we know, sobriety has all but gone the way of the dodo. Today, it is not enough to just make a point on beef or bhakts, nationalism or Pakistan—you must shout at the top of your voice, preferably with your eyeballs glowering and hands gesticulating. And you should not merely say what is on your mind, calmly and peacefully, with due courtesy to those you are addressing, you should also withhold any sense of balance and maturity in saying the most obnoxious thing. The hashtags should reek of #hate; the emojis should drip blood.
It is tempting to point fingers at how we arrived here, but we could be accused of falling into the same trap. Suffice it to say, though, that the events of the last few months offer us a moment to reflect on what we have lost as a people, as a nation. Should everything be reduced to a binary: yes or no, black or white, with no shades of grey in between? Should it always be this extreme or the other extreme with no inhabitable space in the middle? The answers are obvious. As a much-reviled man from the past after whom a university is named once said, everything you say in India, the opposite is also true. But such nuance and cadence have been squandered in the national championship of shrill demagoguery, where sage voices have been snuffed out by rabble-rousers and hate-mongers out to poison the pool. Far be it from us to offer advice, but it is sometimes useful to remember that wildly insightful man who said, “Do everything in moderation, including moderation.”