India. The land where I was born. The nation that gave me my identity. I sit 8,300 miles away and think fondly about her as I rack my brains for content to post for this month’s topic of: India – 2 things I love about her and 2 things that I think still need improvement. Hordes of people travel leave their country for various reasons, for money, for a better quality of life, for peace, some to simply tour the world.
My further ramblings are going to be about those like me, who for their own reasons are away, but in no way less connected to India. It is rightly said that the importance of something is realized more when it's not around anymore. Yes, I miss everything about India now – maybe I am just being a sentimental fool but so be it – I miss the crowded public transport, the safety in numbers, the fact that I could leave the Bandra station at 12 AM at night and still find it swarming with people, all the festivals and the festivity associated with them, the street vendors, the haggling with them for purses and shoes, the beaches, the day long train journeys and the soup and ‘meals’ in those, the 15th August parades, TV shows, even the Hindi serials. Of course, I would also get irritated by a few things like the way the trucks would emit all that black smoke, the endless traffic, the halted constructions, the nonchalance around hygiene, the corruption. So without further ado, I’m just going to list the good and the bad.
Two Things that absolutely make me proud about being an Indian
Unity in Diversity
Yes, contrary to what the Shiv Sainiks, MNS, various other warring factions and a minority of the population think, we Indians know how to survive in multi-cultural societies and have fun too. Most of my neighbours have been from different walks of life, different cultures and different languages - Punjabi, Maharashtrian and Telegu and so have my friends. With every festival, there would be sweets exchanged. Being a Tamilian – festivals like Rakshabandhan and Holi don’t exist in our dictionary but that never stopped us from celebrating those with the rest of our friends. The doors to our houses would be open most of the day – kids running around from one house to the other. I like how after Holi – we could just go knock on anyone’s house and they would give us water. ‘Privacy’ and ‘space’ were never primary requirements for buying a house. Though - I do know of places in India where they do not want a certain community living in that apartment complex, or they only want vegetarians staying there, but such places are by far rare. For the most part, India is a rocking multi-cultural venue!
Eagerness to accept
Be it the latest Apple product – an iPad or the latest cell phone, the latest car models, concepts of shows like Who wants to be a Millionaire, Master Chef Australia, American Idol, America’s Got Talent, the latest cosmetic brands, fashion trends like Lakme Fashion Week, the Miss India etal, we Indians are never far behind in adapting those and either basing our very own creations on those or even out doing those. Though it would be nicer when we come up with more of these innovations on our own and publicize those too, we never shy away from learning and adapting new things – new trends, new cultures.
Yet, there are things that I think still need a huge change. Listed are the top two of those.
The Big Religion Divide
Yes, we take in all cultures but there’s still a huge divide on the name of Religion. Religion insecurities have ignited major riots; have caused rifts between families, friends and communities. We need to move beyond these boundaries and have a clean and easy going relationship just as we do with our neighbours and friends from other cultures. It's a very difficult mindset to change but I believe there needs to be a start somewhere. It might be difficult to accept someone of a different religion as your son-in-law or daughter-in-law but the least we should do as Indians, is be tolerant of our fellow country mates and thrive in peace. After all, we are a huge secular nation and the world’s largest democracy, aren’t we?
Lack of responsibility
I detest the hypocrisy in certain people. Those who leave the country and go to a different country; are very careful about laws and hygiene, they make sure they do not litter or spit, they’re respectful of others, they respect the Armed Forces, the cops, the fire-fighters, do not even attempt to bribe any officials. And yet, the minute they step back in our land, they forget all of it. Corruption is still rampant; laws are easily broken without any fear of repercussions. We still have people spitting on the roads, littering freely, polluting the rivers and beaches. Why is it that we behave a certain way in some other country and differently in ours? We blame the government for not making stricter laws or not punishing the guilty enough, but the truth is that this behavior has to change the grass-root level. If our country has to grow, we have to change.
On this note, I end the post. ‘Be the change that you want to see in the world’ said Mahatma Gandhi. I concur.
I would love to hear your views!