Of all the opinions swirling around in the cauldron of great Indian election, those that really interest me are from people claiming to be liberal intellectuals mainly on two counts: they can write in convent-ed English, and if at all they are worried about their next meal, it is about the calories it will contain.
Armed with the above two qualifications, they confidently know everything that is wrong with our nation, so they feel that they need to point it out for the greater good.
As Ram Mandir is an eternal “tadaka” that is always required to spice up the great Indian election curry, those in-charge of it have already started heating it up on the side. As Indian liberals feel that they must add some flavour to it, they too have warmed up and are now sprinkling their opinions like mustard seeds in the tadaka bowl, making it an interesting process to watch.
As I study the scene, I can see that what really bothers our liberals is the “uselessness” of Ram Mandir, so the most preferred counter they always bring forth is “Why a Mandir? Why not a hospital?”.
They probably feel that poor people of India (who obviously are stupid and need to benefit from the infinite wisdom of their liberal saviours) will resonate with the idea of building a facility that can be useful. But, for some inexplicable reason (for liberals), the masses refuse to grasp their simple logic and remain steadfastly attached to the idea of Ram Mandir.
As I am tired of watching my (not too poor) liberal intellectual brother and sisters suffer (though not silently), I am going to try and explain.
I feel that I qualify to represent the non-liberal non-intellectual Indian side as I have escaped the enlightenment of (Medium English as we vernaculars called it) education and (only due to genetic reasons) do not worry about calories in my next meal.
The problem as I see it is that of human imagination. Armed with this brain tool, we all end up making the same mistake. We fail to distinguish between the real and the imaginary.
If I try and fathom the liberal mind, I feel that it is imagining the pain of not having a hospital (or a school or whatever “useful” thing that liberals want instead of the Mandir).
As he has never really experienced the pain of not-having a hospital or other convenience he is used to, he has to imagine not-having-a-hospital.
With an imaginary “reality” fabricated in his mind, he finds it to be incredibly uncomfortable, and imagines that every other human being would share his discomfort.
On the other end, a liberal intellectual, with not too many survival threats looming over him, has not felt the need of having a tangible source of faith and hope with a great intensity. So, he imagines a temple to be “useless” compared to convenience of a hospital.
As it is about imagination-conflict, it is hard to cognise, so let me try and explain through frames of experience that liberal intellectuals can relate with.
If I show a Mondrian painting (that a liberal intellectual would gasp at with absolute reverence) to a farmer in rural Bihar and tell him that someone paid 350 crore rupees for it, he would be shocked to the core to find a “useless” piece of paper with few colourful squares to have such a value.
If I take a group or rural women who have tracked thousands of kilometres to Ayodhya for “darshana” of “Ram-Lalla”, and fly them to Bangalore and show them French poodles getting coochie-cooed while getting shampooed in a parlour or make them sit in a “summer collection ramp walk” at Taj or read them a passage out of James Augustine Aloysius Joyce’s Ulysses, they would be just as confused as a liberal intellectual who can’t figure out why they can’t see that a hospital is more useful than a temple.
The problem with liberal intellectuals of India is simple. They think they represent India, and hence know what is right for her because they use their imagination about India that they have not experienced directly.
The real truth is, reality looks different from every standpoint and reality as liberals see it is not what Indian masses experience.
Liberals may feel hugely surprised about why something as obvious as usefulness of a hospital over a temple not resonating with masses, the fact is, a large part of India has nothing common with Indian liberals living in urban India and looking westwards for what is right for humanity.
As I don’t propose to get off my beloved fence from where I really enjoy these debates, all I want to point out is that the world where Mondrian is worth 350 crore rupees and the world where people find a temple to be more useful than a hospital are both equally and completely imaginary, as they are borne of two different belief systems.
Liberals should grasp that masses wanting Ram Mandir are not (as yet) wondering why they live in an absurd world where a piece of art is valued more than life time earnings of thousands of Ram-Lalla worshiper or a leather purse is more costly than net worth of an Indian village.
The day masses start questioning the belief systems of the liberals from the perspective of “usefulness”, the world will get really uncomfortable for liberals.