Don’t You Feel the Need to Defend?

“Don’t you feel the need to defend Bihar any longer?” asked a friend, casually, as the conversation turned to the recent exam-topper fraud brought into light by the media.

“No. Why should I?” seemed like a callous response, so I shrugged non-committally. Unfortunately for me, the friend is sharp and also knows me pretty well; so she concluded correctly, “You don’t.”

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Udta Punjab might have won the favor of high court, but the self-appointed keepers of Punjab-prestige are not giving up. They feel the need to defend their state.

Another young friend, usually an unconcerned, easy-going sort of a girl, felt the need to condemn the “wrong” portrayal of “Maratha people” in Bajirao-Mastani.

Deriding and defending IITians is a common theme of threads in startup forums. And some people are hurt that despite being from IITs and IIMs myself I am not defending the students in the Flipkart placement row.

Defending your tribe seems like an expected behavior, even demanded out of you. I am sure that there would even be some evolutionary explanation for it. Being with your people helped you survive. So you defended each other. No universal morality or sense of justice was applicable back then.

But for people like us, increasingly, the universal views dominate over the sympathy for our tribe. And for how many tribes can one keep feeling the belongingness? How many groups can I keep defending without losing my own soul? Bihar, my state? India, my country? Navodaya, IIT, IIM – my schools? Google – my most important ex-employer? Bangalore – practically my own city now? My language? My caste? My family? Women professionals? Women, in general?

And why should I defend any of them?

No, I don’t feel the urge to defend. I do, sometimes, feel the urge to contradict someone who is single-mindedly focussed on one aspect of some issue, ignoring any evidence that goes against their idea. But that issue need not be about a tribe I belong to. It could be, but it could be anything else. Yes, I find myself contradicting the notions of many of my North Indian compatriots that Hindi must be a universally accepted language in India. And then I also find myself contradicting the Kannadigas who think that people who don’t know Kannada don’t have any rights to live in the state.

But I don’t feel the need to defend either Bihar, or Bangalore.

Is there something wrong with it? Not feeling the need to defend?