It’s April 2018. Facebook’s Mark Luthor Zuckerberg is facing the biggest challenge of his life – sitting in front of the world with THAT haircut. Buffon lost his mind and got a deserving red in his last ever Champions League game. My mom knows I smoke and advises me to not do so on my bed lest I burn the house down. Arsenal are winning consistently and Arsenal Fan TV is understandably suffering. My new favorite song is “Teri aakhya ka yo kajal” (Sorry Bom Diggy) which I listened to on a loop on a Friday night with only whiskey for company. Dark times.
But nothing, and I mean nothing scares me more than the fact that we are a year away from the 2019 Indian General elections. The next twelve months will be an assault on the senses on social media, TV news, newspapers and on the roads. We will see sponsored riots where two sides who disagree, come together to decide that the best way to settle scores is to beat up the common man and damage the minimal infrastructure this country possesses.
TV News anchors will redefine the limits of prostitution and attack and defend their political masters depending on their personal bias. If Prime Minister Modi throws a bottle of Gowmutra on Arnab, he will thank him for the nutrition. If Rahul Gandhi once again inevitably displays his non existent IQ in an interview, Rajdeep would remind us how Hindutva bigots slaughtered innocents in 2002 and blame the BJP IT Cell for editing the video to make the prince look bad. Kejriwal will review Student of the Year 2.
Newspapers will blast misleading headlines taking cue from their click-baiting digital cousins. Opinion pieces from socialites and self proclaimed experts will sensationalize and attack their ideological enemies rather than show different sides of a situation and how the country stands to benefit/ lose from it. Stand up comedians will use their platforms in full force to propagate anti incumbency while assuming complete silence when it comes to viable alternatives. Forty year old JNU students will claim martyrdom after clashing with twenty year old ABVP thugs.
But nothing and I mean nothing will come close to driving you insane than social media. Your own phone is now a political party loudspeaker. As recent developments in USA showed, Facebook and Twitter are no longer gifts from Silicon Valley to the world. These are tools of propaganda used by everyone with an agenda. Even on an individual level, we do it.
Want to show you are over your ex? Pose in a bikini with a glass of Margarita in front of a beach. Want to show you aren’t lonely in another country where you’ve gone for Masters? Broadcast yourself listening to the latest Drake hit while driving a rented car you would never afford in India. Want to show your life means something and you are not an insecure child? Pose alone with an award which your entire team won.
Then why shouldn’t a political party push its agenda here? Why should it only be restricted to corporations pretending to “have a conversation” with their customers? But there’s only so much a few hundred politically inclined social media handles can do. The real soldiers are us. It’s you and I who will be selectively liking, sharing, commenting and mostly arguing on flaring topics on the day/ week/ month. As the elections draw closer, the intensity will rise, the language will be harsher and differences once ideological will become personal. We will fight the person and not the issue. We will judge the person and not the perspective.
I am lucky to have a diverse social circle. I have friends, colleagues and acquaintances who differ from me in terms of region, religion, caste and most importantly, ideology. I know ex bosses who are extremely left leaning and current bosses who are not. I hang out with school friends who start frothing at their mouth at the mention of BJP. I party with people who would like to see India ruled by a dictator and are disappointed by Modi’s soft style. I catch up with college mates who hate Congress’ dynasty politics but can’t seem to see any problem with Aditya and Raj’s surname when it comes to Maharashtra.
My point is, we are all different. So are our thoughts and political leanings. There’s no need to hyperventilate and decry the other side as being the devil itself. Anything in this country can be made political. Even the rape and murder of kids. I’ve actually seen people make the Kathua disgrace a Hindu-Muslim issue. I’ve seen the Government respond only after people absolutely lost their minds online. But the outrage mustn’t be directed towards each other. It should always be pointed to those who run our country and to those who come with promises that they will run it better.
So for the next twelve months, I won’t care about your politics. What I will care about is, how you treat your fellow man. Don’t be divided. Let’s have a beer. Let’s watch Infinity War together. Let’s moan about work. Let’s pretend to be offended and shocked when our parents ask about marriage plans. It’s not like we are between the ages of 25 and 30.
Let’s watch Manchester United pass the ball to De Gea while being three on one with the opposition keeper. Let’s watch Bhai’s next Eid release! Let’s celebrate the memes that will flood our timelines. Let’s angrily explain fake news to family members who send batshit insane WhatsApp forwards. Let’s listen to Guru Randhawa! Trust me, with a little bit of alcohol, good company and a willing heart, life can be fun. Let’s not waste it on hating people because of their opinions and political leanings.