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18 May 2016

How Sagarika Ghose spoiled three days of my life...

The day started innocuously.

I got up and as usual checked my mail and checked social media for any interesting bits of information.

One tweet by Sagarika Ghose caught my eye.


I read the original article in IE. It talked about Tina Dabi being the first ever Dalit Girl to top the UPSC Civil Services Examination.

The previous day I had read about Athar Aamir Ul Shafi Khan from Jammu and Kashmir who won the second rank in UPSC Civil Services Exam. I was feeling really proud that only in India this kind of achievement possible. First ever Dalit Girl to top the exam ever. A muslim from strife torn J&K topping the exam. This was a classic example of the strength of diversity of the country and I strongly felt that we should nurture the diversity, the culture of excellence and the enabling environment that this country provides for such achievements.

Add to that,  first ever Dalit Girl to top in the history of exam (She got on merit and not through reservations)!!. This breaks all notions of caste and religion. This is the true India. I felt proud. I should tweet about it.

And so I did. I tweeted the following tweet.

 I was very sure that people would see my tweet for what it was. Celebration of the greatness of the country that enables such achievements. That the first ever Dalit Girl topper in Civil Services exam was a proof of how much progress we have made. That we should be proud of the diversity and the culture of excellence in the country. To emphasis the point I added #ideaofIndia and #Proudtobeindian for good measure. Readers of my tweet should have no doubt about my intentions.

And within minutes Sagarika retweeted it.

Almost immediately, Arvind Kejriwal, CM of Delhi retweeted Sagarika's tweet.

I felt happy. With a leading journalist and the dynamic CM of Delhi retweeting my tweet, I felt that I have arrived as a 'tweeter'. And that my message was being well received.

I was waiting for kudos and likes from the public. After all, who will argue with my point? Who can miss the spirit of my tweet extolling the greatness of India? I just have to count the 'Likes' to my tweets. I would have done my bit to make India happy and proud of itself.

Or so I thought...

I had not factored the power of Sagarika Ghose and Arvind Kejriwal to evoke strong emotions. It is almost Pavlovian. The moment they tweet something, some people will have to oppose, mostly using bad language.

Twitter notifications started coming in thick and fast. They were mostly directed at SG and AK, but I was also included since I was the originator of the tweet. It accused SG and AK of focusing on 'Dalit' and 'Religion'. They criticized them for trying to divide the country along caste and religious lines. Many of them pointed out, rather paternally, that the topper was 'Indian' and the second topper was 'Indian'. Some asked us to stop this 'Gandhi Soch'. One nasty tweeter, supposedly a student, also called it 'Kutti Soch'. He may be a student, but definitely has not learned anything so far in his life.

Some tweets hurt.There was one dignified middle aged lady who tweeted a terse 'Sick Minds'. One guy said that the 'Guy who tweeted should be ashamed'. Some of them were inspirational. 'The lady who topped is an Indian, the guy who topped is an Indian', said they. (How would that have looked? "Indian top civil services exam, Indian is the second topper. Proud to be Indian'. Would not have got retweets from Sagarika Ghose and Kejriwal). 

Also, it would have been a boring tweet.

In all fairness, there were many who appreciated the spirit of the tweet by retweeting the same. Unfortunately, they, like the electorate in MCD, were the silent majority. Personally, I think that they have to speak out much more. They should not be cowed down by the expected negativity from one group of tweeters. 

To say that I was taken aback by all the negativity will be an understatement. However, soon I realized that most of these negative tweeters have not understood the real message of the tweet and were tweeting negativity only because of their reflexive antipathy towards Sagarika and Kejriwal. Once I realized that, I calmed down.

But I was not done. I decided to respond to each of the negative tweeters. On day one, I was very factual and objective. I pointed out that 'My tweet was to celebrate the achievements of the winners. The focus was on the diversity, culture of excellence and rewards for hard work that India offers. This kind of achievement is possible only in this country. The tweet conveyed my pride about being a citizen of this great country. The tweet was never about Caste / religion. Caste / religion of the candidates are publicly known facts. They are incidental to the tweet'.

Of course, this was the message that I conveyed. In some tweets I emphasized the diversity, some I focused on Culture of Excellence, Reward for Hardwork was stressed in some other tweets. However, the Pride in the greatness of the country was common in all the tweets. I emphasized that the tweet was not about Caste / Religion.

