How To Be A Proud Indian And Mean It

Here it is. Another Indian Independence day. Internet patriotism will go into an overdrive. Status messages will be put up. A hashtag will trend on twitter for a day to make celebrities out of ordinary people. Flags will be hoisted and waved. Notes ( like this one ) will be written. But then is this just another day in our calendar to play to the gallery? Or should it mean something more to be able to say you’re truly proud of being an Indian?

Let’s see what makes this little prompt uncomfortably true, in all its seeming perpetuation of gross stereotypes

Idiots: Cricket & Bollywood are our metrics for measuring the country’s success. They win a trophy and the whole country is united, but should they lose, their effigies are burnt & they lose the demi-god status. Apparently cricketers owe it to their country to win a tournament and not play for the sake of a sport. Did you know a bunch of girls from the most backwards of societal backgrounds from Jharkhand won football matches in a tournament in France, despite little funding and no hullabulla created about it?
Or that Milkha Singh was an ace athlete and an Olympian before Farhan Akhtar played him.

Ugly: When noone’s looking, we spit out that godawful paan, throw the plastic cup or sweep the kachra from our house conveniently into a corner on the road ‘cuz, you know “everyone does it, what difference one more makes?”

But it takes one person to pick up a discarded cup, not his own, & swing it into the nearest bin, to start something. Or even installing a bin at a crowded junction.

Respect: I think over the years of having grilled into our heads that Engineers and Doctors are the only professions worth spending your respect ( and money) over, we seem to have developed a unique indifference to the billion others who make the country.

In a rather recent incident, a member of the facilities team in my office was berated & insulted in full light by his boss, for having spilled a glass of water on a table, while the poor guy looked on silently, helplessly, out of the fear of losing his daily bread.
The legendary Indian maids are no better off. They feed their 12 kids, field a drunk bum of a husband & break their backs mopping other people’s mess, but take ONE unofficial chutti and obviously she’s a “good for nothing, sitting-on-her-ass bum’ while maalkin fans her freshly manicured nails after returning from a shopping trip to Zara spending more on a scarf than the maid’s monthly salary. 
I still don’t see a ‘Thank you’ or a ‘sorry’ by most people said to a person of a ‘lower social/economic status’ while sycophancy to ‘higher ups’ is nothing new.

Corruption: Before that incessant cursing of the politicians, ‘Oh India/politicians is so corrupt’, check within. You’re a part of the corrupt ecosystem. When was the last time, you agreed to pay a chalaan of 300 for jumping a signal versus ‘settling it off’ for a 100? For every cop you think is just out there to rob you, the drunk-traffic-violating you, there is the poor 8-k-a-month earning cop putting his life on the line, to show you directions or even drop you home on his bike when you’re helpless. (has happened with me)

Politics: I feel horrible & guilty about this. I think I represent the majority of people, who can’t tell politicians from steel-plant owners of the country & quite predictably has never voted or even attempted to. But and hence, I’m never one to trash-talk the politicians/politics of the country. I didn’t exercise my right to choose my leaders, what gives me the right to judge them? I happened to be in the US during their presidential elections a few years back & I was surprised by the fervour & passion the regular American has for the country’s state of affairs. Not only are they well-aware & educated on their issues (including a certain Canadian singer’s musical inroads), the leaders and their policies but also actively go out & vote, and show their support for issues that are close to them. I’m not saying the USA is representative of all that the world needs to be, but if the curiousity to LEARN has the power to change things, they have it.

Travel: By all means, take that swanky vacation, do the African Safari and the Statue of Liberty; the world should and needs to be explored. But do go experience the beautiful diversity that India is. Ladakh could make the Swiss Alps blush, Rajasthan could show the British Queen a thing or two about royalty and Miamis could learn the art of’ Susegaad from Goa. The Indian tourism could really do with an internal boost. If still not convinced just watch any of those Incredible India ads. Or this tumblr or just some of my posts on Indian travel.
Despite all the bad press it gets, incidentally India is one of the hassle-free, and cheapest places to travel around. 

Art: Appreciate and read up about things Indian- Indian Art, Indian music, Indian languages. How about learning some Hindi-or any other Indian Language- before proudly displaying an English grammar Nazism. People all over Europe can speak conversational English. So can the Japanese ( It’s taught in their schools) and yet choose not to. Why? They don’t think they need to speak a non-native language to someone visiting their country. They’d rather you learn Japanese before you go there. That’s how proud they are of their culture. People would respect your country and you, a lot more, if you did.

Generosity: I remember this time I was collecting funds for a flood-relief drive for Uttarakhand flood victims ( The not so old- tragedy where millions of people lost their lives/livelihoods) and the same people who proudly instagram a 400 HRC burger shied away from giving a 100 citing “but you never know who the money goes to”.

I must have come across more foreigners than Indians, serving and doing great work in the social & development sector in India, in the most preposterous conditions and genuinely making a difference in a country that could do with it the most, while my Indian friends choose to play golf. This is not to say that there’re no good souls out there. They are everywhere, past the fabIndia-donning activists, past the celebs, they are unsung heroes. They have left corporate jobs, cushy family lives to make a difference. To improve this country, rather than just leave it for greener pastures.

Greener pastures and foren dreamz, yes, not to forget our obsession with ‘studying & settling abroad’. Honestly, I feel that too, all the time. I’d love to settle in the US, Australia or any of the 1st world countries. Why? Because all of all things above that we lack. But after having travelled abroad, and seeing people around me settling abroad all the time, I know this much: Yes we will have clean, posh neighbourhoods in London, safe drinking water from the taps in a kitchen in the US, & loads of $$$ to invest in a nice property back in India but nowhere else in the world would you find a roadside chai stall to replenish your soul at the end of a tiring day, watch a man giving a half-roti earned after a day of hard labour to a hungrier street dog, a bunch of homeless people sharing a plastic bag to seek cover from the rain. Or talk to a Saadhu in Varanasi who happened to be an ex-software engineer, before renouncing the material world to find inner peace.
(Check this brilliant Quora thread)

You don’t have to be proud of being an Indian today, if you are not, any other day.

On a lighter note, this ad defines us Indians almost accurately.

 Jai hind.

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4 Responses

  1. Rajeev Sethi says:

    Hard hitting yet so true.

  2. jigar doshi says:

    Brilliant post.

    Totally agree with the vote thing. If you don't vote, you don't have the right to question what we end up with.
    Also the callous attitude of average Indian who expects others to maintain cleanliness but would be also one of those to be dumping wastes in the corners.

    Sharing it.

    P.S : Am proud of India and being an Indian every other day of the year as much as I am on the eves of independence and republic days. 🙂

  3. Daryl says:

    Words fail to express how much I love this post!
    Brilliant stuff, Mon!