Whether you are a tourist or a local from within, there is no denying the importance, prevalence, cult and this rather magnanimous idea called India. It isn’t just a country, it is an epic idea about such wide ranging exquisiteness about everyday uncommonness that it just seems unique in all its colors and across all its great divide. Whether we speak of language, culture, traditions, music, our common beliefs and even our spiritual inquisitions, our back-burning fears associated with age old customs or the very way we chide or belch in public, spit where we aren’t supposed to or very casually mock and critique a strange sight, it is a given that it carries an exuberance confining us to this image called India.
Whether this image is good or bad, carries style or substance or speaks of an emulsion of social catastrophe or charm isn’t important. Rather what is important is to understand the idea of India and how generally one has got used to understanding and supporting or standing in total disagreement to the very ways in which India goes about doing its usual things. We are a land of paradox, that is for certain..
An envelope of things good and bad
One fine gentleman once told me, everything you hear about India is true and it’s exact opposite is also true. Silently gushing in sheer amazement of this young man’s terrific claim, but mostly for the construct of his sentence framing of India, moved and inspired me. Over the last few years, I have come to realize that this beautiful portrait of India that I heard was not just true but implicit of the reality in whose wake the line was formed. If you just notice, India consumes the maximum number of Luxury cars (across the geographia of these lean and mean machines) in the elitist segment, for the lack of better word, and yet, there are as many people who go without personal cars as any you would find. A country that speaks jubilantly, vehemently and passionately about the need and necessity of consuming good quality food, backed by nutrition and the construct of a balanced and healthy diet, has the maximum number of cases of diabetes and diet related ailments, if the last 5 years are to be believed. The ambiguity of both happiness and sadness is so rich and so tremendous in its grip across all spectrums of the Indian society that while certain aspects about India lift us, they also harrow us causing pain and misery.
In fact so earnest is the reflection of India’s vastly striking divide, both in the ergonomics that govern financial realities of the country and those concerning the ethical and moral spectrums that one can very well go on and on endlessly, both raving and criticizing this nation of grand paradox.
Our Women: from sister, saheli, maa, didi to item bomb
I would like to recollect the splendor and majesty surrounding the serenely designed and massively erected ancient temple of Parthenon in modern day Greece, constructed at around circa 432 B.C. This historical monument is more than just a monument. It is a relic of colossal history that stands proudly atop a rich vein of history.
Legend has it that when one of the oldest civilization in the world, Greece, came under an intense series of attack ever since the temple of Parthenon was constructed, there was more threat attributed to the temple’s survival than any realistic moment of pride that the Greeks hardly ever found time for in order to celebrate their priceless symbol of architectural superiority.
In 1687, it is believed that the most charming symbol of classical Greek civilization came under scathing attack in a brutal siege of conquest as perpetrated by the Venetians who were sent by a dictator Francesco Morosini(born at Doge of Venice). Once the Ottomans were captured, Greece’s most amazing temple of grandeur and dignified beauty was again subjected to tumultuous attacks by the British, around 1801, when the remaining antics at the temple erected to celebrate the legendary Goddess Athena were removed by the British Ambassador to Constantinople. But, this isn’t the only suffering that Greece’s Parthenon endured. It was made by the Roman Catholics to serve as a church and even as a gun power refinement factory. Later, made into a mosque, the sacred place of worship of the Moslems, the temple of Parthenon in its audacious surge to survive legendary sieges and taciturn reflections of historical oddities, continued to play around. It is only now that the touristic wonderland that enjoys an yearly visit of million plus travelers from around the world is being subjected to selective restoration by the Cultural Ministry of Greece.
Akin to the historical triumph and yet such savage subjugations that this famous temple suffered in the past, is the condition of an average woman in the Indian society. While she is someone’s mother, someone’s sister, she is also the loving daughter, the adorable wife, the encouraging but nagging girlfriend and the most amazing embodiment of love as hailed by her “soulmate”. But, where does our women stand in the modus operandi of a status conscious Indian society.
We aren’t going to culturally batter this thought, deep routed in the consciousness of the modern Indian society that, “it is a man’s world or that ours is a society dominated by women”. Yet, at the same time, I would like to not limit the expanse and splendor of our loving women to that of being mere successful entrepreneurs who are seen sharing the burden of running an average Indian household in 21st century India.
