Sunday, March 18, 2007

New India/ Old India

There are stories I want to believe in. Stories of an emerging nation. Of human achievement, of dreams, of accomplishments of impossible tasks. Of confidence. Of being presented to the world, in its own terms.

Of India – that’s my country. Wherever I am in the world, whatever I do – it is etched in my face and my body. In my tongue, nested in my accent and programmed in the way I think. I share the pride, and bask in glory, of my resurgent nation.

At last, at last. This is the land of the plenty, which invited plunderers from around the world, and in the end, absorbed them in its identity. It is the land of the plural, which spoke in many voices and many languages, but in agreement. It is this nation, comatose for centuries, passive – which awakens up now and talks its own language.

So, supermarkets, superhighways and superscientists. Businessmen who talk about buying out the world. Politicians who bask in a new confidence, and look forward. Students who dream, professionals who swagger on the streets of London and let everyone know their identity.

In 2020, we are going to be a superpower!

But do I lose that India in the bargain, which was dignified in its poverty, calm in its divergence, and ungreedy in its boorishness? Do I lose my moral right to sacrifice, to think of others, to be non-violent and to be different? India embraces the world, right, but is she wearing her own clothes?

A country is an illusion, but one that contains our moralities. One that binds, makes us responsible – the only thing in this godless world that is superior to ourselves that still counts.

I was born with that ‘Indian’ identity. We were then – as I say – comatose! And, yes, we were tainted. We were corrupt. Our non-violence was a mockery in the face of fratricidal riots. We called a muddle coexistence, and mob-pleasing behaviour, tolerance.

Yes, the world cared little about India. Mocked our ‘Hindu’ rate of growth. Our businessmen greased the palms of bureaucrats. We were happily playing our war games with our own neighbours, and paying the global goons to keep peace.

But, somewhere, I was proud and unique – as an Indian. Not one with bollywood tunes, Govinda pants, Munnabhai morality and Montekonomics. But one who saw dignity in paucity, believed education, above all, gives humility, and knew there was no greater value than sacrifice. One who had confidence despite the world, who could look inside and find peace, and reject the intolerance, violence and ignorance in seeking the truth.

My India, then, wore its own clothes.

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