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Opinion | The most important life change I made

Looking at hate with a magnifying glass has made me obsessed with the idea of love

‘Words Of Kindness’ (2016), by Dhruvi Acharya. Photo courtesy: Dhruvi Acharya
‘Words Of Kindness’ (2016), by Dhruvi Acharya. Photo courtesy: Dhruvi Acharya

How often have you clicked on an article titled “How to immediately change your life for the better" and thought that you could make it work for you? I’m addicted to thinking of new ways to live my life. In recent years I’ve embraced the idea of decluttering—though I haven’t yet sat in the middle of my bedroom surrounded by the contents of my wardrobe and embraced each article of clothing to my bosom wondering if it sparks joy.

I’ve been vegetarian for many decades now but I consciously began eating natural/local a few years ago. Alas my intense affair with millets is over, I must report. I’ll make up the loss in energy levels with a fish oil tablet or a shot of wheatgrass but I can no longer live outside the warm embrace of white rice.

There have been impressive phases when I read and watched only critically acclaimed books and films—and found 25 more ways to maximize my life (begin each day with warm water and a squeeze of lime). Until one lazy evening, my finger unbeknownst to me, clicks on the latest B grade offering on Netflix and I’m flung back in the irritatingly comforting cesspit of mediocrity.

I’ve greened my space quite effectively thank you. My herb garden still lives on despite the husband’s dire prediction that everything I grow eventually dies. “Your monstrous aloe vera is going to take over our apartment soon," my chef and cookbook author spouse now says, staring balefully at my thriving balcony garden. I wonder how he will react when I take over his kitchen to brew flaxseed gel for my curls.

Our travel itineraries have gone from being about exploring the world to realizing there’s so much beauty in our backyard. Once we were all about buying a one-way ticket around the southern hemisphere, now we keep wanting to revisit the North-East.

Life with an eight-year-old is all about relearning the basics. Some of her body confidence has rubbed off on me. As I grow older, I’m finally feeling comfortable in my skin.

In fact you could dub our style Basic Parenting. We invest a lot of effort in giving our daughter a 1980s upbringing (minus the white bread). Hopscotch, catapults and badminton (I’m so glad the last is trendy again), shopping at Bata, long swimming sessions followed by chicken sandwiches by the pool and gadget-free December family reunions at a magical, muddy hill station.

We’ve rediscovered our sporty side. “These days, I’m training families not just children," my daughter’s swim coach informed me recently. Our fitness programme has one goal and it’s not to fit into a pair of skinny jeans. As older parents, we are focused on living healthy so we can function effectively as our daughter grows into adulthood.

Of course life is not one never-ending summer’s day. I’m still unable to juggle my digital life and my real life effectively. I may devour books about why I should delete my Twitter and Facebook accounts and I nod vigorously when I read about how we used a bunch of Silicon Valley-based companies to radicalize the world but I am unable to relinquish the ringside seats to The Global Hate Show that plays out on social media every day.

Like many of you, I’ve already spring-cleaned my life of friends and relatives who think it’s their birthright to share their racist, homophobic and bigoted views. I’ve scrubbed my WhatsApp free of bigoted forwards disguised as “jokes’ such as this one that comes with an image that vaguely resembles three burkha-clad ladies: “I spent half an hour trying to talk with them, wanting to learn about their culture until the bartender cut me off and told me they were patio umbrellas."

I travel with human rights activist Harsh Mander’s Karwan E Mohabbat, an ongoing journey, to families hit by hate ( I have a Twitter thread that tracks the hate speech of our elected representatives in 2018. Take a look to see if your MP or MLA features on it.

Looking at hate up close has made me obsessed with the idea of love. In recent years I’ve gone from prickly porcupine on public platforms to offering love and support to people I’ve never even met. Every start-up idea that enters my mind has love at its core.

After I found myself at the centre of India’s #MeToo movement recently, one friend who knows my twin obsessions—love and hate—said, we need a #MeToo for calling out bigotry. Imagine naming companies, schools and building societies that discriminate on the basis of religion. In a week when the fifth largest country in the world has elected as its leader a man who favours military dictatorship, torture and violence against minorities, it’s difficult to imagine any space that has zero tolerance for hate. Fighting hate will never be an election issue. But you can do your bit—in India at least, love is an easier idea to spread than cleanliness.

So this Diwali, spread a little love. We need it more than ever.

Priya Ramani shares what’s making her feel angsty/agreeable.

She tweets at @priyaramani

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