It was just another Saturday morning and I was basking in the laziness of my self-inflicted holiday. Having not much to do and absolutely enjoying the feeling I sunk into my favourite chair at home. It took me just an edition of The Times of India-Crest edition to dish myself a good read. The Cover story-Inside Arunachal-was one of the most beautifully written pieces that I have read in recent times. As the nomenclature suggests it was an account of our state-Arunachal Pradesh and how it is now under the scanner in the wake of the Dalai Lama visit. This state has the spotlight on it from either side of the Mac Mohan line at all times these days and the its people are living with a feeling that has shades of joy and a lurking fear both at the same time. It was an educational and insightful read. Educational because the article contained almost everything that I did not know and should know about a state in my country. Insightful because until now A.P. existed for me only on the Indian map in the north-eastern corner as just another part. This clearly shows my limited range of sight and reflects the mindset of an average Indian. Today I am fully aware of the nation that I belong to and it is not because of an article but because I have been a witness to some thought-provoking incidents that have built up in me.
I grew up amongst Anglo-Indians and a near-South Mumbai crowd, moved to a Bengali cum South Indian neighborhood, attended a Maharashtrian junior college and very recently worked in a Rajasthani cum Bengali cum Marathi cum South Indian office. I have Hyderabadi neighbours, my sister’s best friend is a Punjabi, and my closest friend brings back stories from the capital where she resides these days. I’ve covered people from almost the entire country, haven’t I? Nah! Not Kashmir, Goa, ‘Arunachal’ and the list could go on! I’ve never looked at my neighbours and friends as an assorted mix from various states until I wrote this paragraph. I have had people hovering around me addressing each other as Marathi, Bengali and so on and it was only then that I was brought to see the difference. I tweeted this thought, when I wondered aloud if India was still ONE country or a compromise of states put together.
We are a land of the Doi mach, the dosa, the bombil fry, the sarson ka saag and thealoo chaat amongst other delicacies that I can’t wait to treat myself to. And as much as we may read all over that we are a multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-ethnicity nation; it is also true that we have divided ourselves into a Marathi manoos and a UP Bhaiyya, into a North Indian and a South Indian. What in the name of the Lord happened to being Indian?
Oh yeah, I may sound like Miss-Sameen-turned-preachy. But I’d rater sound like a preachy-Indian that a non-preachy-Konkani. Until some time ago I thought that the British conquest of India was a boon to this nation in some ways! Now I think-What a rotten thought that was! Yes, I thank them for Victoria Terminus, the Trams in Kolkatta, the guest houses in Dalhousie, the Gateway and the Railways. But, in my opinion the price we are now paying for a couple of architectural wonders is taking the life out of us. India paid the price during 200 years’ of conquest and is still paying from its souls the hefty penalty for the demarcation they infused in us at every stage. To put it in an uncivilized manner-they ‘banged’ a virgin nation and left shamelessly without paying the cost for the delivery and the humiliation thereafter.
I’m not playing the blame game and slapping dung on the British for the mistakes that are handed down to us in legacy. But then, again, they sowed the seeds and we are reaping the misfortune. Though they drew the lines between us on basis of religion we are now perfecting our drawing skills by adding to those lines on basis of ‘State’ today, and God-knows-what tomorrow! And as far as humanity has existed we have been divided into man and woman all along. We can now have a whole new subject on ‘Division’. Division based on gender, religion, caste, language, state and finally nationality! In all of this splitting up we have forgotten that we are humans!
This post is not an attempt to change the nation but I know one thing for sure I am an Indian first and then a resident of whatever-state-you-want-me-to-be-a-part-of! The subdivisions on all other basis can follow later if you wish, though, I have never attributed it to my name and never will. The Kashmir issue affects me as much as the plight of the gaonbuda in Arunachal who will protect his land with ‘bamboo sticks’ if need be. I love the banana-stem sabzi as much as the murg musallam. The Jaipur forts beckon me as willingly as the Charminar does. And I am as much at home in a local train as I am at Marine Drive. For me this is India-a nation which keeps me in its bosom, protects its frontiers fiercely for the common to exist, gives space for people to build high-rises and chawls side by side, allows us to choose the language we wish to converse in and still does not mark our foreheads with subtitles. I am proud to be an Indian and wherever I may go I know I can come back to my motherland; to the pani puri and to Bollywood and to a place where the gongs in the Tawang monastery, the morning shlokas in Temples and the Fajr azaan in mosques all sound together to wake the people of its nation!