Being a part of The NRI team has been an interesting experience. Many of the pieces – as serious as they get – strive to realistically depict an India, what it is today, and the ideal India we all want to live in: a clean, healthy, happy and prosperous country. I admit that my recent articles, Life Of The Indian Footpath, The Unfortunate Indian Youth and El Cheapo India were written from a critical perspective. However, it was done solely with the objective gaining insight into our faults, and perhaps laughing at ourselves, embarrassing ourselves, and ridiculing ourselves; anything to push for positive change.
Yes, there are extremely huge positives about India: our rich culture and traditions, our pre-independence wealth, our intellectuals and the famous “unity in diversity” tagline. We’ve visited the Qutub Minars, Kodaikkanals and Himalayas in luxury vehicles. We’ve stayed at the Taj, Kempinskis and Leela Palaces. We live in high-rise lifestyle apartments and fantabulous bungalows. We watch Indian movies. No mater how much we complain about their arguably un-realistic song and dance routines, we still enjoy the celebration in them. Most of us work very hard to be able to experience all this. Undoubtedly, we love this India we experience. We always will. Simultaneously, we see that millions of foreign tourists visit the Taj Mahal and cruise the backwaters of Kerala, and are awe-struck. Millions of foreigners mix with Indian people around the world. Most of them are pleased by the warmth and openness that we generally posses. I am filled with pride whenever I see an Indian innovation being used around the world, or when yet another Indian makes it large in life, even if the only thing about him/her being Indian anymore is skin colour.
However, the contrast to all of the above (sadly) is a larger picture of the truth. The kind that even the Taj Mahal's impeccable architecture fails to hide. And dare we hide it, because that makes all of us hypocrites. The truth is dirty; filthy; ugly. And living in India, this is what we see and feel everyday, irrespective of our six-digit pay packages. Or ethnicity. Or colour. Unfortunately, we make up the minority. There are disturbing amounts of poverty around us. Brutal crime in all major cities that happen once; and keep happening. Rules of traffic, governance and every other kind are broken by an official’s lust for money. Of course, we just can’t blame him alone, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be blamed.
It’s impossible to hide the negatives because they are too obvious. Some of us often say: “this is what makes India, India”, the so-called diversity. Well, this diversity may be good to satisfy you, but what about the man who hasn’t had food for seven days in a row? Is the diversity really of any help to him? No matter how much we boast about our great country, these negatives are what any visitor to this country will witness right from the minute he or she steps out of the airport. Even worse, though I drive to the swanky mall and back home in my air-conditioned car, the road I pass through is filled with not just homeless scavengers, but cows, garbage piles and the like. During many conversations with friends and family, I’ve come up with suggestions and ideas that can be implemented for a brighter future. They dismiss my suggestions with the obvious lines: “it’s easy to say” or “it’s not as simple as you think”. Of course it is not simple, so? There are a lot of claims of this and that being done, millions of rupees spent, etc. Some attack me by saying “It’s too complicated for you to even understand. What are you blabbering?” Heck, if it is complicated enough for a well-educated college going lad like me to understand, then how would it be any better for the needy? It sure is fashionable to talk of poverty and the other problems in fancy economic terms. But remember, for the aam-aadmi, Uncle Sam’s economic crisis or the rupee depreciation isn’t what he’d give a damn about. At least not for now. Decoding all that jargon is the responsibility of the people at the helm. They claim to be doing it, but I don’t see much of a difference. And since its not obviously visible, then its safe to say that not much is done. The shanty community next to my house continues to grow over twenty years since I first saw it.
We sure can’t hide any of the black spots in the country. But what we should do is look at them critically. Like the way Aamir Khan does. Because in the long run, no one wants to see such explicit poverty and the disorderly state of affairs. We’ve got to stop praising them so much for how they integrate into the essence of India. In plain terms, we need to brush it out of the picture. We have to. I’m doing my bit. Are you?
Photo credit: www.rammorrison.com