Don't let your surroundings manipulate you into who you are not

I am an active user of Twitter and I scroll through my twitter feed more than twice every day. Recently I was annoyed because my timeline was filled with negativity about #CitizenshipAmendmentAct which neither I subscribe to nor I want to devote so much energy to.

/ The easiest way out is to block everyone saying contrary things but I have spent enough time in my own shell to value outsider’s perspective and keeping mind open.
// I also understand “you are only as good as the company you keep” and I want to keep a diverse company. Kabir says निंदक नियरे राखिए, ऑंगन कुटी छवाय, बिन पानी, साबुन बिना, निर्मल करे सुभाय।

I have dedicated time to understand both sides and at this moment convinced that the aforementioned act is without malice and conversations are political in nature. All of us have priorities in life and my priority is to become better, better the definitions and find a balance between ‘emotional vs rationale’. I will dedicate time weekly to express emotions and, publically, to be a rationale. It will also act as a reference point for my growth, changes in underlying layers in who I am.

Question: Why follow people who are not you?
I follow people on social media because I identify with their content basis journey, interaction, emotion, execution, willingness, character building, impact, etc. I came across many vocal people and some of them I know personally for years and when I look at their content…I can not decide if I knew the same person or they have changed/compromised. I don't have a problem with the conversation but the undertones, assumptions, and hatred. There is a thin line separating change and compromise and we all oscillate between them constantly. Way back in time, I followed some fan page on Facebook and found out much later to my chagrin that the page has changed into a porn page. I understand nothing is permanent but people — alas. I decided to dig deeper to see what is the catalyst for these drastic changes?

In my view, content comes from cognitive biases and they are shaped by life experiences or trauma. And this post is all about helping you differentiate between them and thereby giving you ability to look at content objectively.

I put my own life in rewind to explore why I am what I am?

What was my first exposure to religion?
I was brought up in a small town where Back in 1989-1990, I used to be surrounded by kids from all faiths without knowing the difference. My house was open to people and discussion…0730 PM news, people used to sit across the radio and discuss. We had subscribed to many newspapers, books on a regular basis. I was a voracious reader…people still remember me as a guy who used to pick up reading material from everywhere, including the road. I saw a movie review of Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro (mostly in ‘Sarita’ or ‘Manorama’), looked at Pavan Malhotra pictures and was in awe of his expressions and speaking eyes. Quickly ran to a guy who I used to follow and adore, the conversation was as below:
Me(book in my hand with the relevant page open): S, see the new hero. Look at his expressive eyes and how good he looks, even better than Mithun? And this is from a movie Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro
S: He is Muslim, is not he?
Me: I think so?
S: Then its all rite, only a Muslim can be that smart.

The interaction forced me to look within…it shook me. Was it life experience or trauma? The other person identifies himself as Muslim, should I identify myself as Hindu or a human? I used to read Osho and he answered my questions.

God is the ultimate experience of silence, of beauty, of bliss, a state of inner celebration. — OSHO

My take out from above was

Religion is the way of life to experience silence, beauty, bliss, do good and a state of inner celebration. — AMIT

What was my exposure to the existence of god or humanity?
I was studying in Mumbai and my final bachelor's exam form was being submitted. The money order was delayed by a few days and it came to the last day. With a friend’s (Thanks to Dr. Sinha) help, I finally was able to get the Draft; the only problem was I had to submit the form personally to Pune as it was the last date. He left me near Kalmaboli on Pune highway at 13:00 noon and I waited for a bus. A bus stopped, I got in with confirmation that the bus is going to Pune. The conductor was south Indian probably as I could not understand anything except that the bus was going to Pune. He made me sit on the first seat and i slept off. He woke me up at 03:00 and I got down. It was someplace which was on the outskirts and there was a small overbridge. I was reasoning with auto-rickshaw drivers to take me to my university (Senapati Bapat marg) but to no avail and then someone asked me what happened? I told her my situation, she took me along and took her scooter and drove me to my destination. I was in the director’s cabin before 0400 PM.
Unfortunately, when I look back — I don't remember anyone’s face(Bus occupants, the girl who helped, etc.), not even faint ones. I treat that as divine intervention. Maybe I was hallucinating but I did see lord hanuman in my dreams saying I will help you when you remember me. The incident also taught me the importance of helping someone in need and selflessness.

There were multiple layers of such interactions/incidents/life experiences which makes me who I am. I allowed some incidents to change me, others to scar and some were scratches on the surface. Even after that, It took me a while to understand that all the people I follow on social media are also as humane as me. Some of them are very fine human beings in person and they all have had similar life-altering experiences which have given the context. We all have our secrets and hideous ways in which our cognitive biases act.

There are people who know they have biases, some do not. There are 3 main types of biases at play disrupting out lives:

1/ Information Biases — Bias arising from measurement error or lack of information. Let us suppose, we speak to 10 protestors and reach conclusion that a given law is bad.

2/Selection Biases — is the input-output problem. Quoting Kabir — बोए पेड़ बबुल का आम कहा से पाये. Let us suppose, we live in our own shell and stop listening contrary views then the solution represents only one side and the outcome is not conducive for everyone.

3/Confounding — is about known-unknowns or indirect variables that directly impact the end outcome. As an example, there are many factors at play that are letting people hang on to their faiths, including religion. There is a need to create that unison feeling and India will become more effective everywhere.

Conclusively, I think there are multiple versions of the truth and the sayer is saying his version but its not the complete truth…be cognizant of that and embrace. Change yourself but chose the reasons because of which you will change.

To my friends, standing in solidarity against the govt of the day ..respect other’s version too. If it was me in power, I would have challenged for open-air debate in Salt Lake Stadium with facts, figures and honest intent. I keep going back to “Edge of Democracy” as what happened in Brazil. Lula was a fine Left-wing President who took millions of people out of poverty and took GDP to new heights. And right-wing propaganda pushed the democracy out the window basis the manipulation and took the seat of power. Media in Brazil was controlled by 9 families and here it is controlled by left-wing families. The only difference is, this time supposedly a right-wing government is in power and propaganda is being run by left-wing. Only saving grace is the Judicial System of India which is slow but has proven time and again their independence. I let this post be a testimony to what I said, to the future and to a better India. May India wins. Satyamev Jayate.

We should be able to say “This is my truth”, and have that truth stand without a hundred clamoring voices shouting, giving the impression that multiple truths can not co-exist.
// Roxane Gay