June 5, 2020
This is not a rant. This not a call for people to act in a different way. You have all seen that on social media over the last few weeks. This is not even a lament on the way society has become in the modern day. If anything, this is simply one thing. An admission. An admission that I am as much a part of the problem as any killer, in any part of the world. It all comes down to me.
My thoughts, as is probably the case with many of you, have been muddled over the events of the last few weeks and this year in general. How should I feel seeing all this pain? How should I help people? How should I respond to the burning questions of our time? Even more worrying for me is thinking about how I actually feel about these issues, compared to how I should feel. These thoughts keep hitting me like an avalanche.
Events in the US over the last few weeks have once again highlighted how rife a problem like racism still is. Add this to the unending pain of the coronavirus pandemic for the whole world, it heightens the sense we are at a very sad time in history. I have little to add in terms of concrete actions to tackle racism and inequality, but I do have some thoughts on why I am taking the blame for the way the world is today.
Thinking of You as my friend, I have rashly addressed You “O Krsna”, “O Yadava”, “O my friend”, not knowing Your glories. Please forgive whatever I may have done in madness or in love. If in jest, I treated you with disrespect, while playing, resting, sitting, eating, when alone, or before others - for all that I crave forgiveness. (Bhagavad Gita 11.41-42)
For something that was written well over 2000 years ago, I thought it was astonishing that this verse resonated with me in the present day. This verse explains the moment when Arjuna apologises to Lord Krishna for all the times he had either intentionally or unintentionally treated him with carelessness. While this may seem a thoughtful but somewhat general form of action, there is something deeper which I feel has relevance given the current state of affairs in the world.
The point of the verse is not the apology, but in the interpretation of what Arjuna has realised. He has suddenly seen Lord Krishna in every human being, and every type of living being. Or even more profoundly, every being is actually Lord Krishna and therefore divine. The Lord, who he loves above everyone else, is within every living being. This makes every being, regardless of how they may seem on the outside or in our perception of them, incredibly special and they should be treasured.
Last year, my friend had asked me whether I faced racism being an immigrant to the UK. While the answer was yes, I felt the urge to say that I did not feel as bad about it as I did before. In fact, I just feel more embarrassment and more shame. Yes, for an immigrant to be called derogatory things because of the colour of their skin or the way they are, feels terrible. But if someone from another country, who looked different to the rest of us, came to my school in Bangalore, would I resist the temptation to make “fun” of them? I don’t think so and that is a very painful admission because that makes me part of the problem. It all comes down to me.
The fact that I have accepted an issue like racism just because it has existed across many generations, is deeply saddening. But what if instead of noticing the appearance of people first, I make an effort to see God in everyone? Everyone has goodness in them, it just needs the right environment and surroundings to prosper. And more than waiting on the government to make radical changes to the way they treat people of colour and different backgrounds, the real change begins with me. Rather than wait for millions of others to take a stand, I need to show a difference in the way I approach people of all different cultures. It all comes down to me.
There is often a call to people in the public eye to be more vocal about some of the difficulties the world faces. The amount of times sportspeople, celebrities or politicians are begged to make their views clear on an issue of injustice like racism cannot perhaps be counted with even a million hands. There again, I feel a sense of embarrassment and shame within me. Why am I depending on someone else to call out an issue like racism, when I do not have the courage to do it myself? What right do I have to criticise someone for not speaking up, when by being silent, I am indirectly showing my support to the oppressor? Once again, it all comes down to me.
There is one last thought that comes into my mind time and again. There will come a time when protests will die down. There will come a time when the issue of racism does not dominate the news agenda. There will come a time when society looks to move onto a sense of “normality”, whatever that word means now. Whilst I would like to think of myself as this noble human being, I will also look to move on and cover sporting drama and data. But does that not defeat the point of what is happening today? And why have I only written about this now, when racism and issues of inequality have spanned for generations? Yes, you guessed it again, it all comes down to me. All the blame I was ready to shift onto others, it all comes down to me.
As I said earlier, this is not a rant. This is not a message against society for what we are witnessing. It is simply an admission that it all comes down to me. If I want society to change, rather than asking people in power to do that, I need to change first. Rather than preaching what should happen, I should do my all to make it happen. And not stop when the news does not cover the issue anymore. It all comes down to me.