i have been debating with myself on whether i should have any pride in being an indian, or is it just an accident of birth (and history). today, on 15 august 2014, india's 68th independence (from the british empire) day, i thought i should put my thoughts down on this whole idea of an indian identity
first things: do i like the country of my birth? yes. do i love it? yes, but...how does one define a country at all? are we a country or a nation?
yes, indians are a nation (not, fortunately, as the religio-political right often puts it, of hindus, as is evident to anyone who even cursorily glances at the history of the peoples of this area of the world) before we are a country...and now, for the last 67 years, we are a country, but without covering all of the 'peoples' of this nation in some places, and covering more than what we ought to cover in some. i do not want to get into the details of which parts of the current 'Republic of India' are one people and which are left out, as citizens of another country, but suffice to say that today's political borders do not represent the nation of india. however, the focus of this blog post is on those that are indeed included, for convenience's sake (not the inclusion, but the focus)
|does this make me indian?|
1. irrationality: of any kind...may it be religion, patriotism, regionalism, communalism, linguisticism, casteism, or anything that does not appeal to the intellect. in fact, i look askance at any 'ism' generally...i am myself only slowly coming out of specism, and that too, with great effort, and i daresay, pain
2. corruption: of mind, body, or profession...of morals, and in practice. corruption of any kind makes me want to disavow not just the person who is corrupt, but the entire society that made him/her so, that perpetuates it, and that condones it in practice (while condemning at least some of it in public, but that is not a saving grace)
3. hypocrisy: of thought, of speech, or of action...two-facedness, cognitive dissonance, don't-do-as-i-do-but-do-as-i-say attitude
4. violence: of mind, body, or even spirit. violence of any kind, even figurative, makes me sick. it makes me question my own existence, and its worth. it may be coercion, blackmail, use of threats, or force, or any non-consensual act, regardless of the actors, whether it is a state, or an individual, or a collective that threatens, or carries it out. the only place i like physical violence is perhaps on the sports arena, and that too, within well-defined rules, by consensual adults, for the purpose of entertainment and commerce. maybe, that will change too as i get older
5. inequality in anything but commerce: whether in justice, education, opportunity, competition, freedom, ownership...everything other than what one makes through one's own inspiration and perspiration must be available equally. it is perhaps utopian to think that this is practical, but it is not utopian to despise inequality
6. disrespect for anything but ideas: everything but ideas deserve respect, whether people, private property, self-accepted rules, other's lives and physical well-being, behaviour/acts/appearances/clothing seen as 'abnormal', a contract made between people, a word given, a promise made, animals, the environment...every one of these, and more, deserves to be respected. lack of respect puts me off
7. communism: "from those who are able to those who are needy" is the worst possible ideology that has been taken too seriously by too large a number of people in the past (to the detriment of human civilisation in general, and those people caught in the frenzy, in particular). this is second only to religion in the amount of harm it causes and has caused in the past
8. xenophobia, parochialism, cultural revivalism, racist nationalism: these go hand-in-hand to create monsters like hitler and stalin, mao and pol pot, aurangzeb and bhindranwale, amongst a long and dark list of people from the recent past. these do not add, but rather subtract rather substantially, from the advance of civilisation towards increasing happiness and peace in the society. people who are afraid of other people for no other reason but that they are 'other people' are not listening to themselves say this. i have no love for those who have no love
|the "someone" who said it. funny, i always thought it was robin hood!|
now, back to the indian identity and the 'pride' in such an identity: are these above-listed traits seen in the culture, the civilisation, the people, the nation, and (finally) the country i identify myself with? yes, without doubt they are
is there anything then to be proud of my accidental indianness? it seems that everything that can indeed be wrong with a group of people is wrong with this country
|yes, i do!|
...and then went on to list all the things i hate about it...so, what gives?
the truth is that though i may hate many indian traits...that i may not like the politics of india, that i may not like the religiosity of shahi imams and shankaracharyas, or the rabid communalism of indian mujahideen or the bajrang dal, or the huge inequality in opportunity between castes, or the asymmetry between the haves and have-nots living side-by-side as if blind to one another, or the parochial attitude of even the urban educated as well as the rural feudal societies, or the irrational spiritualism of gandhi and rajneesh, or the socialism of nehru and amitabh, or the xenophobia shown to manipuris and nepalis, or the hypocrisy of asaram and zakir naik...i still love india, and that is because india is not a country or a people or a nation. it never was, at least before our official historians came up with their version of history and rammed it down our throats in school
india is an idea, and in this, it is very much like america. i may not like the american administration (sorry obama, you are a great orator, but honestly, i wish you were a better president), or the american military, or the american media, or even some of the american people (or what has become of them now), but i love the idea of america. just take a look at the inscription on the statue of liberty (though gifted by the french, this quote perfectly sums up the idea of america, or at least the idea of america i love)
|"give me your tired, your poor...yearning to breath free"|
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
yes, i may not love america, but i love the idea of america, and hold it very dear
in that way, i love the idea of india!
the idea of india has been around for centuries, if not more. but only in 1949 was it brilliantly elucidated in our constitution, specifically in the preamble:
|preamble to the indian constitution|
|the american bill of rights: comparable?|
but regardless of who wrote the preamble, it is this document that gives the clearest, and most precise idea of what india is. the preamble to the indian constitution encapsulates the very idea of india: justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity
|it was probably this wise man|
it is an idea of the ideal. it is the essence of india, not as it is or was then, but as 'we the people' thought we ought to strive for
now THAT is an idea i am willing to defend, to fight for, and to die. THAT is the idea i want to be identified with. THAT is the idea that describes who i would rather be. THAT is an idea devoid of any other identity but human. THAT is an idea every human must want to be part of. THAT is an idea that is aspirational, inspirational, ideal, and real, all rolled in one beautiful sentence. whether the country of india survives or not, or whether the people of india stick together or split, whether the nation of india lives long and prospers, none of this matters to me. things change. cultures come to life and die. nations unite and disperse. countries are formed and disbanded. nothing is eternal. and nothing deserves to be. no one has any divine right to eternal survival. this world will go on regardless of countries, nations, or peoples forming themselves in one group or another, and i do not see why one group has a greater right to survive than another
but this idea...the idea of justice, of liberty, of equality, and of brotherhood...this idea is universal. it is timeless. it deserves to live. india may or may not make it, but the idea of india must be protected at all costs
|did he want pakistan to be indian?|
i do not know how many indians understand this, or consciously believe that this idea of india is worth more than them, more than their families, their religions, their communities, their castes, their regions and states, more than even the the country of india, but i believe it means far more than all of the 1.2 billion indians put together. these 1.2 billion indians may live or die, together or differently, based on their religions, and languages, and costumes, and rituals, and skin colours, or whatever other trivial differentiation they wish to live and die by. i care nothing for that. but the idea of india will outlive them. it must. it is important for humanity to survive, for human civilisation to prosper and grow
once again, for clarity: i love india, and count myself lucky to be an indian
but am i proud of it? no. i did nothing to make it happen. i am doing very little to keep it alive. i have nothing to do with the way this meme was created, mutated, or survived. i can only love it. i cannot believe i have contributed to it
so, once again: i am not proud to be indian. i am just an indian who loves being one! and oh yes, before i end: no, not, "mera bharat mahan", not "sare jahan se achha", but JAI HIND! i mean it...may the idea of india live long!