The provocation for me to pen this piece is a tweet which inexplicably showed up on my timeline on one of those several friendship days.
As an aside, I have been unable to comprehend as to how many friendship days are celebrated through the year because only a few days prior to the one referred above was another such friendship day. My young niece, well versed in these matters intervened to clear the confusion by informing me that this was the "International" friendship day whereas the other one only had national significance!!
In-spite of so many friendship days being celebrated with pomp and gay, the strain the friendships and even close relations have come under, during last 6 years or so is a sad reflection of the times we live in.
Perhaps the ancient Sages couldn't imagine a phenomenon like the one being witnessed these days otherwise they would have divided the time into five eras instead of four and called the present period in our lifetime, marked by blind devotion of a set of people to one particular person, as the "Bhakti Kal". Such a group of people are fondly known as "Bhakts"
Coming back to the tweet in question. It referred to a game of Chess which the originator may have played with his friend. The originator's complaint was that his friend was taking a lot of time in deciding his moves. Hence although the friend won the game but he lost a friend (the person tweeting in this case). I was tempted to ask as to how else was one expected to play the game of chess – if not by thinking moves through, but refrained.
The anecdote described in the tweet is a perfect description of the situation prevailing all around us. The friends owing allegiance to certain thought process do not want their friends to think. They simply want you to agree to whatever they say. For them, any thinking person is an enemy of the object of their devotion and the state. Even an amiable and generally soft-spoken friendly person with such orientation will suddenly transform into an aggressive abusive demon, the moment you attempt a response especially if it happens to start with a "but". "Deshdrohi", "libtard", "Commie", "Bhakt", "Aaptard" and "congie chamcha" etc. are some of the adjectives that you will be showered with. This will be followed with a stern invitation - nay direction to go to Pakistan if you don't stop and insist on exercising your right to respond.
My retort that they rather send me to a country whose record in theocracy we are not trying to emulate and demand for finances for procuring visa, residential permit and suitable employment etc for me in the country of my choice puts them in a sulk and compels them to beat a hasty retreat.
A four-decade-old friend went to the extent of complaining to mutual friends about my so-called errant thought process and propensity to critically analyse the policies of the present Government and its leader. It was a herculean task to control myself from responding in kind, which perhaps is the reason for residual civility in our relations even though the warmth of yesteryears has disappeared.
A relative whose vociferous support to the pogrom in East Delhi during February was left fuming upon my suggestion that if he had so much hatred for a community, then why doesn't he personally go and execute what he expected the poor people to do on his behalf.
I often get blocked for countering propaganda with fact checks and counter-narrative. Funnily, some of the friends and relatives have become serial blockers doing so at regular intervals. I enjoy playing along and the exchange of counter views starts flowing to and fro at the same speed till the next blocking episode.
I am increasingly tending to believe that such people suffer from psychological issues. They are aware of the deficiencies of the person they idolise but are stuck with him because they had put the proverbial "all eggs in the same basket".
Having begun with a chess anecdote I can't help describing one of my own. A friend of mine during a game took advantage of a lapse on my part and literally kicked away my queen from the board with a victorious disdain. Fortunately, he had not noticed that my queen was covered and therefore he too ended up losing his. He conceded defeat but the grace had disappeared. This is how the modern-day "bhakt" behaves by becoming irrational, loud and abusive.
My advice, therefore, is to avoid blunt confrontation and criticism of their idol. Lies and propaganda cannot, however, be allowed to go uncontested. Therefore, do respond but soften the blow by peppering it up with humour and sarcasm. You may have an outside chance of retaining a modicum of civility in your relations.
(The author of this article is a retired Border Security Forces Additional Director General. All the views expressed in this article are the author's personal opinions)