Friday, 17 July 2015

Conversations with an autorickshaw driver: Do I like Modi sarkar?

I have been thinking of writing about this conversation that I had with an autorickshaw driver sometime early this year for a long time now. It went like this. He picked me up from Shaheen Bagh and because he learnt that I live in Shaheen Bagh, he assumed that I am a Muslim. I did not feel like correcting him. So I just let it be and went ahead with the curve that he lent to the conversation.

"Why do you Muslims hate Modi?" he asked me. And that's when I knew that he had mistaken me for a Muslim.
"Who told you Muslims hate Modi?" I responded.
"Well, I know," he answered with a strange laughter in a very matter of fact manner.
"In that case," I said, "Let me tell you, I don't. In fact, I don't give much thought to him at all. But just that, I don't know if you know, he has not done good things to Muslims in Gujarat, therefore I do not have much fondness for him."
"So it is a community thing for you Muslims not to like him?" the auto guy charged. So I put the question to him instead, "Do you like Modi sarkar?"
"Of course, I do!" his emphatic cry still rings in my ear. "He is such a nice man, he has such nice things to say, he has done so much for India's development, for Gujarat's development. He is not a man but a devta. And you Muslims make a demon out of him!"

I went quiet for a while. This guy will definitely not understand the politics of Modi's development approach in Guajarat where the Muslims and denotified tribes have been kept outside the ring of benefits and affirmative action. And I was sure he had not seen the NDTV report on TV, just before the elections in Delhi this year, where the journalist went to one of the Muslim neighbourhoods in Ahmadabad, a place which is like a wound in an otherwise 'shining' example of development that Gujarat is for the Modi camp. Why was this neighbourhood reeking of poverty and wretchedness? No electricity, no drinking water, no sewage. And this has been the case here for the last forty years, they said.

So I just told the guy that I was the wrong person to ask the question. In all of my 35 years, I have never voted, I said. Because I never needed to. I have never needed the government to do anything for me. I have my own house, I earn my own money to spend it as I please. The government has not given me my house; and in Shaheen Bagh, I told him, I buy my mineral water regularly. So I am not the right person to pose your question to. Go ask this to someone who has no house, no money, no electricity, no drinking water. Ask them if the government has given them a nice decent house in a nice neighbourhood with hygienic conditions to live in. A decent salary to live with their self-esteem in tact. Go ask them, I said. Only they will be able to tell you if the Modi sarkar is good or not. This time it was the guy who kept quiet for a while.

I went on to tell him that I am definitely grateful for many things in life. Like the UGC (University Grants Commission) scholarship I received as a student, the SAI (Sports Authority of India) scholarship I received as a sportsperson while in school, the Delhi Metro which has made life so easy for me in the city. In that case, the governments who made these things possible, I am grateful to them. But I know for sure Modi sarkar was not anywhere in the scene when all this happened. So I told the guy that I will be more than happy if Modi sarkar gives me a reason to be grateful to it. And that it is not about being a Muslim or a Hindu. But that for people like him and me, it is about what benefits the government brings to us. And how secured it can make us feel. And to just pinch him a bit, taking the conversation back to where it started, I said, "I won't be bothered about how Modi treats Muslims in Gujarat until and unless it affects me directly. Like I am sure you would not be bothered if Hindus in Assam or Bihar are ill treated until and unless it affects you here in Delhi directly, isn't it?"

The auto guy kept quiet for the rest of the journey.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Juanita Ba, well said. But I believe politics go beyond one's perception. It has been the most lethal weapon over ages and centuries and this very element has been the constructor and destructor of civilisation. A Modi has got the potent to be the game changer both in bad and good ways for he dictates highest power of politics. I want to start with the pieces. Poor to him is obnoxious. You either transcend yourself into something worthy or go die in the slums. A chaiwala's journey to being the PM, I believe he has seen life more than us. He stands at what he achieved and dictates what he learnt. It is just simple philosophy. Climb the ladder on rich rungs for the support will be strong. Without a Ambani or xyz business tycoon Gujarat would have been nothing. The money that cascaded from industrialisation made Gujarat. As a PM, foreign alliance is more salient to him than desi mundane problems. I hope you can understand what I want to say here. Maybe by the end of Modi's reign, India may be a very developed country but will have to bear the prices for it too. People's choice or maybe media hegemony.
    You cannot change the nature of a human being. A Shahrukh Khan will always be a business man than an actor. No wonder, promoting his movie is prior to him than anything else. I feel that's what Modi is :)

    1. I know. The alarming thing is how do you make the larger Modi-bhakt population understand this. As you rightly said, Modi is a Shah Rukh Khan hell bent on promoting his movie. As most politicians are, sadly.

    2. Yes, no solution to that. People's dreams are shattered after every elections. Promise is lie and power is life. The favorite protocol for all Indian politicians, I believe.

  3. Interesting piece :) I so wish you finally told him that you were not a muslim and that you could still hold this opinion...and that it was not just a community thing but a real critical assessment of the larger picture that shapes your views...

    1. :) I didn't want to shock him further by revealing that I am a Hindu :D

  4. Liked it, you always inspire me to write these tiny bits of life here and there which are very interesting in its own way and how you write it.

  5. Please go through my blog, few things I try to write, views, opinions, reality converted to fiction and experience, and please share your feed back, whatever you have.



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