Some understood my response immediately. They came back with dignified responses like 'Ok' or 'Appreciate' or 'Now it is clear. Thanks' etc. Some blamed Sagarika Ghose and Kejriwal. Their response was something like 'We understood the spirit of tweet. But people like Sagarika and Kejriwal and determined to try and get votes based on Caste / Religion.' While I responded to most of them with 'I respect your opinion', to some I pointed out that they were 'missing the greatness of the country by focusing on one or two individuals'. Most of them did not respond further. What I did not tell them was that while disliking some people was Ok, using bad language was extremely uncivilized. 

They wouldn't have understood anyway.

There were others who were very idealistic. We should strive for classless and casteless society, said they. Tweets like these (mine) were only encouraging the casteism in this country, they opined. I pointed out that the caste and religion of the candidates was a public information. While a casteless and classless society was an ideal we should aspire for, we should celebrate these small achievements on its way, I pointed out. Most of these discussions ended up pleasantly with me sharing with them my blog post on 'My Idea of India'.

That was my gift to their civility and readiness to engage in idea based debates.

Some focused on the word 'Muslim' in my tweet. Their response was like 'What if a Hindu had topped? Would it not have added to the 'idea of India'? I am sure you would not have been so '#ProudtobeIndian' as you are now.'. I tried to respond that theirs was a hypothetical tweet and I am not going to respond to hypothesis.

The tweets came thick and fast on day two also. Now I had got the hang of how to handle such tweets. On day two, I was aggressive in my response. My response was to hold them responsible for their statements. I asked questions like 'The focus of tweet was on the greatness of India. Why are you focusing on two words?'. My attempt was to point out that while they talk about the greatness of India, it was hypocritical to miss the spirit of the tweet, which was the greatness of India, and focus on caste and religion. 

On day three, the flood of tweets subsided. I had become adept at handling the tweets and had realized that most of the tweeters can't hold a decent facts based debate. I had become bored with their negativity and reflexive responses. I decided to have some fun and decided to do a 'Trump'. To the few tweets that came, I responded with 'My tweet was about the greatness of India and you find only caste / religion in the tweet. Sad' or to that effect. I did this because I understood that they have not read the tweet properly and had responded only because Sagarika Ghose retweeted the same. If anyone responded to that tweet of mine, I beseeched them not to miss the greatness of the country by focusing on two words which were public information, anyway.

At the end of it all, two tweets stood out. One was from a lady, who kept insisting that I was a casteist and mine was a propaganda to strengthen casteism in the country. I think she was a Brahmin from Tamil Nadu (I am just going by her Tamilian Name), because I  had heard similar arguments from my relatives in TN. While I sympathised with her, I pointed out that my tweet was limited to the greatness of India and I did not have any other agenda.

Another tweeter left sour taste in the mouth. His twitter profile stated that he was a student. I was wary of responding to him because, you know, he was a student and he was at the beginning of his life and all that stuff. He started off by using bad language. When I tried to clarify the tweet (this was on day one, I was on a clarification mode), he responded by asking me to 'Shut Up' and stressed the points in his original tweet (that I had clarified). I was losing patience with him and pointed out that 'the easiest way to win arguments was to use bad language and accuse the opponent of being biased'. He responded with more invective. I had had enough and so I responded replying that 'I respect your opinion'.

He had the last word though. His reply? 'And I don't respect yours'.

He may be a student. But he need a lot of education.

I learned two things. One, most of the people in twitter can't handle facts. And they can't debate. Sooner or later they will resort to bad language. Smart people can easily see through their emptiness. That is the reason Sagarika Ghose is not responding to most of the tweets. She understands that by responding to the tweets, she is wasting tweeter's time and is not adding any value to the tweeter. Two, I am not an expert on everything out there. I am not an expert on Cricket, Politics, Caste, Religion....It is better to be modest and try to hone my ideas by engaging with others in serious debate. 

And if they can't debate, or if the debate is not going anywhere, or if you really respect their opinion, or if you are not learning anything new, close the thread by saying 'I respect your opinion'. Also if you don't know something, accept that you don't know. Your respect will increase manifold.

Remember, whatever you tweet is public information. Do the 'Grandchild' test before you tweet. Answer the question, 'Will my grandchild be proud of this tweet of mine?'. If your answer is 'Yes', then tweet.

Finally, most of the tweets in my thread were response to Sagarika Ghose. Just by retweeting my tweet, Sagarika Ghose made me waste three days of my life.

Why Sagarika Ghose? Why?....

1 comment:

Sai Kiran Sharma said...

I have news for you, go and read saggy's latest tweet on brahmanical culture giving away to sports, it read:

"Used to be said: when a Brahmin can't even make his own tea how can he throw a javelin? Brahmanical culture giving way to sports: great!"

If I were you, I would not give much attention or credit to saggy either.