India. 2020. Twenty years into the new millennium, into a new, multipolar world, and a century of much hope for change. India will play a major part in shaping it; it’s been said before and will be said again.

Come 2020 and India is on the move. Not as fast as we would like to see it, but definitely on the move. And then, a pandemic strikes from nowhere, bringing us to a screeching halt. A lockdown it is called. Everything stops. Almost everything, except beating Indian hearts. Our heroes rise: police personnel, health workers, good Samaritans. 

Many migrant workers are burdened with little of their own and the long distances to their hometowns. The Prime Minister apologises, and nothing less, for the hardships his lockdown was going to bring. Nobody revolts or cries for their freedoms being snatched. It’s tranquil, for most part. 

One errant religious group gives the system a headache but they’re not worth including in this story, for mentioning them whips up a whole new dimension of argument. So, we will leave them out. Maybe they will get left out of the narrative of India as well, judging by the amount of discord witnessed. 

This… is a chaotic country. Not now, oh no, not by any means by the wish of this virus. India has always been chaotic; if anything, it is extremely calm now.

Our leaders have been pilloried, and yet the Prime Minister emerges with the highest approval rating of any world leader, under the circumstances. His connect with his people continues to work, he has their ‘trust’ and his methods have worked – India has recorded very manageable numbers of infections and very low mortality rates. 

There is, in the undercurrent of social media (the new beast of the century), an almost visceral need to put India down, to undermine its self-confidence, to belittle its methods, to define the lockdown as ‘brutal’, or a hundred other words the English language could have provided to define what 1.3 billion of us have otherwise taken have taken quite well, and in an overwhelmingly positive spirit. 

Beneath this spirit is the rumbling of the privileged few in the urban middle classes of India. It is fashionable these days to be displeased with everything. It is the first time in history that we find the need to imagine each of us has something to contribute, if only to the noise value, to show that each of us is somehow significant and worth something. These are exciting times, but this lot is not excited. It wants to see India writhe in pain, so that they can say, “We told you so”.

Within this dark underbelly condemning our leaders and asking for answers to mostly irrelevant questions under the circumstances, it is as clear as daylight that we have groomed a few leaders and some great ones, but have failed miserably to groom the followers. For thousands of leaders, we have more than a billion followers! Who needs to be groomed more?

India has challenged, confused, and confounded even those who dedicated their lives to understand Her. This is Mother India, more like Maha Shakti, who is ancient and petulant at the same time, mercurial, for she has to function in the character of her children. She has many young children now that she must cradle out of this storm. She has survived so far but now she is doing more than that. She is standing up as an example to the rest of the world. 

Her older children, the educated well settled ones, are not able to understand Her, and imagine she has stopped evolving since they flew out of their nests. They act like she needs their expert opinions and insights, their credentials and their sheer competence in their respective fields, in order to do ‘more’ and ‘better’ even when nobody has been able to offer anything beyond meandering suggestions that aren’t any spectacular departure from what is already being done.

What they forget is that Mother India knows, and she’s caused a few wise souls to rise to positions of leadership; her children have chosen those few to take the right decisions and take care of Her, but what of the followers? What of the people that must march to the same beat as the others, without protest? Can we expect them to fall in line given the freedom they have grown up with?

There’s enough dissent to last us another decade without a word more being spoken, enough protesting to be able to supply a reaction to every breath every Indian takes in the next ten years. However, there have hardly been any questions, with or without the pandemic, about the privileged Indians speaking as if they know what lies in store and why. We have groomed our foot soldiers, the trench warriors, and the heroes we throw into every battle, but we haven’t trained this privileged class to, at times, shut up, be grateful and follow quietly. 

Why is it so hard to highlight the difference between dissent and disharmony, petulance and propriety? Why should we undermine and not understand? Where does this supreme and dangerous arrogance come from – just because we’re educated, we deserve answers to everything right now, but we won’t move a hair to show up on the front lines where we would be vulnerable and exposed – like our heroes? Our heroes on the front lines do not protest or dissent – why are we then behaving so foolishly, like spoiled brats?

It’s because we have never been whipped into obedience and trained to be good followers. This is the time to follow, to fall in line, to be loyal to the nation’s efforts, and understand that our individuality, independence and impetuous brilliance can wait. 

At this point, some humility would help. If you were meant to be taking decisions, you would be a leader.  If you’re not, stay home, stay safe, and shut up already with your troubles and your disturbing little worries about where the nation is headed. 

Jai Hind.

Bala Senthil Kumar

Bala Senthil Kumar is a former NCC Naval Wing cadet, a C certificate holder who represented the Karnataka and Goa contingent in Republic Day competitions, and a military trained para jumper.

The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Tilak Chronicle and TTC Media Pvt Ltd.

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