“Just consider how terrible the day of your death will be. Others will go on speaking and you will not be able to argue back” -A hilarious take on and from the ‘Argumentative Indian’ written by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen gives us an inkling of the state of argument that seems to continue unhindered in our country. Many other things may have changed with time but not our penchant for endless arguments. Elsewhere in the book Sen says “Nor let us be resentful when others differ from us. For all men have hearts and each heart has its own leanings, their right is our wrong and our right is their wrong”. But Indians who are able to talk at length about anything and everything, are less than generous when it comes to accepting defeat in an argument. We just hate to lose an argument and the closer we get to losing, the more vociferous we become. Like Oliver Goldsmith’s village schoolmaster who even though vanquished could argue still, most argumentative Indians refuse to concede defeat. Many a time the body language of the arguer gets more menacing as the argument progresses leading to physical action replacing wordy duels. We see the ugly side of argumentative Indians on television debates every night and having moderated television debates myself I have witnessed firsthand the unruly conduct that follows failed arguments. The most menacing act I saw relates to a panellist who thumped hard on the glass table before him to vent his frustration after losing an argument. The glass remained intact mercifully unlike our man’s composure.

The recent incident of a female customer in Bengaluru getting into an argument with a Zomato employee and ending up lodging an assault complaint is just another in a series where the entitled treat the less privileged with contempt. Unnecessary arguments over trivia have become the norm for opinionated people who want to have the last word always. Arguments over parking spaces, land boundaries, between fan clubs of heroes and several petty issues are almost a daily ritual in a country where the volume of one’s voice is directly proportional to the social standing enjoyed. I have seen people from well to do families display their obnoxious best, routinely picking on waiters in restaurants or drivers over the slightest lapse and feeling elated after letting loose a volley of hurtful words. How graciously you treat the lesser privileged sections of society reveals the kind of person you are and is a real measure of your character. This truth is unfortunately lost on the loud, egoistic lot who love arguing and gloating over their fake victories.  Voicing one’s views and debates are welcome but only when they lead to greater understanding. A tradition of formal debates existed in India since ancient times receiving royal patronage to examine philosophical, moral, religious and doctrinal issues which contributed to a greater understanding of different aspects of life especially the development of logic. Here, the winner was magnanimous and the loser gracious. Over the years, this lively interaction has degenerated into inconclusive, exhausting and vicious discussions that seek to satisfy egos. It’s time for us Indians to shed the argumentative tag and have healthy discussions instead. We have all heard the quote “Discussion is an exchange of knowledge while an argument is an exchange of ignorance”.