I have been living abroad for 6 months now, and to some extent, am capable of looking at India from a foreigner’s viewpoint. It is amazing to see how much everyone is interested in our cuisine, language and culture, and how they wish to visit India at least once in their lifetime. Believe me, nothing makes me more proud than hailing from a land of such diversity. It is a pleasure to cater to the curiosities of my friends and colleagues, and even a matter of delight when we find we have something in common. As happy as it makes me to say that I am a proud Indian, there’s something I believe we all need to talk about. Some people (or many) might misinterpret the way I will be putting this, but honestly I don’t care.
We often make the mistake of being blinded by the torch of contrived nationalism that is constantly being flashed on our eyes since we were born. Mera Bharat mahaan, we say. And of course it is. But how long are we going to live under the security of this satisfaction? It is one thing to be happy with what we have, and being satisfied is a completely different feeling. Once you are satisfied, you want nothing better. My point is, whenever we are reminded of something wrong going on, something that needs to be fixed, our first reaction is that of defense. Of course in a while we realise that steps have to be taken, but before that there is this sense of insecurity that creeps in, that makes us ponder for a minute that our Bharat may not be so mahaan after all. And that isn’t acceptable, is it?
This might be illustrated in the light of the recent attacks on the Nigerian men in Noida. It is totally unfair to point at all Indians and tag them racist, but when the same happens to Indians abroad, doesn’t the entire country stand in support of them? Now that we are on the wrong side, why do we pretend that it is not such a big deal? This is just one such instance out of many that can be brought up. But I am not here to demean my nation.
The message that I intend to drive home is that, do love your country as much as you want. But do not forget to criticise on an equal measure. All of us dream of a developed India, at par with the global stalwarts, but one of the reasons why this is still a distant dream, is because most often we refuse to acknowledge our shortcomings. If we are told that we aren’t good enough, we are more comfortable in bringing up our “rich culture and heritage” instead of focusing on problems that plague our today. These are very few of the malpractices that are still rampant in the name of upholding the age-old traditions and so-called Indian values – child marriage, lack of education for girls, dowry system, extravagant religious practices, lack of sex education and population control, caste system, violence against women (both domestic and outside), lack of acceptance of alternate sexualities, and even honour killing. We do not even know how to allow the women of our home go out and work, because either we do not want her to, or because there are predators lurking on the streets, who of course, are part of our society as well. It is also an integral part of Indian values to prohibit the youth from choosing an unconventional career or having open interactions with the opposite sex, because log kya kahenge. Above all, it is forbidden to talk freely to your parents, because that means you do not respect them, and Indians are specifically known for showing respect to elders, right? Just imagine the number of problems that could have been solved simply if there was no communication gap between parents and children.
Let us be proud, but not conceited enough to overlook the damages we have to fix. Yes we have unique values, probably the most unique in the world, but we must be able to make them work in our favour. There are many alterations required in our existing principles, and it is not a sin to make these alterations. This is what separates patriotism from the kind of nationalism that makes us believe that we are the best : the former entails flexibility, the latter causes rigor mortis.