A woman is way more than the sum total of her image building, impression-carving subtleties. A woman is the most potent and exuberant form of love. She is an ocean of compassion and peace and one who visibly withstands many a storm that egoistic men and those who live with the pride emaciated with the notion of being “bread-earners” enjoy in a society that torments, especially here in India- the very existence of this sex. We aren’t subverting the status quo of non-feminists nor are we here to inflame the egoistic self-massaging pride of women leaders’, we are here to throw light onto a territory in India where women, most of them, hailing from struggling in poor economic backgrounds are subverted and subjected to an existence that bestows upon them nothing more than mere venomous objectification.
It isn’t to say that the whole of India subjects women to brutality. That isn’t so, but there are everyday instances where we would rather hide our faces in shame than to click joyful ‘selfies’ with our female counterparts for our complete lack of apathy to how they are treated in the society.
According to the Indian Constitution, one of the most strikingly rich anecdotes of democratic alignment to an idea of polity and rationality says that, “All Indians are my brothers and sisters”. While it’s true that we espouse ourselves literally in phonetic fashion to celebrate a festival called “Rakshabandhan” (the customary tying of a powerful thread of bond and love between a sister and brother) and as we should, what becomes of our sisters who we turn an absolute blind eye on when they are teases, mocked and believe if you may, “molested” under the squalor of absolute disdain and oblivion.
One must ask, what becomes of the manhood, bravery and irreducible courage of the boys educated in most elite academies charmed with latest IT infrastructure to those tough ethics, values and meanings of respect, harmony and culture in a subverted system called “paathshala” when in front of million eyes, a woman is raped, molested and if one wishes to compare Indian psyche to that of the incorrigible Nazis, thrown with acid under broad daylight?
Who are we to blame for burning the fist of our dear sister with absolute condemnation of respect when she is subjected to brutality in a country whose very ethos, construct and spirit boasts of the need for education and the importance of equality? While no filmy hero is expected to jump out of the silver screen or that gold class auditorium and practically speaking no Bruce Lee is ever going to pump out the adrenaline out of the body of these senile criminals who in front of our naked eyes, strip our mothers and daughters of their respect, a thought has to be given and must necessarily be drawn to India’s polity, legal structure and its jurisdiction which on many counts- either sees a women being raped when she approaches a police station for registering an FIR or is turned blatantly away by the ‘eyeing’ cops who reserve their interest to eat sandwiches instead of reaching out to help the needy.
Women in India are almost the Parthenon temple of Greece. As an embodiment of culture, values and ethics they are incorruptible and pure. But, just like the capturing of the temple at the hands of the nemesis of Greeks, it is the constantly occurring blasphemous ill treatment of women at the hands of goons and uncultured men who can’t think more of a woman other than seeing her as a cheap commodity that is only meant to be exploited. Akin to the Parthenon temple that came to be worshiped as a church, giving way to its original purpose to a whole new identity, our women who a night before their marriage are just daughters to loving parents, transform willingly into dutiful wives and daughter-in laws. One finds and interesting historical parallel between these two completely different trajectories.
What becomes of our gentleness and humility, when men born to misery and living amidst moral degradation push their women into prostitution so that they may get the much needed rupee to buy a bottle or resort to drugs without even thinking for a second about the importance of integrity and respect, something they easily demand from their wives. Even the mere way with which a female is demanded dowry by the family of her husband to be goes a long way in defining an India which seems hell bent to justify this as a logical ask when it is clearly nothing but sheer trade exchange in the name of marriage. The boy’s father prods proudly whilst making inhuman and unworldly demands from the family of the girl whose father in his simple wish to get his daughter married off to a good family is seen with eyes down and hands folded in an exchange of relation that is little more than a commercial bid, mostly won by the groom.
Much worse still being married, women are subjected to torturing, shabby treatment and treated with disdain when touched unmanly by men who lack in both chivalry and courage and who do not stop before raising their hand on their own wives who they had sworn to protect under all circumstance.
But, clinging our way back to reality, one is not sure that there can be a greater irony than that of the fact that this is the same Bharat where an old woman from Yugoslavia took refuge and later personally treated with absolute love and compassion those in Calcutta who came to call her Mother Teresa. Also, I am not sure how and under what circumstances did we create a film that goes by the name of Mother India.
Our everyday ill-conceived obscurities and shabbiness
There has been a rise in popular culture in India and its fabric of entertainment, one may say. Standup comedy is doing the usual rounds of popular consumer throbbing in restaurants and pubs. But even in comedy, which is pure observational ecstasy served with a clean spirit of providing wit and perhaps funny wisdom in its thinly veil of humor is considered to be “offensive”. But, who judges if that is right?
