in post

29 October, 2020

Wondering what Vikram Seth himself thought about the Suitable Boy series, I sought out some interviews with him on YouTube. He's a very interesting speaker, just as he is a very interesting person. Lately I have been thinking a lot about the antagonism being felt by the Islamic world towards France, in the wake of the Samuel Paty murder and his promotion to the status of a hero for France's secularism and free speech. In two of the interviews I watched, Seth spoke of the importance of tolerance. He said that of all the gifts India has given to the world, one of the most important ones is the secret of learning how widely different cultures managed to live together. I was thinking that too. Yesterday I started to write a blog post about that very idea in fact, but lost confidence in the idea. The BJP are, after all, undermining pluralism and tolerance. If they succeed, they will be undermining a long tradition. And its also true that it is a tradition that is full of internal contradictions and bloody exceptions. To the point where tolerance was perhaps the exception. There is a similar myth about the harmony that existed between Muslims, Christians and Jews in Andalusia. But the idea that people of different cultures or religions are unable to live together is a worse and more damaging myth. We can live together if there is humility and respect. Our religions and ideologies are based on fine ideas. The idea of a secular state is a fine idea, but only if it is willing to accommodate citizens who may have a set of beliefs that is quite different to that of secularists.