I got this SMS from Sonali (she doesn't blog yet)
While v celebrate 61 years of independence, i hav just one ques fr u - after spending more than 2 decades in this 61-yr old country, r u a proud indian or an apprehensive indian? I first heard the latest rabbi song 'bilqis' 5 days back on india's independence day and am still haunted by it. And i am still looking fr n ans to the ques raised - 'jinhe naaz hai hind par woh kahan hai?'
And since its 9:30 PM, I am in office and don't have anything important to work on, I thought why not some self-reflection. Please beware that this is going to be a rant where I go on a mental trip and hopefully get an answer. And to put things in context, the song that Sonali is talking about is this. And while I am writing this, I am listening to it.
So the question asks me if I am a proud Indian or an apprehensive Indian. In one line, a short and sweet answer is that I am a proud Indian. And more than apprehensive I am confident, curious and motivated, all three at the same time. If you asked me why, I would have no real reasons except for the statement that everything India is, defines me (large, full of contradictions, basking in the past glory, struggling to cope up with realities of world fast changing world) and everything I am, defines India (young, mediocre, forward-looking, ambitious, trying to prove a point, wanting to lead the world).
And now the longer version of the story. I am confident because I know that in last decades, thanks to few good decisions by some individuals (including my parents, policy makers and my professors), I have got myself bare minimum education required to actually understand things and take an informed decision. I am confident that since I know quite a few things, I would take a decision that is in the best interest under prevailing circumstances. I am no magician with a magic ball to gaze through and predict what the future holds for us. However, at the same time I know that I am on an adventure trip where I chase things like glory, intelligent company and huge rewards for my efforts. And I am ready to take the risk for the same. I am not sure about the results but I dont mind trying.
I am curious. Because of my background, I know a few things and now with all the learning opportunities that this connected world gives me, I want to know a lot more. I want to learn and apply the lessons in real life and use them for my advantage. My curiosity keeps me going. To look beyond the obvious. To dig deeper. To investigate further. To reach the root of a problem and work on it from there. And once I am informed, that is the time when I feel I can be at my best.
And I am motivated. I am motivated because I cherish the freedom that came as a result of a long and hard struggle by millions of Indians. I understand that my life is so much better simply because I can take decisions without fearing any retributions of any kind. I understand that the very act of thinking like that is a privilege. And since I have that privilege of thinking and working in a free world, I know that I need to make the most of it. twiI need to preserve it for the generations to come. I have to leave something behind as a legacy (or even a simple gift). What better gift can I leave behind than freedom?
So what does Independence mean to me? I have thought about this a lot of time and every time there is a different answer. At times conflicting and at times comforting. But the essence remains the same. Independence for me is the complete freedom of thoughts and actions. This would mean being financially, morally and socially free. Apart from the financial freedom, all the other kinds are offered by the environment you live in. In my case it happens to be India. I did not choose India. It was something that was forced upon me (along with a lot of other things like my parents, my family, my physical appearance, my receding hairline etc.). To be very honest, if I could choose a country, I dont know if I would have chosen India over other "developed" and "free" countries. But now that I am an Indian and I have become what I am, there is no choosing things/people/countries. Only thing that remains debatable is how to take India to new heights.
There are tons of things that are awesome about India. And then there are many more tons that needs to be changed. Stories of corruption, favoritism, red-tapism, bureaucracy, laziness, mediocrity, procrastination, organized religion etc. are in abundance. Rare are the instances of honestly, brilliance, dutifulness, obedience etc. Still rarer are stories of Manjunaths, Dubeys, Kumars who have raised their voices and laid down their lives fighting for causes that they believed in. And there are people like Abhinav Bindra, Sushil Kumar and Vijender Kumar who have broken the age old shackles and have proved themselves on the toughest platform they could have participated. I can go on talking about the likes of Kalpana Chawla, Kiran Bedi, Lt. Saurabh Kalra, NR Narayamurthy, Azim Premji, Dr. Bose (not Netaji), Sam Pitroda, Mother Teresa and host of others who have not only raised the bar and made us proud but changed the way, the world at large perceives India as a country. More than changing the perception of the world around us, we should be talking about changing the way we think about India as a country. The way we think about ourselves. What we have and how we can leverage them to reach farther.
A country is made of its people and is what all these people, decide to make it, collectively. It is very easy to play the blame games and curse the "system" but it takes courage to actually voice an opinion. A country is a place where we all have agreed to live (in a lot of cases by choice and in few cases by default) but since we are here and now is our time, one needs to contribute and do whatever one thinks is in the best interest of the country and self. It can be as elementary as teaching your maid or as monumental as casting your vote in the elections (which as numbers would prove, only less than 65% of Indians do). A country is not about You. It definitely is not about me. It is about us. It is about we. It is about India. We need to move beyond the petty battles of YOU and ME and work collectively for US
Change is something that is very interesting. Change is one of those things that everyone desires and asks for. And moment there is even a glimmer of change, everyone starts resisting it. But why am I talking about change all of a sudden when we are talking about India and being an Indian? What do you think things like our opinions, our leaders, our policy makers, our education system, our perceptions, our thinking, our actions need?
And coming bacl to what Rabbi asked, "Jinhe Naaz Hai, Hind Par Woh Kahan They, Jinhe Naaz Hai Woh Kahan Hai?". Do we have answer? I dont know about a lot of things and I don't know how to weave beautiful stories and poetic text but I know one thing for sure. Next time, there is someone who challenges my India, I would be there and I would stand tall and be counted.
What is your story? Please share. Please ask yourself. Please ask your friends. Please ask strangers. Please investigate.