The source of middle-class hypocrisy

We want to be considered a "civilised society" but we don't want to act like one. We want to be called "educated" but we don't want to learn. We want to be called "modern" but we also want to act in medieval ways (because culture). We want to chest-thump about "democracy" while supporting despots.

The defining characteristic of the Indian middle-class - its hypocrisy - is apparent in every aspect of its public behaviour. Be it the value we assign certificates over skill, to our hang-ups about family honour and reputation overpowering our sense of right and wrong. Things just have to look nice, not BE nice.

The price we pay for this shallow approach to our social life is everywhere to see. We have "educated" adults incapable of critical thought. We have "qualified" professionals who can't tell their heads from their posteriors. We have law-enforcers who are actually law-breakers.

But hey - at least they look the part. At least they wear the right clothes and have the right certificates framed on their walls and own the right amount of land and the right number of cars and children. Internal reality can go F itself.

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The price we pay for this fantasy land is that we live in a hollow society. A structure that is not really standing but we think it is. That tilt is part of the design, we tell ourselves.

And when a part of it crumbles, we are full of amazement. How could this happen, we wonder? Does that person not know it is wrong to do this? Does this person not know her job?

The answer is no. They don't. Of course they don’t. They were never really taught anything more than the colour of their uniform and the design of their name plate. They are cardboard cutouts that only look like the real thing. And the rest of us - we were never taught how to disagree with them because authority. Heck, we won’t even let journalists - whose job literally it is to question authority - disagree with them.

So we are faced with the reality of this hollow system routinely. The fact that we have no regard for education or law or even life, that this is a house of cards that only looks as if it is in working order (because that's what we prioritised for generations - appearances).

So congrats I guess! Everything is pretty and looks just right. And we don't need to change the way we teach because that all looks pretty too. Debate? Bah! Critical thinking? Fuck off! We are fine. We know how to add and subtract and that's enough.

Yes I am generalising and that is okay

Before I begin, as you may have noticed, Letters from Vimoh is being re-branded to Radio Vimoh. This is mostly to make things simpler and put all my non-fiction work under one domain. You will continue to receive exactly what you have been receiving so far - essays, updates, and podcast episodes. So nothing changes except the name. Having said that, on to this edition’s essay.

Because a lot of things I am about to say tend to be on the lines of “science students are X” or “those who opted for engineering and medicine were Y”, I think it is a good idea to make something abundantly clear at the outset.

One of the responses I get frequently (upon criticising any widespread practice really) is “you're generalising”. Because apparently, unless your criticism applies equally and uniformly to every single human being who has ever walked the Earth, your argument is not worth any attention.

This is a cowdung response of course, and it is usually offered by people who imagine themselves as exceptions to the rule. What they are basically saying is:

“Your criticism of this widespread problem does not apply to me and therefore cannot possibly apply to anyone at all. LOL!!!11”

Basically the kind of person who says things like “not all men” or “not all science students” or “not all upper-caste people” or “not all White people or “not all (insert privileged/powerful group name here)”.

It is practically impossible to make a case against any kind of group behaviour without generalising. When you respond to social commentary with “you're generalising”, you are not sending me breaking news. I know I am generalising.

I'm doing it because the behaviour in question is widespread enough to merit generalisation. Because enough people are engaging in that behaviour for it to be a problem worth talking about. Because the fact that you and precious few like you are allegedly not guilty of the group behaviour in question does not mean the group behaviour is non-existent. The usual caveats obviously apply. Of course there are exceptions. That all goes without saying.

But every time someone complains about a bad thing that happens to a lot of people (such as widespread discrimination against Arts Students in the Indian education system) and lays blame on the apathetic majority, you are faced with a choice. Are you going to listen and empathise and help change things? Or are you going to wring your hands and say, “maine toh kuchh nahi kiya, mujhe kyun bol rahe ho?”

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What you choose to do reveals a lot about you. Among other things, it tells those around you whether you are going to be part of the problem or part of the solution.

Generalisation isn't always a bad thing. In fact, we have evolved to generalise. We jump in fright in response to sudden movement in our vicinity because our brain generalises any sudden movement as dangerous.

This is because when early humans were wandering the wilderness, often, sudden movements were actually dangerous. If there is no predator hiding in the bushes, you lose nothing by jumping in alarm. If there is one, you have a better chance at surviving. This impulse has remained in circulation because it is still useful. We even learned to use it as a defensive tactic. You can make a sudden movement towards an animal and scare it away. The animal only has to think it is going to be harmed and not actually get harmed. This doesn't always work on cats though. Cats are weird! #NotAllCats

My point is, a false positive is a small price to pay in exchange for the ability to flee danger at a moment's notice. Similarly, a few exceptions are a small price to pay in exchange for the ability to draw attention to a greater social ill.

