January Print Issue
On Ravish Kumar’s NDTV India in the prime time show after Bihar’s state election results were out, most senior reporters belonging to the upper castes were discussing the nukaad exit poll and how it could have gotten the results wrong. One of the hypothesis proposed was that most respondents in the field, who spoke on camera, also belonged to the higher castes. It was also contended that the reason the respondents were overwhelmingly of the upper castes is because only they have the confidence to speak up. The upper caste interviewees had quick answers and retorts for the reporters questions and that the vehement confidence with which they replied led the reporter’s own logic and reasoning to take a back seat.
The show also suggested that this might be the very reason why the exit poll data was so far off the mark. This led me to think about the opinions I normally hear from the people around me. I realized that the opinions I heard the most came from confident people who were always ready to speak without even being spoken to. Could this mean that the exit polls in my head, those taken to measure everyday occurrences, could also be skewed ? If all the opinions I was getting all the time came from only a certain type of people- confident- did it mean that I too was presented with a slightly lop-sided view of the world ? This has made me have begin fearing confidence and confident friends. And so, lately, I have been looking for people who are not confident. I am also looking to be friends with them. Un-Confident friends.
It is not easy to find them. They don’t speak until and unless they have been given a space – a space of shared silence. And what follows is a long conversation, without jargons, without pretence, without smileys, or the inane abbreviations of social media. A conversation with real words and sentences, not one where two words replace the whole paragraph and is understood by the digital extroverts only.
Nowadays, even the BEST buses in Mumbai remind me confidently with the FIIT-JEE advertisement on their red bodies that only IIT is success. Initially, she did not use to tell or try to sell me anything. We had a relationship- just the two of us. A relationship of shared silence. She was plain, utilitarian and necessary. Just going around and doing her work, just like me. We used to speak to each other, but we never forced or imposed anything on each other. Other than the very public space of a BEST bus, I also encounter several such people in my networks. They are very confident and speak above my much-needed shared silence. They belong to many ideologies : the Sangh, the Left or the Ambedkaraites. Their confidence scares me. I cannot compete with their confidence, and I am afraid that this confidence will get to me. It is a contagious disease. And the the only cure may be silence- a shared one.
We are becoming lazy with words. Ideas to be put into writing are tedious and boring, but shouting over each other’s voices is not. We are competing with each other to be the most confident and successful, never dreaming of collaborating to share that momentary space of silence.