Sunday, August 15, 2010

15th August

So it's India's independence day. 64th, as the status updates from Facebook have told me. What does it mean to me. Nothing. Till 2008, it meant a day off (I was already unemployed in Aug 2009). From work or college or school as the case may be. In school there was still something special about it. Going to school, singing the national anthem and getting sweets It felt a little different from other holidays. This year, but for Facebook, I wouldn't have noticed. The only date I care about right now is 21st August. That's when I get back to Charlottesville.

I find the 'India, I love you and miss you', 'Proud to be an Indian', 'It's India's time' themed messages and emails to be hilarious and confusing at the same time. I don't get it. I am as proud to be an Indian as I would have been to be a Chinese or a Kenyan. I don't have any control over that, right. My nationality and my country's past and present. More correctly - I haven't done anything to show my patriotism for my country. Lead a pretty comfortable, safe, normal life and pursued my self interests which will satisfy my materialistic and intellectual needs. Will I ever do something helpful for my country? Do I at all have any intentions to do so. Maybe and Yes. I don't know how or when but I do have this deep seated desire to contribute. No, not give a huge donation to charity when I am a millionaire. Something more lasting. Something which is not as easy as giving money. 

I do realize that I am saying this sitting in the US, pursuing an MBA and planning to get a job which keeps me in this country for a few years. Double standards, right? I agree. And that's the reason I feel a little uneasy on such occasions. It bothers me (not as much as I would want it to, though) that so much of my life is centered just around me and nothing bigger. My dad gave the best years of his life and more to a steel plant. Yes, it gave him back a lot, but he belonged to the generation which saw the birth of the great Indian middle class. He contributed to it. He was part of the 'Nation Building' which Nehru had started. True, circumstances were different and had at times more bearing on his life's choices than intent. At least, that's my hypothesis. So this is not a comparison of character. It's more a stating of the facts.

And this brings me to my original point. I don't like it when people fool themselves by sending out emails and forwards on 15th August. It's almost like a compensation for not doing anything at all for the rest of the year. Of course, there are people who are saving lives in villages, fighting corruption and at the same time indulging in the mass forwards. My apologies to them. But I think that the majority is more or less like me. Actually a little worse, because at least I don't spam! I wish someday we would be able to come out of this. I wish that we would realize that a lot of us would lead very selfish lives and not try to put on a facade for a day to portray otherwise. I hope, however, that most of us get tired of it and end up doing something which has far more impact than a million status updates. That as the fortunate, highly educated, forward thinking 'future' of the country, we are able to change a few things.


zubin said...

Brilliantly written. Exactly my thoughts. Loved the Chinese and Kenyan reference. The thing is, patriotism is such a blown out thing anyway. Why is one country better than other just because you were born in it?

And I hate people studying/working/living in the US raving about India. Fuck, if you really do care so much, at least stay here.
But, they will spam and spam. And when you dont reciprocate, you are said to be non-patriotic. Fuck!!

anonymous coward said...

@zubin, atish: one country need not be better because you were born in it, but irrespective of it. given a choice, would you rather be born in a democracy or a dictatorship like china ? free speech and other such rights are taken for granted by us ... try to imagine your life without them.

anonymous coward said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymous coward said...

A relevant article on the topic:


Captain Subtext said...

It happens quite a bit that I think of writing something and then it's already been written here!

This 15th August being a Sunday, my weekly getting-up-late thing also got ruined because people seem to believe that playing 'Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon' on a loudspeaker, right from early in the morning, is the most patriotic thing one can do on Independence Day.

@Zubin - Purely subjective opinions obviously, but I don't think staying in India or outside has got much to do with loving India (or raving about it). In fact, from personal experience, the feelings for India pour out more intensely when you are abroad. Especially if you are fresh off the boat.

Atish said...

@anon - great article. thanks for sharing. and yes, i consider myself 'fortunate' to be born in India Vs North Korea but more so (in fact totally so) because I was born in a well to do family who fulfilled all my wishes. I do take freedom of speech and other right as granted but they might mean little to me if it had been a struggle to feed myself twice a day.

anonymous coward said...

@atish: I think that even if you are a person in India struggling for 2 square meals a day, those rights ensure that you can make something out of your life. Refer to this week's Outlook for some such stories. Despite all our short comings, our democracy ensures that people do have a voice, although that voice may not be heard by the people in power very frequently. As for N Korea - link.

Prachi Kini said...

I think studying globally and being successful abroad coupled with contributions (monetary, policy influencers, research/educated speakers) can be a great contribution to one's country. I think the Indians who migrated and worked in the US are a credit, because they brought in a lot of contacts into India from the US, setup/partnered with indian industries (created jobs), apart from building the self esteem of the country. So I dont believe anyone is a ditcher or non-patriotic because they move countries. Email forwarders are poor examples, yes.

On another point I dont think patriotism is about one country being better than the other. Its about a part your identity that you honour and camaraderie.