Though all society is founded on intolerance, all improvement is founded on tolerance.

George Bernard Shaw

In recent times the intolerance debate has become surcharged with people taking strong positions. So, is intolerance on the rise in India? In wake of the recent killings, lynching; one can call launch a tirade against the crusaders, but that will be like adding fuel to the raging fire of intolerance.

Without taking any position on whether or not it has or hasn’t, what can be said without possible exception is that tolerance makes us better human beings. It helps us love people whose worldview is different from ours. So, for instance, we can still be friends if my favorite color is white and yours is black. You don’t go saying: what, you like the white color, I hate you? That would be foolish. Maybe we could tread the path halfways and say that we like grey. Jokes apart this bias towards color forms the crux of racism, but wouldn’t we be stirring a hornet’s nest?

Or if my favorite poet is Gulzar and yours is Keats, I don’t stay clear of you and, do I? Instead I try to admire Gulzar and his Shayari and you try to discover the greatness of Keats. Similarly, when it comes to books I love Amitav Ghosh with complex narrative strategies and you love Ernest Hemingway, with a simplistic approach to his writing. Won’t that make us superior human beings? So, why can’t this acceptance of diversity be extended to political and religious views, which obviously makes us fret and fume?

Tolerance of other people’s beliefs and opinions, which may be diametrically opposite to ours, is a sign of a compassionate person. Our views and our responses to what is happening around us are conditioned by what we have ourselves seen and experienced. The ‘neighbourhood intolerance’, is taken to the next level over minor issues like all night musical soirees, encroaching parking space, wailing babies, family fights in loud decibels, barking and growling pets. These minor issues escalate into major ones resulting into war-like situations; intolerance and insensitivity to each other’s problems being the root cause. Neighbours who are at odds with each other need not get even with each other only tolerate and accept each other.
Don’t we as responsible parents tell our children to be tolerant of others? The world is composed of people from different backgrounds who speak various languages and follow diverse customs and religions. It is very much acceptable for a child at school to eat his chicken roll while his Jain friend eats a meal which eliminates root veggies like onion, potato, and garlic.  And the child will be exposed to someone who identifies with a faith that is not the same as their own…

That progression must continue, indeed get stronger, as children become adults and the differences become increasingly more acute.
Learning to accept a point of view different from yours is the natural progression to becoming evolved human beings who are sensitive to the environment in which they live.Not doing so robs us of the pleasure of accepting diversity which is what makes life exciting and challenging, as opposed to monotonous and boring. Diversity is what makes India exciting, a melting pot of varying vibrant customs and cultures.As the French expression for the approval of difference goes:  vive la difference.