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Friday, August 14

The feeling that is INDIA

Just a timely coincidence that I chanced upon this piece of journal from a Frenchman: 10 things I love about India, just on the eve of our 63rd year of freedom, courtesy Twitter and Mani Karthik.

Before you turn all peppy and keyed-up let me remind you that it was a forced sequel to a rather uneasy but realistic portrayal of our country by the same author. Its the 10 things he disliked about India, the original link here. I've chosen not to highlight the original link because, obviously, the term 'hate' is an easy word to use but is as dangerous as it is counter-productive.

Nevertheless it is interesting to see a Frenchman's perspective of the country we know too well. An excerpt from his love-hate feature would be something like this:

India is an incredible place and I have never regretted, even for one day, to have settled here.

...the kindness and the smile of the villagers around. They were poor but they had such dignity; a quality of being which made them a hundred times richer than wealthy Europeans or Americans.

If one balances the 'hate-able' and 'lovable', the irritating aspects are just superficial prickly heat; the deeper one goes, the more one sees the inner qualities of Bharat

We all know what he is speaking about, don't we? Let's be honest to ourselves, the article is fair if we have the courage to call the spade a spade. The encouraging thing is that our country is acquiring the power to put the kibosh on those negatives, one at a time, because as of 15th August 2009, India's positives grossly outclass our shortcomings.

The West still harbor the shocking images of India circulated all around the world during our infamous drought, or rather the Famine of 1966. We've come a long way since, but the terrible pictures of those years still linger in the minds of many Westerners. For them, the IT Parks in Bangalore or Gurgaon, Metro in New Delhi or the Chandrayaan are just as unlikely as Moon Landings are for Bill Kaysing.

India's growing profile in collage. Clockwise from 12o clock, Ashoka Sculpture; Imperial Towers, Mumbai; INS Vikrant; Mumbai-Pune Expressway; Bandra-Worli Sealink; Technopark, Trivandrum; Delhi Metro; Chandrayaan launch vehicle;

It is encouraging to see our country shrug off the stereotypes and put its good feet forward. There is a vibe of positive energy in the air, commanded by the multi-million-strong youth of the country. We have personalities like Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam who knows that inspiring a few thousand young brains is enough to usher in brighter tomorrows. We have inspiring leaders like Shashi Tharoor who have made the youth of Trivandrum think and act beyond the sooty curtains of caste-ism and politics. We have cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad who pip the alpha-world cities in attracting investment. We have institutions like the ISRO and VSSC which are proud enough to show that we can do it! We have educational facilities like IIT and IISER which churns out some of the most sought after brains of the planet. We have the bravest of the braves like Capt. Jerry Premraj and Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan who taught our foes the virtues of a real soldier. We have industrialists like Mittal and Tata who are making it loud and clear as to who call the shots in the business-world today!

Lastly India is a proof that money and material are not the only things you need to see genuine happiness on a face... Look at Pooja, she has the most radiant smile you'd ever see, according to the photographer. Source.

Pooja from Calcutta; photograph by Dey Alexander

This is where the real Indian spirit lies... finding the sense of joviality in even the paradoxical of living states. Far cry from the rich and high-fi countries where depressive disorders are part and parcel of existence, people take their own lives when the value of their stocks crash on a Black Monday, when mothers have to be 'trained' and 'encouraged' to get emotionally attached to their own babies and where barbie-dolls and teddy bears become the only solace for those at the dusk of their lives... I'm seeing it all...

But they have their own strong points, and so do we.

So in a nut-shell folks, I always feel how incredibly lucky I'm for being a part of this part of the world. Never a day passes in my life without the urge to see how things are improving in my country and my state, so is the case with millions of Indians back home and abroad, I'm sure. Once you're exposed to the outside world and you get to realize some of the good things we miss back home (read efficient bureaucracy, equality in laws, obedient and socially responsible citizens, care of environment). You tend to become temporarily frustrated at the state of things in India...only temporarily.

Because at the back of our mind we know that it is only a matter of time before our society evolves into a better one for its citizens.. The British didn't shed Colonialism overnight, racism didn't evaporate from the US in a flash, Nazism took a while to move into oblivion and it took Kuwaiti women decades to earn their right to vote... All good changes take time...

So, the Earth revolving, we can bring about changes to our society. The charges in Claude Arpi's article doesn't demand a huge effort to tackle, except the politicians, the bureaucracy and the corruption. Well, as I said, this triplet may take a bit longer...

But there are more teething problems than those mentioned in that article. It may not be pleasing for anyone to see the sea of ghettos that spoil the Mumbai urban-scape when you take-off or land at the CSIA. Yes, still 25% of our countrymen live below poverty line, ie they earn less than 10 Rs/day/head. Don't ask how someone is going to survive @ Rs.300/month but if you consider the World Bank cut-off point of 1.25 $ per day, then 70% of our countrymen turn BPL! Gosh...

Looking at the official figures, do you see any silver lining? Look, the graph shows an obvious declining trend.

% of population below poverty line

But the road is still a a long, steep winding one uphill and all we've got is a moped with heavy load. Perhaps its the time to be pragmatic and lets join hand to bring in some real sunshine to the lives of children like Pooja. So why not take inspiration or determination from a few of our friends around us, a few of fellow-bloggers and colleagues for instance?

Kenny Jacob and his wonderful MAD volunteers, the exuberant youth of tidycity working to keep our environment in check, are all some of the efforts people I know undertake. If you're abroad and your heart still yearns out, why not consider signing up for something similar to Child Fund Ireland? Don't you realize how huge a difference you can make, for such a small sum?

So have you decided how you are going to share the feeling that is called India!!?? C'mon lets all join hands and pull that graph down to the trough!

image courtesy


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