Sunday, August 12, 2007


So, yet another decade of Indian independence. What is so great about it, you ask? Few countries are under a foreign yoke anymore, many are doing so well economically and socially, with countries like China kicking our backsides when it comes to economic growth, poverty alleviation, and indeed any aspect of social or economic development. Our venal politicians and bureaucrats leave no stone unturned in shaming the country, while we grapple with problems of both the 18th and the 21st centuries simultaneously. Still, this is a day of celebration. Still, this is a day when we must be proud to be Indians. It is a day when we must stand up and say with a lot of justification "मेरा भारत महान"। Why? you ask. Why, suddenly, has Mr. cynicism become a patriot?

Well, one eye-opener for me was the movie "Sometimes in April" - a movie about the Rwandan civil war. There was nothing civil about it, believe me, and the Hutu attempts to wipe out the Tutsi was so blatant, that it shocked the living guts out of me. A million people were killed, nay butchered in three months - all because of racial difference. This got me thinking - what if we in India were to fight out our differences? What if we were to resort to genocide to flatten our linguistic, racial, financial ethnic, religious, casteist, pigmentist (thanks to a friend for this one), regional, tribal, sectarian, fault lines? How many civil wars would we have witnessed? How many millions would've died? What effect would it have had on the rest of the world, if a billion of its people fought like animals?

It is not that India has been strife-free! We have had riots, killings, revenge-killings, protests, and what not! Our history of 60 years has been blood-stained on many an occasion. Still, we remain as one country. Why?

Really, the only plausible answer seems Indian democracy. Even with all its warts, and all its deficiencies, democracy has given every Indian (well, truly speaking, every Indian mob) the freedom to shout, the freedom to block roads, to vent their anger, the freedom to stop trains, to mob people, and in general, do anything except secede from the Union. So, while the Indian individual is still deprived of the right of expression, the Indian mob, which really is the unit of most turmoil, is given a free reign, which allows grievances to be settled with that very typical Indian "jugaad". People therefore obtain a stake in the system, which allows it (and the people in it) to flourish, as our billion-plus population attests.

I remember, visiting Austria when I was working for a German software company. There, our counterparts (Germans and Austrians) quizzed us on what united India. I mean, the seven members in my team spoke a total of nine languages (Kannada, Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Konkani, and English), we had representatives from two major religions, and were from five different states. So, why were we in one country? What made us Indian? I had no answer. I mumbled something about Cricket, and Bollywood, but I'm sure the Indian spirit goes deeper than that. So, while I investigate it, why don't you express your thoughts through the comments field?

Have a very happy Independence Day (in advance). Oh, and for the RNIs, just a reminder, the Indian Independence Day is on August 15th, despite Bill Pullman's exhortations to the contrary.

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