An Independence Day Thought

Writing a post on India and patriotism on Independence Day is one of the most cliched things to do. It’s like- the whole of blogosphere is gonna do it, so I might as well go with the flow and give my two-pence on Independence and the greatness of my country. Like anyone cares about what I think India should do to become the next super power !! 😛

Anyway, this is not going to be one of those posts. I am not one of the people who have great, earth-shattering ideas about what is wrong with the Indian governance or the Indian mindset. I admit it publicly on this blog today- I have not voted even once. And I am NOT proud of it. Every time elections approached, I’d think to myself- I should register myself and my family at least this year, but I was too lazy to stand in those long queues and complete those forms. I am also not one of those people who keeps myself up-to-date with the Budget or Elections or any such thing that actually affects my country. Like any second Indian on the road, I have ideas about what the Government should do to eradicate poverty or improve the economic condition, but like every Indian on the road, I don’t know what to do with those ideas. In short, I can call myself a passive patriot.

Why call myself a patriot at all, you may ask then?

Because, I do love India. I love everything it symbolizes- the cricket, the festivals, the heat, the crowded streets, the films, the food, the mix of culture and urbanization…everything. I am one of those people who stands even if I hear the National Anthem being played in the colony next to mine during jhandavandan on Independence or Republic Day. I am one of those people who would have genuinely become an IAF Officer had I been an inch taller and I would be the proudest person in the world if tomorrow, my son or daughter decide to join the Indian Army. I felt immense grief when Kalpana Chawla died aboard Columbia and when India lost the 2003 World Cup to Australia. I also felt immense pride when A.R. Rahman won the Oscars or when TATA Motors developed the one-lakh car. These may seem trivial things, but for me, they symbolize my Indianness. They are my ways of expressing my love and respect for my country.

Every second engineering graduate in India is probably pursing a Masters in some university in the US. I’ve seen so many brilliant seniors I had in COEP complete their MS here, get a job in one of the US companies, get married and settle down with a nice apartment with a Honda/Toyota in their garage. They come to India once in two years, children with American accents in tow, and throw one big party in the “hall” of some fancy restaurant- one place to meet all relatives and friends kinda thing. And that’s it! Fifteen days later, they’re back to a Starbucks every morning and using toilet paper !! 😛 PD’s brother-in-law has been in the US for around 10-12 years and believe me, every time he visits his hometown, he stocks up on mineral water bottles because he is scared that he’ll catch an infection if he drinks the municipality water! Imagine that !!! And though it’s too early to say, I am 95% sure that’s gonna be me in a few years’ time. I’m not complaining, I came here out of choice- I wanted to experience the educational system and the life here. But what starts out as an experience of a few years becomes a never-ending fight to build bank balances and fulfilling desires. And then, we don’t have the guts to get out of the comfort zone.

Life in India is hard- no doubt about it. To do anything noteworthy, you have to fight the corruption and the red-tape and the reservations and the entire system. Even getting a seat into one of the top universities in India like the IITs or the IIMs is one big fight- it requires years of perseverance, determination and hardwork. Let’s face it, apart from universities like say Stanford or MIT, doing a Masters in any other US university is hardly comparable to surviving an IIT/IIM/ISB/NID/NSD/FTII etc. And then comes the part about getting a good job and surviving the initial “donkey-work” years to actually get the chance to make a difference. Only someone with true love for his country and a burning desire to contribute to its progress can happily live through all of that. With the current recession that’s hit the whole world, a common joke among Indian grad students is that they are intelligent, hardworking, qualified folks who are willing to work for less and that is their USP. And while this is only said in good humor, I often think to myself- why do we do this to ourselves?! Why don’t we accept that we are equally competent to our American counterparts and hence don’t deserve any less?! The professors I meet here think very highly of Indian students- they know we have the brains and the ability to work very hard. But the only thing we lack is the confidence that we are good and the ability to sell ourselves to the world! I remember this one time, I was reading the resume of one of my American friends and he had actually mentioned the job he did as a lab assistant helping students take printouts as “work experience”. I thought it was kinda silly- what skill is involved in that?! But he told me employers appreciate it coz it shows you’ve had experience in customer service, troubleshooting and people-skills! Any work is good work! Imagine that !!

I just read all I’ve typed in the lines above and I realize that there’s not much coherence to this post. But I guess all I’m trying to say is- maybe it’s time we start taking our Indianness seriously. Maybe it’s time we learn to be proud of our roots and our capabilities and our strengths. And learn to declare that proudly to the world instead of waiting for them to find out on their own! And once we learn to do that for ourselves, we can hopefully develop the confidence to get into the system and actually change it- fight the poverty, decrease the corruption, not rely on reservations to get a good education.. And hopefully that will be the day this brain drain will stop. People will not think twice before returning to their country. And they will shake out of their complacence and at least attempt to elect the right government to lead the country. And that will mark the beginning of true progress.

Jai Hind !!