We bleed blue. We worship her. We call her Incredible.
I remember the first song we sang for a group-song competition at school, ‘Saare Jahaan Se Accha’ . I was six at the time and since then, I’ve been taught, rather conditioned, to love my country. To be proud of my motherland. To feel blessed to be born in a country that gave birth to Gandhi and Vivekananda. I’ve been conditioned to well up every time the tricolour is hoisted, and to feel overwhelmed every time I hear our national anthem. The patriotic seed was sown in me the very minute I was sown into my mother’s womb. I was a tricolour enthu cutlet* before I could help it.
An e-mail that I received last night made me question all that. A friend from Chile, who is coming to India for an intern-ship, wanted me to tell him what he needs to know about our country. Key being, ‘what he needs to know’.
I typed around sixty lines of what great places to visit, what great cuisines to try, how to soak in the diversity, and before I clicked send I erased every line. What did I truly think about my country?
The country that made a mark on Mars with lesser money than it took to make Sandra Bullock’s ‘Gravity’. The country where you support a Pakistani writer’s book, and you get ink smeared at you. A mix of averages. There are people making our country proud all over the world, but the norm remains, India – Incredible, Indians – Mediocre. The kurta that runs colour, the electrical plugs that never work, the button that comes undone, the batteries that die prematurely, schools without teachers, engineers without jobs, people without homes and babies without food. The Indian mantra of mediocrity has been going on for such a long time now, that if you dare ask someone to do something exactly the way it’s done, they’ll probably laugh at you. And why shouldn’t they? It works for us, doesn’t it?
And to top this, we have to deal with the biggest irony of them all. Countries around the world grow because of their governments, and Indians, we have to grow despite it. I’d say being an achiever in India is harder than being one anywhere else in the world, because here, even being one in a million, just means there are approximately 1200 other people just like you. Ha-ha.
There are ways to look at this. Throw your hands up in the air, be a hypocrite and flee. Or right the wrongs. At least, right your wrongs. For every person that cares about empowerment, there are twenty that don’t. It’s a personal choice. Which side of the baton will you be on? If you and I decide to be better today than yesterday, and better tomorrow than today, we’re half way there. We might not know it yet, but there’s one phrase in India that could potentially be the biggest horror tormenting the country. And that phrase reads,
Chalta hain, bhai!
*Tricolour enthu cutlet – Someone eager, and able to muster up inordinate amounts of energy, inspiration and enthusiasm towards India, blinded by love and patriotic fervour.