Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Indian Missionary Zeal


There’s a lot that India can and should learn.  For example, our terrible lack of civic sense.  We think that public spaces are enormous garbage bins, spittoons or even toilets.  People are treated no better than these public spaces.  We have no qualms about stepping on other people’s toes in order to move ahead in our life. 

The most terrible vice is what I call the Indian missionary zeal. That is our typical instinct for poking our nose into other people’s affairs and then giving them unwanted and unwarranted counsels.  Like the missionary who is consumed by the divine zeal to save souls, we go around seeking what’s to be corrected in the other person’s behaviour. 

I too possessed this obnoxious zeal for some time in my life.  But I was fortunate enough to have too many people around me who possessed it a million times more than I did.  So they kept a tab on me with a religious zeal that would have put the real missionaries to shame.  And there were the real missionaries too who did pretty much harm.  When religious missionaries and lay missionaries join hands together, you are doomed for sure.  Those were my days in Shillong.  I ran away from the missionaries of all sorts and landed in the populous wilderness of Delhi.

One of the biggest advantages in a city like Delhi is that its very size and crowd provide you with an anonymity that small towns can never afford.  However, you can never escape from the great Indian missionary zeal even in Delhi.  Somebody or the other will anoint themselves in your workplace or your mohalla as your redeemer.  There’s no escape from this great zeal in the collective Indian soul to redeem others. 

Some of these redeemers appoint themselves as the ‘moral police’ or ‘religious zealots’ or ‘gau rakshaks’ or whatever and do immense damage to the social fabric of the nation.  Though I was quite lucky to have escaped the attention of such moral and religious redeemers, I have had an unduly large share of private missionaries who did much harm to me over the years. 

In one of her novels, Ayn Rand says that ‘Hands Up’ was the savage way of gaining victory.  ‘Hands off’ is the civilised way.  I wish the great Indian missionaries learnt that and left people alone.


PS. This is written for Indipire Edition 138. 


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17 comments:

  1. :) with you, wish I could share some pictures I collected.

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    1. Welcome to share pics though I don't know how it can be done.

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  2. Argument is very well stated. In a way, the less we interfere in others' affairs, the more we empower them.

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    1. If we live our life and let others live theirs with the minimum interference it will be much better for all of us. But then how will we show off our superiority, boss over others,,,?

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  3. Ha ha..."Private Missionaries". I like the term. 

    I first para where you despised the way we keep our public places hit a chord with me. I feel enraged whenever I see a pay-to-use toilet. We can launch 8 satellites in one go of PSLV but cant maintain a free of charge clean toilet for us.

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    1. The Indian disregard for public cleanliness is really pathetic. Yes, we have achieved a lot in so many areas. We have tremendous potential. But our capacity for creating filth will have no parallel anywhere else.

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  4. Concern for other people should be balanced with their sense of privacy. It's good in a way to be concerned about others. But one should not do that too intrusively. And indication that we are concerned is more than enough. There is not need to ask prying questions and violate other people's privacy.

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    1. It has nothing to do with concern if I may speak from my experience. People are finding ways of making you toe the line for their own ulterior motives.

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  5. Hoho...loved this one. Private missionaries are equally bad. I agree. There is an annoying level of "don't live and don't let live" ingrained in us. Hate it at times.

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    1. Some people are incorrigible missionaries 😑

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  6. Truly. Enough missionaries here!
    If everyone minds their own business, we will have the minds working for India :)
    But, then 'DobaraPoocho' for 'depression'...

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    1. I didn't understand the last line, Anita. Care to explain, if you don't mind?

      Minding one's own business is ideal if one cannot do something good for others. But 'good' is a dangerous word. Every missionary is motivated by do-goodism.

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    2. Very good article Sir. The 'DobaraPoocho' in last line of Anita's comment means - 'Ask again'.

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    3. Thanks, Jitender.

      I knew that meaning. But what she meant by that entire line is still beyond me. :)

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  7. A brilliant post! Since I'm a Delhiite, I can relate to everything you've written. The moral police has to go, but I also believe people should grow their own minds to tell what's right and what's wrong. I'll directly relate it with the beginning of your post. We should know that in our heart that literring is bad for our own hygiene, we shouldn't create a need in the first place to be told about things that are a part of common civic sense.

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    1. I lived in Delhi for a decade and a half. Now I'm in Kerala where the situation is not much different. Human beings are the same wherever they are :)

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