We all know that family is something that we cannot choose and so we get the respectable pleasure of choosing our friends and associates… another thing that is not chosen, is your nationality. What is it that triggers the ‘Patriotism’? The love, passion, and dedication to your country, your birth place, the feeling of belonging. Is just being born on that land enough? Well most people move on to better facilities, better living standards, in a newer country. If not easily possible, they go beyond law, illegally migrate there. What about a country makes you its loving patriot? The lone fact that you are born on that land, the fact that your parents were born there, the fact that your proud of what your country is doing for you, or some other selfless feeling altogether?
If you think that just taking birth in a nation makes us feel love towards out motherland, let me explain the reason why I beg to differ, with an example… During my stay in England, I have seen the biggest mixture of nationalities. I might as well say I have taken a trip around the world. People from all parts of the world, representatives from each and every continent live in this small part of an island, in what I wouldn’t want to exactly define as harmony, but definitely at peace. Of course there are little spurts by disgruntled people here and there, but even a couple in a love marriage have their own bitter-sweet complaints. So living In such a confluence of nations and blessed with a job at the airport gave me the perfect opportunity to have a taste of every dish in this ‘Pot Party’ (nothing to do with weed or pot painting, but basically a get together of people of different tastes, who bring their own delicacy to the gathering for the rest to savour). To top it up, I have lived with our ‘expectantly-not-so-friendly’ next door neighbours for about almost 3/4ths of my stay here. I have worked with them, studied with them too. And let me tell you one thing, they have not been very different from you and me. Equally helpful, equally accommodating, similar rituals in the day-to-day living, and a shocking but truly great taste in Bollywood and the daily ‘K’ dramas! They are bigger fans of these than I am for sure… Coming back to the point though, I have seen a few of them, desperate to stay away from Pakistan and ready to do anything for it, go to any level for it. Some of them have even gone far enough to say that they sometimes do not reveal their true identities in public, but consider saying that they are Indians and feel that they save themselves embarrassment. Mind you I am not generalising, they too are passionate about their country and speak passionately but I cannot completely ignore these minority groups from the same country who fall prey to illegal resorts to get away from the green passport. To narrate a very recent episode, after the bombings in Mumbai on the 13th of July, my nearest Pakistani family had this to say, “I am sure it is a Pakistani terrorist attack” and my reaction was nothing short of complete jaw-dropping shock! I had to reconfirm the poor female’s nationality and make her repeat what she said just to make sure I am not hearing things in broad daylight. But I don’t blame them. I blame the pathetic so-called ‘religious activists’ in Pakistan who do such things and humiliate these poor bystanders. They do not realise the collateral damage that they are causing to the psyche of the rest of the population who are dragged into being frowned upon just because they share the same birth place as them. I pity them as they face disrespect for no fault of theirs! It is unfortunate that it makes them feel vulnerable and the whole world looks down upon them thanks to the ‘privileged’ few.
The name Pakistan and the religion of Islam are now unfortunately considered synonymous with terrorism. This is how narrow-minded and indifferent the world is at this point. But it is not the whole country which is at fault however they all suffer the consequence. But it is not only Pakistanis; we have many other nationals in England, from the Middle East and Africa wishing to stay here, compelling the British Government to make the migration options stringent for the future influx.
Ruminating on what makes us love our country, let’s come to India. Today as I compose this text, we are celebrating our 64th Independence Day. After 6 decades of independence from the British colonialism, I confess I am sometimes still confused about the state of India. Are we independent? Is there a difference from what we were before the rebirth of Bharat or should we put it as birth of ‘Hindustan’? We were fighting then and we are still fighting now… we had Gandhi then, and we have Hazare now. The difference you ask? We fought a fairer race then and we fight the corrupt race now… pun intended! Another similarity between the two rebellions is that we are now fighting within ourselves again; the British policy of divide and rule seems to have stuck. We were then two separate religious groups, and today we are two separate political parties, Congress the ruling party against the opposition. The same old drama continues, the political leaders promise us sweets and savouries when they come to power and we fall flat on our face with the same old lack of fulfilled promises. But we elect the next promising party with full zeal, hoping against hope that this time we will be given what was pledged. Isn’t this democracy similar to Monarchy besides that minor difference that we are electing our leaders, and then they tend to lead us on their own will? Simple example, if there was democracy, freedom of expression, I find it ludicrous that the government would post restriction on the fasting and protests such as, ‘Okay you can go on with your protests, as far as you listen to our conditions,
- You have a time limit after which you must eat,
- You have a restriction on the number of people who can protest,
- You will have to eventually accept or bow down to our decision which will be final and binding.’
Democracy? How? Independence? Where? Freedom? From what?
All of us showed how much we condemn corruption, how much we support the protests, Anna Hazare, the Jan Lokpal Bill, how much the hospitality that Kasab got from India was denounced, but it feels like our cries are all falling on deaf ears. The government seems to act like a parent who keeps saying, ‘You can say what you wish, but Mother knows best.’ But unfortunately, we don’t agree this time. Although our parents did say this and their words were true, this is not the case now. This is the state of our democracy.
When I consider the ‘developed’ countries, what is it that they do different from us? How do they get to reign on the pedestal of high economies? The answer is plain and simple. Don’t you see it? WE are making them stay at that position. Besides a few innovators, most businesses in the US are run by Indians and Chinese. Few of them 2nd generations, but we still have 1st generations pouring there. Taking their degrees from the likes of IITs and IIMs and then jumping on the first flight out, why? Not because they are not proud of being Indians, but because it promises them a better living opportunity. It all boils down to the ‘ME’ factor. But we are only human. I feel proud when I see that this is now on the path of change. We are now moving on. The lever is pulled and the track is changed. Not a day goes by when instead of giving me a crinkled nose and a scornful look for being an Indian, I get a dignified and respectful look from the people I speak to at the airport. My heart brims with pride when the British, who were just recently looking down upon us with racist eyes now say, “India is the place to be now, I am sure our children will not live and work in Britain. They will move on to India. That is the booming economy now.” It makes me feel proud when I hear that economists are focussing on MY country, trying to decipher when we will move to be the super power (you can check a video on ted.com by Hans Rosling ‘Asia’s rise — how and when India will be Superpower’).
What do we perceive as our perfect nation? What is the India of our dreams? If we think of it, we are not that far off from our goal. If you think that we are country with the largest slum in the world, it’s about time we peep into these slums. They are better off decorated and designed than most of the homes in the city. Few of them are also being rebuilt through government aids and are constantly on the five-year plan of the government. We have children from the poorer states of the country moving towards better education, clearing the CAT exams.
We all have our faults and fallacies, but it is through our mistakes that we learn. We all agree that no one is perfect in this world, but perfection is the goal and the drive to reach it is what keeps us on our feet. We cry and crib, moan and whine all we want, but whenever we listen to the national anthem play, we feel the Goosebumps rise, and we feel our hair standing on its end, even if it is playing in the theatre just before a movie. We all change our photographs on our social networking sites to signify our connection to the tricolour, we make Indian Independence day a trending topic on Twitter. What instigates this? I think it will remain a mystery to me, and I really think it is better as a mystery too. It has a fairy tale charm in it which keeps us clinging on to it. It has been a fast paced change and we have stumbled En Route. But when a child falls it realises not to walk into the pothole next time, but to walk around it. India is like a child walking in the dark, hands outstretched, taking each day each challenge as it comes, trying to understand its surroundings and grow with it. We are on the learning curve and will surely achieve what we aspire for. But it is our sole responsibility to make sure we stay hopeful, motivated and strong. And I am sure this unknown force and love will still bind us together with our motherland!