What Is India Lacking?

Is flying to the United States of America, the only solution? You must be joking!

3:40 AM IST [3:00 PM MST]

A candid chat breaks open between two friends, one “studying” in the United States, and one “working” for a client who is from the United States.

I was curious to know how he was doing over there, and whether he had acclimatized to the new environment and style of learning, considering India and the United States have completely different methods of education. And to my surprise, it took only a few minutes of conversation before I felt like I was hallucinating and talking to a person who was born and brought up there, only Indian by birth.

Well that is what I call a “Superpower”; one that can transmogrify a person in a span of just six months. And the answer that shook me the most was when I asked, “So you must be missing India?”

And then there was an abrupt reply: “India mein miss karne layek hai hi kya?” [What’s there to miss about India?]

A silence followed, and then the silence broke like never before.

It almost felt like he was venting out all the frustration he had garnered over the years, and was waiting for the right moment to burst.

I, being a sort of patriot, was not able to take his rant in a positive stride, and couldn’t bring myself to say anything but “hmm…”

India’s first issue that required an earful was racism.

According to him there is more of racism that you have to face while staying in states like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh when you do not know Tamil or Telugu respectively, rather than staying in the U.S. being an Indian. The irony is that Tamil Nadu and AP (for short) are very much a part of the Indian constituency. And to be honest, it seems to be true to quite an extent. You are secluded from the conversations, from the fun part of things or from serious issues, if you do not know the local languages while staying there. You are either a North Indian or a South Indian. You are a human being; that is a secondary issue. Can I sum up at this point that, it is important for people to know which place you belong to rather than consider you to be very much from the same species as them, i.e. Homo Sapiens. Lack of human respect; that is what you call it!

Then there is a lack of parity for everyone. There is a lot of bias and favouritism in India, and opinions decide over the merit of a person.

Are you hot or cool?

Are you handsome or not?

Do you speak English or not?

Do you know what is required or not?

The opportunities that you will get are more dependent on how you suit an individual’s mind rather than whether or not you fit the bill. And I would not hesitate from saying this, for it is absolutely true; if you are poor, you are doomed to be the heir of poverty. If you are born in the Indian middle class, the furthest you can go is to an upper middle class life, that too with extraneous efforts, and at times resort to deeds which are not exactly legitimate. So it becomes quite obvious that red-tapism and corruption continue to exist in such a society.

It was a hell lot of listening against India, so I thought of throwing a curveball at him.

I said, “But I bet you can’t beat India, and Indians, when it comes to culture and values.”

The reply was –any guesses –“Bull***t!”

Confused to the core, I asked him what happened to entice such a response, maybe he had spilled coffee on himself and that was a spontaneous curse. Alas! That was not the case. We Indians, according to this friend of mine, use cultural values and morals as per our convenience. And the cultural inhibitions and impositions are different for different people of the society, depending upon which section of it one belongs to. Yes, I do agree with that; because had it been not so, it would have been okay for the common man to marry in a different religion the way it is okay for celebrities and politicians. If the common man does it, there are honor killings. We somehow forcibly impose religion on our people, even though we claim that only one religion in the world is doing so!

He brought to my notice one good point. He said, “Though we believe that children move out of their families at the age of 16 and parents are left uncared and unlooked after, that is just not the case. There is a stronger bond between parents and children, respect and, at the same time, space for individuality. People are closer to their religion than people in India, where religion is followed for the sake of some wish that needs to be fulfilled or during festivals, or because of elders being there at home. All other days, God is left alone in the sanctum sactorum of the temple waiting for the ambrosia from some good hearted people who would visit him regularly.

There are other points that he brought to the forefront, like religious glorification, female foeticide, a caste based society, to which his friends from the U.S. laugh at him. According to them, even he harbors the same sentiments and thoughts on all these issues, the only difference is that he is not vocal about them. And to this, he says that this is how a society’s reputation gives you a bad name. I guess, to an extent his resentment over the issue is absolutely fine. He also said that Indian people lack respect for their fellow citizens, there is an air of selfishness in the people of India which is so well camouflaged by visiting temples, wearing different coloured stones and giving offerings to poor people –all irrespective of how one treats his fellow countrymen.

India, according to him, is doomed at the hands of the uneducated society. He said that in the recent presidential election over there in the U.S., people do not go and ask, “Which caste or religion do you belong to?” They ask, “How do you plan to take the country forward?” People are quite open about discussing culture and politics, and do not end up being involved in communal or societal violence if their opinions do not match. This aspect and radical thought process is pretty much existent only in India. Also Indians are quite the hypocrites. He says that people do community service in India because of their ulterior motives but if you see, there is a real intention behind doing so or else you wont find them involved in it. Indians, for the sake of protecting their “be good” persona, say something else and do some thing else.

“Indians are too judgmental.” Well again, I had nothing to say against this. Though everyone has their prejudice and preconceived notions, Indians are better than others in sticking to them. Your physical looks will define your character, if you are white skinned you are the one with more libido. If you are from place A, then you should be like this or if from place B, then you ought to possess these qualities. You are either a Kashmiri or a Bihari, you are a Brahmin or a Baniya, you are a South Indian or North Indian; you are never one simple human being. And out of all these classifications arise our judgments. He does mention something at the end which he enjoys there, “True Freedom”, which is free from the shackles of unnecessary societal pressures. One enjoys being what s/he is rather than facing the danger of being called a “wannabe”. To mock his people further, he says that a few die-hard Indians do not leave this “Indiyanapa” (Indian-ness) behind even when the go abroad to study. They continue with the whole “he is white, he is black” conversation.

And the conversation ends with him inviting me to the U.S. for further studies.  Well that remains a question still.

What is true is that it is not he alone who believes so, there are a lot of people who feel the same way. Otherwise we would not have so many people dying to fly to the U.S. to study. I doubt whether such people ever plan to come back though. Their exasperation has taken them there and their fears would keep them there.

The question that stings me is this: “What do we do to change our society and nation so that we can stop our countrymen and fellow beings from moving out? How do we give them a vote of confidence and trust that we will change?!” We need to settle this score or else the situation would worsen and we would be left at the hands of more uneducated, crass people, like the ones in present.

Karanvir Gupta

Image Source [http://brownie26.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/indo-us-nuclea-deal-flags.jpg?w=433&h=251]