A friend who’s based in Russia was in India for a visit, and called me. He was a bit upset that the mosques in India had become so loud and were interfering with his ability to have a conversation. It seems the Muslim population in my home state of Kerala has gone up, and so have the number of mosques. We agreed there was a bit of muscle flexing going on.
Change is the one big constant in life, and resistance to change is the other. But if we don’t manage change well, it can be disastrous.
Take this thing about noisy places of worship. There’s a temple right behind my house in Kerala where a loudspeaker would suddenly come on at 5 am, causing me to jump out of bed wondering if the sky had fallen on my head. After a while, the courts decided to interfere. Noise pollution in the name of religious freedom was not acceptable. So they imposed a blanket ban on loudspeakers in religious places. The morning racket was reduced dramatically, and in any case we had the temple’s phone number, and if the volume was too high, we would give them a call, and they would turn it down. It’s this tolerant atmosphere of ‘live and let live’ that makes religious riots rare in south India. I guess the mosques too will eventually stop flexing their muscles, and crank down their volume.
North India is not so tolerant. There used to be a mosque out there called the Babri Masjid which is supposed to have been built in 1528 AD on the site of a Hindu temple that was demolished to make way for the mosque. In 1992, the mosque was suddenly attacked and destroyed by a few hot heads. During the communal riots that followed, over 2000 people lost their lives. I was in the area recently and I could still sense the tension in the air.
Now as the religious demographics of India again changes, I can only hope sensible heads prevail and the two communities work out how to live together in peace. The problem is that there are people trying to fish in troubled waters, and if they succeed in polarising the two communities, India as a whole will suffer.
I see something similar happening in the US. Some centuries ago, the land used to belong to the Native Americans, before they were colonised and the land taken over by white immigrants from Europe. History is repeating itself, and the whites are now becoming a minority with the so-called browning of the US. Languages, religions, ethnicities are all in a state of flux.
There is a desperate resistance to this inevitable change, and you can see it in the faces of the thousands of whites who blindly support Donald Trump, ignoring his innumerable and humongous flaws. The danger is if every one of the Trump supporters vote, and the sensible majority gets too apathetic to come out to exercise their franchise on election day. The US will then be well and truly in the soup. Hopefully that will not happen.
It’s still early days, and in this volatile situation it doesn’t take more than a couple of hotheads to poison the atmosphere. Planes, guns, trucks… it’s hard to stop a suicidal maniac. But the damage can be limited if people refuse to retaliate, which is what the fanatics desperately desire.
I think the best way to go about it is to embrace change with enthusiasm. For instance, this morning I woke up, looked at my iPhone, and decided I wanted some change. So I downloaded the latest beta version of iOS 10, and installed it on my primary phone. Pretty stupid of me as beta versions are unstable by nature. But my phone screen now comes on if I just pick it up, and I can see my notifications, while a swipe to the left gets me the camera. These are tiny changes that Apple unscrupulously stole from Android, but it thrilled me no end. The only problem is I now have a long wait for iOS 11.
Change may be a pain, but it definitely adds spice to life.