Patriotism seems to be the flavour of the season, now that we have got a ‘nationalist’ prime minister. What kind of patriotic upsurge should I like to see in India? Let’s see:
I’d like schools to pay much more attention to the teaching of history, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea if all young people were familiarized with Sanskrit, so that they could explore a little of our intellectual and spiritual treasures for themselves (or at least be taught some of the same in translations into their vernaculars).
I should like people not just putting up bumper stickers saying ‘mera Bharat mahaan’, but doing things to make her so – myriad little things from not cheating in examinations and using foul language and littering the streets to earning their pay.
I should like them (at least as far as the French and Japanese and Russians have managed to do) to come out from the spell of the worst of Anglo-Saxon pop culture, whether that means shopping for ‘entertainment’ or chatting night and day on Facebook or drinking Pepsi instead of lassi or deliberately avoiding or bastardizing their mother tongues or calling monkeying music or flirting with the opposite sex for most of their lifetimes without any serious commitment of any kind, not even to one’s children.
I should like all Indians regardless of religion to commit their loyalty unequivocally to this nation and her Constitution, without demanding any kind of special privileges whatsoever beyond what extreme poverty and helplessness might entitle any human being to. Specifically, raising foreign flags must meet with immediate and severe punishment under the law, and claims for separate civil codes.
I should like Indian men to aim at becoming men rather than crooks, time-servers or lafungas (regardless of whether they are lafungas with bicycles or BMWs), and women to become worthy of respect by virtue of their work, not because they just happen to be women. Both sexes have a whole pantheon of ideals to choose from, yet their abiding sin is that they all want simultaneously to be ‘ordinary’ and be ‘respected’. And a billion ‘ordinary’ people keep dreaming that some great leader will turn them into an extraordinary nation. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.
I want Indians to relearn the virtue of respect. If you want to get it someday, start by giving it today to those who deserve it. Deserve it, mind you, not merely because they are older or more powerful in one way or the other. We are as good at faking respect as we are bad at showing the real thing: trying to be truly respectful discomfits and angers us, because it forces us to face up to our own inferiority.
I would like ‘ordinary’ Indians to think and talk more about things like the Himalayas, and the great rivers and forests, and real science, and art, and justice, rather than to gossip about cricket and Bollywood and what the neighbours are doing.
I would like Indians to shed hypocrisy to the furthest extent possible. Specifically, if all you can do with life is to get a nondescript job and get married, don’t talk about things of the mind and spirit. And don’t mouth ideals that you know your parents will never allow you to uphold in real life, or even if they did, you just don’t have the guts to practise. At least get beaten up on the street once for the sake of one of those underdogs you so love to defend in the cosy safety of your bedroom via the internet. I have, and not once. Leave big talk to big people. Democracy does not mean mouthing platitudes or howling with the mob, especially when your favourite mob is saying things that are currently politically correct and safe, like giving one more thumbs up to Malala Yousufzai. You want to wear hardly-there skirts or defend gay rights, go and do it in a Haryana village, not on the Jadavpur University campus. Wimps sound like lions when they know they are perfectly safe…
You love India, show it by staying here and doing the best you can all your life. Don’t slaver after a green card or boast about how many successful relatives of yours are settled in the United States, nor groan about how India does not offer ‘good enough opportunities’ for someone as wonderful as you. C.V. Raman and Satyajit Ray didn’t. In any case, India has done enough for the Ambanis and Aamir Khan and MS Dhoni and me: maybe you are just worthless, and don’t deserve anything better than what you have got? Stick to that cybercoolie’s job in Bangalore and thank your lucky stars you are not a farmer in Andhra Pradesh…