Letter to the Solo-tripping Friend

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Dear backpacking-friend-finding-himself,

I miss you and I know you say the same. But I don’t know where you get the time between scrubbing elephants in Cambodia, and partying in Bali and admiring the street art in Penang. I’m sorry about all the soulmates who left because they didn’t find themselves with you. Well, it could be worse. Last week, when I told a date that I worked in policy, he thought I was selling insurance. It doesn’t make for a great Instagram post, hashtags and all. But still, I think we had a real connection.

Anyway, if you thought your connection with your backpacking, poetry-spouting, dreadlock wearing soulmate was special, you’re wrong. Our Prime Minister recently visited Israel and his photos are much better than yours. I’m not the only one who thinks so. Many people were worried about what Modi’s visit meant for relations with Palestine but analysts argue that India has dehyphenated its relationships with both countries. They argue that India and Israel can work together on stronger economic engagement and terrorism. Some point out that India and Israel have much in common such as the lack of secular institutions, the need for uncritical allies and that India can learn much from the country. But there is also criticism on how Israel treats its neighbours and that there is too much hype around what is just a bilateral visit. I am trying to make the same point. Instagram posts of the beach aren’t everything. I understand if you don’t agree.

Meanwhile, closer to home, relations with China are quite tense as border patrols stand eyeball to eyeball at the Bhutan-China border. Ajay Shukla believes India needs to be prepared for escalation and develop tools to deal with it. Manoj Joshi writes that India should do better than to wage a war, as this is primarily a conflict between China and Bhutan. Mohan Guruswamy says that in the current rapidly industrialising times, India and China should throw their age old differences away and make peace with each other. In all of this, there is a confusion about the area that is disputed- is it the Doklam plateau or Doka La Pass. We really don’t seem to know.

I know you think you haven’t been away a long time but we finally have a GST! As the GST finally got rolled out, some point out its long history with various governments. Its benefits seem worth it in the long run, there are concerns on how to deal with it now. While analysts believe we should focus on the short term challenges, and wait and watch despite the fact that it has grand defects, others believe that these troubles will melt away slowly.  Everyone believes that they should be exempt from the GST from performance arts to sanitary pads and biscuits. Theatres in Tamil Nadu even shut down to protest the GST. Vanita Kohli Khandekar argues that this is actually the perfect time for Tamil cinema industry to clean up its act and let go of its price controls.

I’m sure your patchy internet from wifi stolen from hipster cafes won’t allow you to see this but in June, a video of a police officer standing up to a number of party workers in Uttar Pradesh went viral. Basant Rath writes that there needs to be more police persons like Shrestha Thakur as many officers succumb to the pressures of their political bosses. Of course we need more officers like her. But a transfer to the middle of nowhere for simply doing one’s job is the kind of action that makes people lose faith in the government.

Meanwhile in Delhi, a woman from Meghalaya, was allegedly asked to leave a club because she was wearing jainsem, a traditional Khasi dress immediately drawing the ire and criticism of analysts. This too made its way into the ‘great Indian nationalism debate’ which is everyone’s new favourite topic of discussion.

Violence against minorities hasn’t escaped our mindspace like it usually does, in a single week’s news cycle: Amartya Sen wrote about tolerance, Kapil Sibal on being an anti-national, Neera Chandoke on our constitutional democracy, Pulapre Balakrishnan on state terrorism amongst others. On one hand, there were articles on how Muslims should stop playing victims and on the other, Muslims feel like their patriotism is being questioned everyday. While we debate hate crimes and campaigns for minorities, a village in West Bengal is being burnt on communal lines because of a Facebook post by a teenager. Elsewhere, as demands for the separate state of Gorkhaland continue, analysts ponder if it is the alienation of Gorkhas or the developmental gap that have led to the demand of the separate state.

So that’s basically what’s been happening this week. I’m sorry if I sounded mean or bitter. It isn’t that I’m disappointed in the state of affairs in the country- I’m chronicling history in a way.  I see your pictures of cliff diving and I am so happy for you. I’m not jealous at all. Not even a little. Not at all.

Love,

Your friend finding herself in a shared auto.

Some of the links in this week’s Filter were collated by Shivani Ramachandran, an intern at The Takshashila Institution.