Quite recently, I have started noticing that most Indians have become over-conscious and over-enthusiastic about the whole idea of nationalism. If you mention United States, people would ask you to think about India first. Talk about your own state within India, they would tell you that India comes first and then the states. Even when it comes to religion, they say there is only one religion – that’s India. Which is nothing but utter absurd, not because India is not important but then so is a religion.
Allow me to cite an example here.
Few days back, I was at Wagha Border. It was an enthralling evening and I had to stand in a queue at 3 pm when the gates were supposed to open at five. I was not alone, but with thousands of my fellow Indian citizens. The waiting part was not easy as is the case with any queue in India. People were pushing each other, trying to get inside first. When the gates were finally opened, everybody ran. No one cared about the person standing next to them. An old man fell on the road while others were running almost over his body or trying to avoid him. I was hurt too. At least four men had run over my left foot.
When the Parade commenced at the border, everyone joined the celebrations. Bharat Mata Ki Jai, Hindustan Zindabad, Pakistan Murdabad – the chants were flying in the air. Same people who were mercilessly crushing their fellow citizens, were singing patriotic songs now. They said – We are proud Indians, We love India. But did they understand – What is India?
India is as much about us as we are about India. While we accept the latter part, we often ignore the former. We take pride in the actions of our ancestors and our culture but at the same time we forget that we are equally responsible for shaping the Indian culture. Our ancestors are a part of history and very soon, we will join them too.
If you pay attention to the conversations of our grandparents’ generation people who witnessed the freedom struggle, those are mostly about independence of India and how did we get there. Similarly if we come to next generation that witnessed post independence era, the talks are mostly about the frustrations and troubles that they face while living in India. The main villain is often the system. These thoughts, these conversations, and these actions and inactions shape the following generations. In this case – us. Similarly, the coming generations will learn from us and their idea of India will be more influenced by our actions and not by that of our ancestors.
Equally important is what we are going to do in order to grow our culture. We all understand that culture is not steady but keeps changing. It cannot remain stagnant and it should not. Most of us consider it as some sort of rule book and worship it. While some people follow these rules blindly and others show rebellious attitude, we fail to add our own value addition to this wonderful culture. No matter what we do or we do anything or not, it is going to shape our society and our culture. Bringing foreign traditions and creating an amalgam by mingle it with ours, has been a part of our history and in fact is a beautiful thing. Bringing more colors to a culture not only enhance its flavor but also helps it moving in a sustainable way. Which means we have to constantly evolve so that when the future generations read history books they could find more interesting things. It is an important responsibility that we often shy away from.
Coming back to the point of Indianness, India is our identity but then it is one of our identities. For example first of all we are humans, then we have a religion, and we have a profession too. The point is, we can differentiate ourselves by putting ourselves in any category whose premise could be different. In case of a country, geography is that premise. Of course being an Indian doesn’t mean to reside within India but to belong to a particular entity that shapes our identity.
Ask yourself what you are doing for your country. And by country I do not refer to a geographical area or hypothetical Bharat Mata, but your country men, the culture, the environment, the atmosphere, basically – anything and everything that surrounds you. States will keep on changing. The same Pakistan which many people hate today could have been the part of their own great nation, if few things had gone slightly differently. Similarly if you take pride in the Indus valley culture, the river Indus now flows in Pakistan. So whom does that culture belong – India or Pakistan? No one can justify that. Yesterday’s Andhra is today’s Telangana. How would you distinguish the two. With that logic, how would you distinguish the two countries? Merely on the actions of few governments and organizations we should not miss the bigger picture.
The underlying message is that if you are doing a noble work that would ultimately benefit everyone. Not only your state or your religion, but the humanity. Even the smallest part of your work has the ability to affect the lives of those who are around you. Make sure that effect is positive. If you are conducting rallies to show your Indianness, you are doing it wrong. If you really want to express that emotion, help at least one Indian every day, and that’s all. The person who would clean the road after your rally is clearly a better citizen. The idea is – serve the humanity which includes your country, do not whine over the idea of patriotism.