Its India’s Republic Day! Right time to reflect on what is and what can be…
Staying abroad always makes me love my country that much more! I miss talking in Hindi. I miss feeling the sense of belonging. No wonder I end up watching everything (well almost) Bollywood has to offer..I have watched yuck movies as Kajol’s Kuch Khatti kuch Mithi to TMK, all in the hopes of connecting to something familiar. A culture that I totally understand and relate to…And love!
And whenever I return back, ooh la la, I face a huge culture shock. Every single time! The first time I traveled in Mumbai local after returning back in 2002, I was shocked and disappointed at the appalling behaviour of aam janta. A college going girl refused to let me get off at Andheri simply because I was sitting till Goregaon. She said you should have gotten up earlier. Go figure!
In Pune, the rickshaw driver started threatening like a goon because he wanted Rs 25 instead of the minimum fare Rs 9 for a 2 min ride. In Chennai, while I was 5 months pregnant, the watchman refused to help me bring a suitcase down from the 3rd floor, simply because I was “North Indian“.
In Kolkatta, when we took a prepaid taxi from the airport to home, a man (driver’s supposed friend) forcibly entered the taxi to take a short ride and only got off because I raised an alarm.
In Bangalore, I stood in a queue 1 mile long for 4 hours to secure admission in a school in nursery class for my child. I still didn’t get it. And I was told to keep a minimum Rs 1 lac ready if I wanted admission to any school (decent or not) at all.
None of these and various other experiences would make me feel a proud Indian today! Sometimes I cringe at the appalling behaviour I see exhibited by my country people in India or abroad. Our love of showing off our wealth has led to killings of young men and women. Our love of ignoring rules led to a recent accident here killing 8 people including a month old baby. Our love of chaati-thok self-righteousness, even if wrong, has made us one of the hated communities abroad.
Not all of it is our fault. Though, somehow we are losing touch with our culture. The very thing that makes us. Made us. Age old wisdom in Yoga, Naturopathy, Daan – dharam, Prathistha, Izzat are buzz words abroad. In India, they are shrugged off. The best line I have ever heard was from a boy who refused to pick up his litter say, “Yeh Mera kaam nahi hai. Main to aisa hi hoon”.
Isn’t that also a Movie song? A reflection of popular culture.
A neighbourhood school was recently closed down here and parents protested against it. Everybody knew it was an underperforming school and was shut to save council money. But they protested as: some would lose jobs, and it would affect the community by lowering house prices. Here the concern was the impact on the community of teachers, helpers and neighbours. Not their children, for parents knew children would be taken care of adequately.
It’s been – 30 degrees Celsius here and have seen 7 storms in 5 weeks. Even after the worst blizzard, a small army of dedicated council workers came out to clean up the streets. The residents clean up the sidewalk surrounding their house for pedestrians. Life was completely normal. Nothing got paralysed. Unlike what one single rainy day can do in Mumbai!
Or take victims like Aarushi, Nitish Katara, or Satyendra Dubey. They are forgotten people. Some of us self righteous people protested, held morchas, lit candles and went back home to sleep. These cases are swept under the carpet by us. Many among our aam junta may not be aware of who these people are. Kya kare bhaiyya, zamana hi kharab hai. Inka dekhu ya zindagi ki gaadi dhakelu? Why do we forget our government is of the people, by the people and for the people. Our netas are elected by us!!!!!!
Are we that thick-skinned, that our hearts don’t break on seeing a child mopping the floor? A poor woman being beaten to death by her in-laws? A man killed for simply doing his job honestly?
What exactly should I be proud of as an Indian? We say India has suffered from brain drain, notably to US. Here in US, the kind of Indians I have met, makes me regret being born as one. Either they are trying to take advantage of each other or are busy making others’ life miserable. Proud at earning in dollars and bad mouthing the very hand that feeds them. Bringing in aged parents to simply baby-sit their kids and do house-keeping while they go about their lives. Sad!
Ofcourse India is not just these people. Happily there are those of us who are trying to keep the Indian flag flying high. Those of us who have tried to remain true to our culture while embracing modern values. A few of us make me feel there’s hope. They know the true value of tehzeeb (manners), laaj (honour), satya vachan (truth). They struggle amongst the crowd but are still flying high. Still the voice of reason, empathy, and patience.
Today on our republic day, I pray that these good men and women get strength to fight the moral corruption in our country and vanquish it. Maybe then we will conquer all else. Amen! Jai Ho!