Saturday, July 16, 2011

Misgivings of a virtual citizen

I am glad I have a voice.
I Tweet, I Facebook, I Blog.
I think my political opinion, at last is being taken seriously. I am, after all, an opinionated, middle class, virtual citizen of India. By that, I don't just mean someone who is away from his/her own country but also someone who is being a part of the political discussion online. I am a virtual citizen even when I am in India because most of my experiences are virtual. My fights are virtual and so is my anger. It is all online. I read online, I see my friends online, I fall in love online and I get my heart broken online. I also go into spells of online bitterness and online fury.

I am grateful for my upbringing. My parents taught me to see right from wrong at a very early age. They built protective walls around me. Life according to them, was a long assembly line. It was a chronology of important milestones (complete with a no-more-than tolerance). All I had to do was to conform and pass those milestones at the right time. Everything was designed to minimize damage. I am grateful for that. But sometimes, I feel a sense of isolation. Although in my virtual life, I seem to have many identities, in my real life, I feel oddly directionless. I am smarter than most. That is one thing I am sure of. If I ever feel insecure about my knowledge, it is only one click away. I love debates and discussions. Sometimes my discussions turn into tirades and monotonous ego-battles. My opponents and I throw links at each other to prove a point. Sometimes, every member of this forum resides in a different country and often, that country is not the country of their citizenship. But I wonder if I am wise enough and perhaps, this virtual citizenship is keeping me away from real wisdom.

I am never happy with my country's government. Mostly because it is not the government that I would have chosen or  maybe people like me -- mature, well-educated, middle-class citizens would choose. I am unhappy about a lot of things going on in my country. I wonder why I cannot see people who think like I do, come to power. And I don't know where the people who actually want this government come from. I guess that is another thing that I am confused about. I simply cannot understand people who come from outside of the conveyor belt on my assembly line. Sometimes, they stay far behind. Grappling with issues that were never even included in my growing-up-syllabus. Sometimes, they whiz past in their super fast cars. The next I see them is in newspapers or on television. I feel confused when I see Westerners in their mid twenties take a break from school for three years just to 'see the world'. My parents would call me crazy if I decided to jump off the belt and 'see the world'. It would mean that someone else would occupy the empty spot and get ahead of me. Sometimes, I worry though if there is such a thing as an empty place that you leave behind. I wonder if leaving behind an empty place would fill a bit of emptiness I feel inside. And whether the space that I would otherwise occupy is significant enough to justify this feeling of constant restraint.

Then there is the "Religion dilemma". Growing up, religion was peace, a legacy of love and devotion. Religion was poetry. Religion was philosophy. Religion was work. Religion was faith in humanity. Religion was being devoted to the devoted. Religion was art and music. It was always a road that took us within. It was a personal experience. It still is. Or maybe it isn't. But sometimes, I am reminded of my religion because of someone else, belonging to another. It seems as though Religion has lost its many faces and personalities. Now it is a label that I stick, or sometimes is stuck to my forehead to classify me, my anger and my discontent. Sometimes I feel that meeting as many people as I could, shaking as many hands of real flesh and blood as I could and looking into as many eyes as I could, would be a bigger religion to follow. Then again the walls around me would not let that happen.

I don't know why I feel so angry. I am not sure whether my helplessness comes from outside or it comes from within. I have started gathering a suspicion that the secure walls that were built to protect me from going off this belt, were actually conceived from the same fear and helplessness that I find myself trapped in now. Perhaps this anger is not at the situation around me. Maybe this situation is merely a mirror. Stepping out of this virtual world takes great effort too. It is now like another mind in another space. It is another wall of a secure and rigid identity that I need to cross. Although my voice is being heard and sometimes answered, I think, that all of this -- inside and out, these thoughts and their virtual shadows is not my voice.

It is just an abysmal incoherent noise.

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