Toote Bharat Ki Tragedy

No, this isn’t my shot at writing potential scripts for Bollywood flicks (although I have half a mind to try doing that some time, it seems to be so easy); it is something that is much more serious and closer to reality. This entry was prompted by an experience that I had while flying from Singapore back to New Delhi on a Jet Airways flight.

After stowing my cabin baggage and asking the air hostess for something to read and some drinks, I made myself comfortable at the window seat I had managed to get. Along came the person on the seat next to mine (he shall remain anonymous partly for his own sake and partly because I can’t remember his name). I politely smiled and went back to figuring out my list of movies and other stuff to watch during the flight. And yes, I had been on my way back home after around 6 months so those “proud-to-be-Indian” feelings were simmering in my heart. So after the typical questions, the person asks me “So what is your caste?” I was a bit perplexed but then I figured that he must have meant my surname because in India some people still think the two are tantamount. “Gautam” I replied, “No, not your family name but your caste” he pointed out. “What a weird question” I said to myself but then the guy was young so it was not as if he was an old-timer who adhered to the significance to castes in society. This is when I realised how many Indians are still living in our forefathers’ times when caste was even an issue. “Brahmin”, I answered, “Me too!” he smiled contentedly.

The colonisation of the Indian region (not India because at the time, there was no such thing) by the British was a classic “Divide and rule” and given the fact that this is taught to children in school as part of the prescribed history syllabus, one would assume that most Indians would be aware how their ancestors were cleverly conquered, exploited and impoverished. While this may be true, it seems to me that we have not really addressed that issue in our 62 years of Independence as a sovereign nation. Time and time again, regionalism, religious extremism and separationist movements prop their ugly heads. It is evident on reality shows like Indian Idol how sometimes the Indian public votes based on the contestant’s background rather than talent. And all of us are familiar with the Gujarat riots and the Babri Masjid fiasco. Then there are the Naxals who run an India of their own not to mention the other smaller movements going on in the North East like the ULFA and parallels in Nagaland and Mizoram. As an Indian youth, I am appalled that India has still not managed to mature and attain a nationhood that transcends caste, religion and regionalism.

It pains me to think of an India where there is no unity but only diversity. The problem is even more pertinent since India is on the way to emerging as a superpower that could lead the region or in the future, the entire world. I hope that the youth can shove off these redundancies and believe in a united India that can uplift its billion over citizens. After spending some time overseas where one is just Indian and not Bengali or Marathi, I have realised how powerful unity can be and how narrow-minded and insular those are who think that their caste and region precedes their identity of being an Indian. However, realistically I am forced to conclude that such people dominate over the more liberal and forward-looking Indians. One can even see this is matrimonial matters where brides and grooms from specific castes are sought after. I wish Indians at home were as united as Indians abroad. After all, even in Australia, all Indian students united and there was an Indian Students Association not a Bihari Students Association or something as ridiculous. (I, in no way, mean that Biharis, Bengalis and Marathis are more prone to seeing themselves as distinct groups, they just serve as examples) Even in the army all Indians are united, why can’t society learn a lesson or two? A united India has obvious benefits while a fragmented one is undoubtedly headed for doom.

When India is threatened with war or any other crisis, it is not as if the Punjabis can keep the enemy at bay when the Chinese attack (and I firmly believe they will, why, I will perhaps talk about later) or just the Gujaratis can pull India out of recession. All of us are Indians and we must work together for the India of tomorrow. If not, the British scenario will repeat itself and the title may appear in a history book in the future after the fragmentations in India lead to her demise.

Sainyam Gautam

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