We are a land that churns up PhD’s and doctors, suited-booted and tie clad entrepreneurs who claim to deliver sermons of financial restructuring and boasting of liberating India from its clutches of old fashioned and dogmatic beliefs. On the other hand, we have moral preachers and hundreds of “Godmen” who in the garb of driving individuals to the path of spirituality are commonly seen as being numero uno sex offenders.
One is ought to think, that how come in a country that prides itself on the ethos of “Ekta”(unity), “Vinamrata (politeness) and importantly Maryada and Sammaan (respect) come to lag so far behind in real practice.
The commoditization of money as an entity that enables one to buy “property” and “safeguard” himself against the bad times that can strike anytime often are seen veiled under the premise of competition whose very idea of solidifying oneself to better prepare against challenges often comes to be defeated as an idea that becomes a potent tool to “defeat” self made competition.
How do we define progress
Criticizing isn’t bad provided there is a context to criticism and a spirit of well meaning behind it. In our attempt to do the same, may we also engage readers to understand and analyze just what conforms the idea of “success” or “progress” as one gets to see it.
While the fear of subjectivity exists everywhere with a constant threat to defeat objectivity, especially by reducing a potent argument with the politically correct stance that “to each his own” is the truth in all human lives, cannot be further away from truth.
What would you call progress? An autorickshaw driver’s son going on to earn bread and butter for his family, or an Istri-Wala earning enough to earn a cell-phone to contact his clients? Similarly, a “differently abled” person finding employment amidst all existential crisis at workplace is sign of progress or that oggler on the road who refuses to malign women by actually standing up from his seat in the bus to offer comfort and solace to an aged woman?
If the above were to be true, which are surely , in some cases as “Badal Raha Hai India” ethos goes on to convey, we would have been a very different country in the mire of our social and cultural standing.
Everyday anomalies and our heroes
Here in India, especially in the Urban cities, it isn’t uncommon to see a jaywalker who first breaks the rule by not crossing the road on the zebra crossing to be walked over by a beetle leaf chewing prankster who happens to bail himself out being a politician’s relative. Banana leaves being found on road and beetle leaf stains on the walls of hospitals and even civilized society buildings paint a characteristic emulsion on our starry eyed walls that speak of “civil disobedience” in 2015 when the campaign was done and dusted five decades ago. Yes, showing the middle finger on a cricket pitch is surely an indication of giving it back but, at the same time before we ridicule Mahatma Gandhi without understanding his stance on social justice and coming to support others without knowing the density and truth of India’s freedom struggle goes a long way in explaining our tragic downfall as a nation state.
The very idea that your individual state is bigger than that of the collective identity called India and that pronouncing Yog as Yoga and Ram as Rama at the pretext of saying passionately, “that this is how it is supposed to be in Sanskrit” goes on to confirm nothing but our complexes and prejudiced stance in asserting an ideology that lacks in solidity and reason and attaches itself to a half-hearted idea as followed by the West toward India. We aren’t lobbyists for speak in Hindi campaign, nor are we campaigning against Yoga or Gyms but the very fact that an India we represent from our grand understanding, rather in absolute lack of it is very limited to its grand expanse.
India is a colossal paradox where hopes, dreams, joys and tears exist together in unison and will no matter if a Punjabi thinks of the country as a “pind” or a Rajasthani idolizes it as “Mharo Desh”. Perhaps, time has come to remember in the same vein of respect and appreciation a Veer Savarkar (a forgotten revolutionary who is no more than a wretched old picture hung on Maharashtrian households) as we adore Gandhi. Maybe this is the time to reserve the right of enthusiastically hailing an Irom Sharmila (dying every day in hope for repealing AFSPA in Northeast and being on fast for last 14 years) as we hail Priyanka Chopra for her recent hit “in my city”. Perhaps, there is no greater time than now to remember the sacrifice of your aged father who fed you with his loving hands when you were a child as we regard Sachin and Ganguly’s exploits in saving a game for India.
Perhaps, time has come to drop a tear for the soldier who went down fighting for an India who doesn’t even care to remember that what became of his family and war widows and hail in the same rich vein of respect that departed soul with which we look up to a Rahul Dravid who stood like a Wall for an India on the pitch.
The time is ripe and right for us to look at ourselves and at others with the same sense of compassion and significance with which we admire our heroes and that if we come together to save a collapsing India from its everyday shabbiness- we may just walk a long walk to freedom from the prison of our prejudiced minds.