Keep this in mind the next time you are tempted to use hashtags like #NotAllMen or express sentiments such as “Not All Science Students”. Instead, try to understand the point being made and try to empathise. If you are not guilty of the thing people are complaining about, at least don't spend time actively creating excuses for the ones who are.

Hyderabad and stuff...

Things are happening kind of fast around here. Mythofiction just crossed 500 listens and a proper website will be up in the next month. In the meantime, here is what else has been up and is going to be up.

InfluencerCon 2019

I am going to be at InfluencerCon 2019 in Hyderabad on November 22 and 23. Specifically, on a panel discussion about podcasting. I will share more details as soon as I have them. You can check out the event, other participants, and book tickets on the event website here.

Yugantar Episode 4

Also, the next episode of the Yugantar series is up on the Mythofiction podcast. You can listen to it here (android), here (iPhone), or here (Spotify). Or if you use some other audio app like JioSaavn or Castbox, you can just search for “Mythofiction” and click on the subscribe (or follow) button to get all episodes.

Of course, if you have never listened before, you should start at the beginning. All links and all episodes are here on the Mythofiction website. Mythofiction is also on Twitter and Instagram, so follow there if you want to chat or provide feedback.

…and interview

And finally, the first part of my interview with the Passion People Podcast, if you didn’t catch it last week, is still up and can be listened to here. The second part should be out this week. Subscribe to The Passion People Podcast here so you don’t miss it.

That’s pretty much it for this week. Feedback and hi-hello messages welcome of course. Just hit the reply button. Bye for now.

I got interviewed AND released a new episode on Mythofiction

I got interviewed by the Passion People Podcast. You can listen to the first part here and the second part will be out on November 1. Subscribe to the Passion People Podcast so you don’t miss it.

Our conversation in this episode mostly spans being an artist, dealing with life as an artist, and getting angry about it all.

New episode of Yugantar

In other news, a new episode of Yugantar just dropped on the Mythofiction podcast. In this third installment of the story, Veer Das goes to the Tooth and performs before a live audience of asuras, vaanars, and humans.

Make sure you have listened to all the previous episodes or this one might confuse you.

Needless to say, if you like what you hear, tell your friends about the podcast and consider supporting the making of it by pledging $2 a month on Patreon. The podcast of course remains free for all to listen.

Now I need a nap.

The case against Hindi as India's official national language

So this is for all you Hindi-as-national-language advocates. I am sure not all of you are linguistic imperialists. Some of you might simply be ignorant. So read this thread and maybe you'll get why people are opposed to the idea of Hindi officially being given national language status.

First, the universality myth. Hindi is not universally spoken all over India. That's a lie that some Hindi-speakers like to tell themselves because it feels nice to live under the illusion that you live in a linguistically united country. You don't.

India is linguistically diverse and that's a good thing, not a problem to be solved by bulldozing everything apart from Hindi.

Second, the myth that Hindi is easier to pick up than English. It is not. Hindi has very little in common with languages in the south and north-east.

If you think people unwilling to use it are being lazy, take some time and learn Tamil, Telugu, Assamese and Odiya. We will see how open-minded you are to Indian culture.

Third, the myth of English as a foreign language. Facepalm. If English is foreign, then so is your computer, Twitter, the Internet, and maybe even your clothes. Abandoning or deprioritising things on the basis of where they came from is moronic. Consider utility, not emotion.

Fourth, if English is foreign, then so is Hindi... TO THOSE WHO DON'T SPEAK HINDI. Why is this so difficult to understand? You can't employ the "foreign" logic selectively.

Fifth, NO, most of us don't hate Hindi. It' a great language that we often use and consume entertainment in. Hindi might feel special to you if your mother tongue is Hindi, but why would it feel that way to those whose mother tongue is not Hindi? Think about it.

Sixth and last, this is a pointless pursuit. It changes nothing. It improves nothing. Even if implemented, it will do nothing. Connaught Place was renamed Rajiv Chowk ages ago. The only person who calls it Rajiv Chowk is the automated voice in Delhi Metro. Everyone says CP.

You can't shove things down people's throats. And this applies to languages even more. If you want to promote a language, use it, create art in it, and make people want to use it. Don't do it by government order. That's juvenile.

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This essay initially went out as a Twitter thread and went somewhat viral there and on Instagram. So I figured I will send it out here as well.

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