Indian Elections 2014: Close-Up 1

My cabbie this morning was in a chatty mood, and for an hour we discussed politics, politics, politics. His chief grouse seemed to be that “Hindustan” – India – hasn’t been declared a “Hindu rashtra” or a Hindu nation yet. In the same breath, he said religion was personal, and what he would vote for is progress, ergo the vote for Modi.

Usually, in circs like this, I allow only curiosity free rein, because there is something very paternalistic about lecturing a working-class person on his electoral choices without first making an effort to understand where those choices come from. But the onset of elections has probably made me more anxious than I realised, because for the first time, I engaged in a gentle debate, asking him what concrete benefits “a Hindu rashtra” would bring him, and how the certain riots that would follow such a declaration would affect him and his.

Locked in a cab on a barely-moving highway, the two of us had very little choice but to listen to each other, and consider each others point of view. In the end I conceded that I really knew very little about caste Hindu anxieties in and around Lucknow, and he conceded that perhaps he wouldn’t benefit from the Hindu rashtra label after all. We also had a very involved conversation about what “pragati” should actually mean, and how little served it is by our political parties, but that’s a post for another day. He and I are good friends now, though. I have his number and know about his wife and family, and we have a pact of giving him the first call whenever “sir” and I have somewhere to go.

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