UNLIKE MANY IN my generation—those who went to college in India in the gloomy decade of the 1970s—who chose to buy a one-way ticket out of India, I took the gamble of studying in the West and then returning to India. I am sure my friends, nearly all of whom did rather well in their adopted countries, never regretted their decisions. But neither did I.
In the ultimate analysis, these were all very personal decisions and there were convincing arguments to justify both choices. Speaking for myself, I was comfortable in both the West and India. Yes, there were the familiar arguments about ‘institutionalised racism’ that acted as a glass ceiling in the West, particularly in Europe, but I must say that I never encountered these prejudices in my long stints in the UK. I hesitate to make generalisations on the strength of my own experiences since I know people who have very unpleasant memories of their schooldays in the UK, especially if they happened to attend a state school. Those who attended fee-paying public schools invariably saw England as the proverbial “green and pleasant land”. As for university, apart from a cultural detachment from the small clutch of beer-guzzling rugby and football players, race and nationality didn’t matter.
In England, what did matter was class, your accent, and your fluency in the English language. But that is another story altogether.
Looking back, those were innocent times. Thanks to the woke epidemic which, mercifully, didn’t exist in the last quarter of the 20th century, people like me—those who combine their certitudes with the belief that no one has a monopoly of the truth— find themselves thanking God that we were born a few generations ago.
Woke has injected many distortions into society, but chief among them is self-censorship. I grant there is no such thing as absolute freedom of speech and most of us kept social niceties in mind when proffering our views. However, a good education taught us that when we heard someone speak rot, we wouldn’t hesitate to say so.
No doubt there were some awkward political moments. Some friends were fanatical in their belief that everything to do with the Apartheid regime of South Africa— particularly food and wine—had to be shunned. I had a dear friend from Johannesburg, now a prominent politician in the opposition, whose anti-Apartheid credentials were impeccable. For him, things from South Africa were home products and he was damned if he was going to boycott those. I took the cue from him and was easy about consuming the wine and fruit from South Africa. I wouldn’t actively buy them, but wouldn’t throw a fit if these were served.
In today’s world, this would be unacceptable. The ‘trans’ debate that involves denying gender differences and implacably accepting all sorts of peculiar self-definitions, has left many of us shaken and bewildered. It is not merely that a lot of us find this issue quite ridiculous—some facets of Maoism stretched the bounds of credulity in our days—but that redefined social norms make it obligatory to genuflect before this rubbish. The alternative is to face the wrath of militant trans activists who stop at nothing to suppress those who don’t agree with their whacko theories. Just look at the roll call of the luminaries who have either been banned or prevented from speaking at universities.
Race is turning out to be another faultline. We don’t need lectures from guilt-ridden Westerners that colonialism devastated large chunks of what goes by the name Third World. Yet, that doesn’t give us, ex-colonials, the unqualified right to violate everything the West holds as precious and, at the same time, live in those erstwhile colonial centres.
There is a storm brewing in the West over a special taskforce the Rishi Sunak government has established to fight the menace of ‘grooming’—a form of sex slavery of vulnerable girls. The issue goes back to 2011 when it was found that some Britons of Pakistani origin were ‘grooming’ young, white girls and using them as sex slaves. According to a report in The Times, “A Home Office policy paper on the subject in 2020 found that poor quality and incomplete data on offenders’ ethnic backgrounds hindered the ability to draw conclusions on whether Asian offenders were over-represented. Asked about this report [Home Secretary Suella] Braverman… said that some British-Pakistani men ‘hold cultural values totally at odds with British values.’”
I salute the blunt-speaking home secretary for not mincing her words. I am reassured that, after the woke overdose, there is still some sanity left in the West. What a tragedy, therefore, that some of India’s deracinated elite are trying to inject wokeism into our land.