I dreamt of Chanakya last night. Not surprising since he is one of my favorite histroical figures. Also because I believe in Chanakya's dream. The dream of Akhand Bharat..United India.
I got a rude jolt when I read Nita's post titled "Kashmir through the eyes of a Kashmiri" lead there by Kislay's brilliant post "The Idea of a Nation". I was shocked by the comments on Nita's blog and I seriously thought I must have been sleeping when Diversity and Patriotism went out of fashion. Or maybe as Kislay says there is a Patriotic gene which I deinitely have inherited in plenty. I am also exuberantly optimistic as far as my country goes. I consider myself a global citizen but identify myself as an Indian first, then a Dogra from Jammu and Kashmir, who married a Bihari and has an Oriya sister-in-law. I have friends from Kerela, AP, TN, Rajasthan, WB, Maharashtra, Goa,Meghalaya, Manipur, Sikkim, UP,...Hindus, Muslims,Christians,and Buddhists
My immediate reaction to the particular post was anger.Kislay's post took away some of the hurt but I was mad enough to write a post which was reactionary and almost incoherent. Sanity returned and I deleted it with a promise of a post written in a better frame of mind. So here it is:
I am dismayed by the secessionist remarks but I believe everyone is entitled to an opinion. Though this kind of entitlement taken too far can be very dangerous, because not only does it threaten Nation Building efforts but also the World Peace at large. Primarily because if diversity is the issue, we are doomed. What and who is similar in absolute terms...thoughts, actions, language, orientation, religious practices, color, race, physical attributes etc.? Those who claim that any community is united because of a common geographical boundary,language,food,religion,way of dressing etc. are not being completely honest. There are divisons and sub-divisons and then further divisions based on the most inane of things.
Fair enough that as a Mumbaikar who in most liklihood migrated to the city from Tuljhapur, Ratnagiri or Aurangabad and earlier never faced the troubles of fast worsening problems of overcrowding and crumbling infratructure, the 'outsider' be it a 'bhaiya' from Jaunpur or Saharsa is the easiest punching bag. I would be angry too after battling through an Andheri or Virar Local. I would be very angry when I have to get up at 5 a.m to fill water because there will be no water supply during the rest of the day. I would be angrier still because my childern have no parks to go to. I might also feel threatened when I see huge crowds thronging Juhu beach during "Chhat" (a Bihari/U.P festival which celebrates the Sun God). But does the solution lie in thrashing the Bhaiya who moved from his village because his children were dying from hunger. Unlike the many Indians who move to the US or elsewhere desiring a better life, this Bhaiyaji was merely trying to survive.
As a Tamilian I might be furious at having to accept Hindi as my National Language. Tamil Nadu being a land of the great Sangam Literature. It is most likely that the question,that on what grounds was Hindi chosen over a rich language like Tamil will perhaps always remain in a Tamilian's mind. Personally I would choose Sanskrit as a National Language any day. But I was not asked and I am not a political player or an actvist citizen as yet (by my own choice) who can color and influence such decisions.So who am I to complaint?
As a Dogra, a Hindu from J&K who believes that my people have been caught in the crossfire between the Kashmiri Pandits and the Kashmiri Muslims (all the dirty politics included),I am very mad. I am sure the Ladakhis, Gujjars, Bakerwaals, Paharis, Poonchis etc are also not happy. There are more players than just Kashmiri Pundits and Kashmiri Muslims of which the country at large seems to be unaware of.
As a Dogra again, who speaks Dogri I have lived my life with a sense of identity crisis which is not amusing. I have not met any Indian, in India or abroad barring a few ( I could count them on my fingers) who are aware of the Dogra identity. I can relate to what many of the isloated North East Indians from Meghalaya, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland might feel.
Growing up,I travelled all over the country and my family never found another person who spoke our language. We just integrated versus assimilated with other similar regional, linguistic groups. We picked up many Indian languages, mouth watering recipes and a rich variety of textiles in the process. And yes it has never shaken my faith in India.
As an Indian I might be angry at the Bihari who excels in all the premier institutes...IIT, IIM the UPSC Exams but fails to take responsibility for Bihar. I am angry at the apathy and denial I see in Bihar. I am also angry at Maharashtrians who believe they own Mumbai and are a united force against the North Indians, whatever that really means.I have best friends who are Maharashtrians who complaint and tell tales of strained relationships between the orthodox Maharashtrian Brahmins and the lower castes. They get along better with their North, South, East Indian friends versus a stuck up Konkanasth Brahman. I am angry with the auto driver in Chennai or Bangalore who understands Hindi or English but pretends not to. It pains me to see my fellow contrymen from the South who think the North Indians are a roudy, uncouth lot. And it also pains me to see North Indians who make harsh judgements about the South Indians. The Bengali who sings only 'Amar Shonar Bangla' , 'Mera Bharat Mahaan' being conspicuously absent.
But these are aberrations which will probably remain. And I think and fervently pray that such people are also few and far in between.They are a result of divisive state politics, upbringing,misplaced anger, lack of vision and corrective action and more. It is also a result of talking of only RIGHTS and not RESPONSIBILITY.I will not waste my time in talking about the fact that such diferences are a universal phenonmena. The only variable factor being the degree and nature of differences.
I feel sorry for a thought process which measures the value of a state and a people by its functionality,productivity,and usefulness. I am referring to some arguments supporting 'cutting off' the BIMARU States, NE, Kashmir...Where such a reasoning exists, is it a surprise that we see the rise of old age homes, increasing divorce rates and an over all crumbling of the social institutions all in the name of being "practical".I view my country as my extended family. I may complaint,differ,hate dislike somethings/someone... but a break up is unthinkable.
We are a nation in its infancy.As a realist I know things are not perfect. In fact far from it. But what is not perfect is not what we just throw away. And I heard this somewhere and I think it is equally important to remember that perfection could be very different from what we imagine it to be.
Finally I thankfully have seen more who identify themselves as an Indian first and anything else later. "Desi" is the umberella under which the Indians from different parts of India happily huddle under, atleast in the part of US I am temporarily residing in.
I must tell you a little story. I am giving a presentation in my 4 year old's pre-school on India, its family and education system, cultural and religious beliefs. This is to help the American teachers better handle the Indian child who eats with his hands, sleeps with his parents and liberally oils his hair irrespective of his region, language and faith. My son's teacher was flabbergasted that the 3 Indian students in her class, spoke different languages. As a matter of fact their cuisines differ too. One speaking Gujrati, the other Marathi and mine being exposed to Dogri, Hindi, Bhojpuri and Maghi/Magadhi. She was amazed that we had 18 official languages and God knows how many dialects. She said to me: "If this was the case in America, we would not be able to functional at all". I have no words to describe the pride I felt in my people and my country which is so fresh out of a foreign rule which systematically and deliberately broke our faith and pride in our religion,culture and nation. The country will slowly and surely emerge from the shadow of its past.The cycle of ups and downs is never ending but the faith, 'vichaar'(thought) and 'kriti'(action) towards One Nation should remain intact.
One should certainly not create a nation on the basis of faith.But I know for one, that faith and culture teach the lesson of loyalty to one's motherland.
I renew my commitment to my country. I also realize that there is a need for more action than talk. The differences therein are more imagined than real and the so professed similarities fragile. Let these words resonate within us and spur us to action: Rise India Rise!!!
I say this prayer:
Samani va akuti samana hridyani va
smanmastu vo mano yatha va sushaasati
(Roughly translated: May our thinking, vision and hearts become one, and this one is true, divine and beautiful.)
In the end I leave you with one of my favorite clips from Chanakya. Please do visit it at(since I am unable to load it for some reason) :