I love their India

What is up with India? I don’t recognize the country we are turning into. Not any single thing, just many things. Seriously, in Mumbai – the economic freaking capital of the country and the roads are a biohazard. We have a record number of drunken driving arrests this year. Neighbours barely know each other these days. Teenagers are more ‘western’ than many bonafide firangis I know. Maids don’t last more than a couple of months.

Am I the only one who remembers tiled roofs and not being able to figure out which kid out of the tribe running riot finally goes to sleep in which house? Who grew up with the same maid working at home who was almost a family member? When a generation of people worked in the same organization for their entire adult working lives? When people saved, as in actually saved money?

Obviously time will bring change, but many changes I see are quite inexplicable. For example, how does it matter at all if you call a group of buildings a colony or a complex? Apparently, colony has gone out of fashion. I called restaurants ‘hotels’ all my childhood and got fed just fine. If you drink country liquor at a fraction of the price, you’re really a drunk. Apparently alcoholism discriminates between some narangi and Scotch. And no, the ‘quality’ reason doesn’t wash, because if we can quality control so many things, what’s one more? Anyway, as if you don’t end up drinking country once in a while in the name of Scotch – remember this is India?

We got rid of the Brits and embraced the Yanks. I think being ruled is so engraved in our psyche that it simply doesn’t come naturally to not have a ruler. What else could explain the fact that we see the garbage on our street and think its someone else’s problem? Wake up. We are free. We rule our country, we own it. The street and the garbage on it is ours.

Increasingly, I see India, but particularly corporate class so thoroughly western, that many foreigners are more in touch with their Indianness than them. They remind me of how a rural woman I know described her nephew – he buys the fanciest clothes to show off, but his underwear always has holes in it. If I hear one more teenager with a confused American accent, I’m going to go the Raj Thackeray way and refuse to speak with them till they speak in a language I understand.

Out of the many things we could have adopted – welfare systems, community initiatives, development of systems that take human knowledge in different directions….. we have managed to grab the most visible – the ones that will make us appear more western. Never mind that western formal clothing is likely a health hazard in India’s hot humidity. Mahatma Gandhi would violate the dress code of expensive dining rooms in the country he apparently fathered. I can understand the inconvenience of saris, but dhotis or lungis are actually the ultimate in soft comfort. There’s the little problem that the trend hasn’t picked up abroad yet.

I’m not against the west. I am against unthinking aping. It irritates me equally to see people do all kinds of illogical things in the name of religion.

The Hindutva guys beat their chests for the call of Hinduism/Nationalism to be heard, but it is imported nationalism. We hear some standards and condemn India for not following them. As if India knew that you would be discovering that the west thinks scratching your crotch is obscene today. We talk about the poor based on UN standards. We don’t have our own. Our goal is ‘compliance’. The Hindu marriage act will not allow you to marry twice (or more) – Christian style – apparently Dasharatha and Draupadi weren’t Hindus. But God forbid people convert. Stay Hindu, we’ll import Christian thought for you – Hinduism embraces all influences. “Muslims are the ultimate in evil. They are out to conquer the world. Something must be done about them. Kick them out, ban Islam, blah blah” Wait, you mean we can import the Islamic intolerance as well? That’s great, then we can defend the helpless Gods. I often wonder why man must defend God, if God is such a smart and powerful guy. If he isn’t, why are we running behind him for an eternity?

Next month, will be the season for Valentine’s day protests. People will wax eloquent about its evils. However, no one will try to create a psychological meaning and warmth around Padwa. No one will bother to offer couples something special on that day. Perfectly Hindu, but we abandon it and spend our time criticizing those who do celebrate the relationships.

We could have adopted the concern for human rights from the western values, but what do we do when we see injustice? Mind our own business of course. Remember we are not the rulers? Its someone else’s problem to fix. We see the government as our rulers. Joining politics is the social equivalent of becoming corrupt and ‘them’ not us. At the same time, we are superior to all this desi nonsense. We are so disconnected from our roots – good or bad – that paan stains on an unfinished wash basin are scandalous!!! Most city dwellers rarely celebrate Holi anymore. They hibernate in their homes for that half day when being out involves the risk that someone will put color on them. Funny part is, people walking with white clothes on the street aren’t getting any color on them. There simply aren’t the numbers of people playing Holi anymore for any spillover of the action to happen.