Alpesh Patel’s Political Sketchbook: Remembrance – One Community

Tuesday 11th November 2014 15:03 EST

It was my first time of being on a plane when the two minute silence for Remembrance occurs. On a plane, you cannot stand of course. Instead the Captain makes the announcement. You should, as I did, turn off the in flight entertainment, put down the paper, stop snoozing, and all the other things we do on a plane, and instead, remember the fallen. 

But as I recalled the fallen, I also thought of community of humanity that comes together at this time. Community cohesion. 

The two key complaints Hindus make about each other - first that we do not help each other, secondly we actively put obstacles in the path of each other. Of course these are generalisations and like all communities we could do more.

Hindu’s often point to the Jewish community as a role model for co-operation. And indeed when I worked in Congress I studies the Israeli lobby group, AIPAC, as the admirable role model on how a community working together can effectively influence Government policy.

A while ago a friend of a friend came to see me. He had been out of work for 7 years. He was Jewish. He was beaten by rejections. His attitude smelt of defeat. Every time I gave him advice on finding a job, he would interrupt about how it wouldn’t work. 

I told him, he is sucking the energy out of the room. Why would anybody employ him? But I also remembered the words from the week before I had read in New Delhi, at Birla House, the place where Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated – ‘the job of a leader is to inspire fearlessness’.

And so it was for one hour I sat with this stranger and gave him idea upon idea on getting a job. But the best idea I had – I told him that I would write to some wealthy Jewish friends of mine, and say to them, ‘My Indian community holds your Jewish community up as a role model for co-operation. I met someone from your Jewish community. 

He’s a good man. I’m going to help him. But I want you to prove me right, and meet him and help him too. And then, when you do, I am going to write about it, and give my own community a specific example of the role models you are and indeed an example that if we Indians and Hindus do not help each other, then those that do will ensure we are left behind. 

So prove yourselves to be the role models we believe you to be, and motivate the best in my Indian community to be like the best in yours.’

How does this story end? My Jewish friends did indeed write back. They couldn’t offer jobs – which is fair enough. But they made the effort. Just as with the act of remembrance, we make the effort. We can’t stop bad things from happening, or helping everyone, but at least we make the effort, the reply, the call back…we give some thought. That’s how communities are built. 

Alpesh Patel

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