Gandhi, Ahimsa and the NRA

Gandhiji must be laughing in his grave!

India — the land of nonviolence. God’s own country where meditation, yoga and mindfulness meet.

Even for the cover of a tourism brochure, this sounds too cliche.

India, the land of Mohandas Gandhi, known for its Hindu belief in the sanctity of life, is anything but gun-shy. Guns are not alien to Indian culture. When I was studying in IIT, my friends from UP, Bihar and Punjab had lots of very proud gun stories to share. Gun was part of their culture. They were not intimidated or threatened by guns. Hunting trips with their fathers and grandfathers formed adventurous bonfire stories when we got drunk. In one of my friend’s sister’s wedding picture, the groom’s father stood behind the wedding altar sporting a handgun. Once while I was traveling to Lucknow, when the train was nearing the destination, milk and vegetable vendors entered the coach in which I was travelling and many of them had guns. Needless to say, I was scared and intimidated. Like the author of this article, I wasn’t used to guns. I was born and brought up in southern India and had seen gun only with policemen and guards in banks. But no others seemed to be bothered by the sight of the weapons.

I agree that guns are more widespread and easily accessible in America. When it’s deer hunting season, most of my colleagues disappear from work. But I think it’s an exaggeration to say that Americans are obsessed with guns. In my experience, most Americans see gun as a sporting gear. For hunting and just pure fun — like going to some remote firing range and shoot junk cars and set them ablaze.

When it comes day to day life, there is not much difference between India and America. Busy professionals living in urban areas have too many things going on in their life that they don’t have time to worry about the liabilities associated with owning a gun. They usually leave the safety of their families to the professionals — 24x7 monitoring of the house by remote agencies and armed guards patrol provided by the home owners association. However, when you live in remote areas, all by yourself, things are little different. When we were in the market looking for houses, whenever we saw a single family house for sale in the woods all by itself, my wife and I used to joke with the realtor that we needed a gun to live there.

Unlicensed gun culture is growing at an alarming rate in India. Even though the American gun culture scares me at times, I feel comforted by the thought that the legal system has good checks and balances in place. Most of the time we are able to trace the source of weapons involved in crimes. India is a country of Ahimsa and Indians do not understand gun culture seems like a hypocritical statement. Americans generally accept and are open about their culture. Indians have taboo about everything. Whether it is dating, sex, religion or guns. More people die in India every day due to negligence from authorities than gun violence in America. They refuse to accept reality and live in a bubble. They are blind to their own plights and are more curious and worried about what is going on elsewhere.