It’s been sixty nine years since the British declared leave from India- sixty nine years to build our country as our own. Although I’ve only been alive for twenty two of those years, I’ve reflected on each with a sense of pride and patriotism.
You might not believe me- or at the very least you may be skeptical of my sentiments. After all, nearly two-thirds of my life have been spent abroad. For many NRIs (technically ‘Non-resident Indians’ but more appropriately ‘Not Really Indian’), being Indian is just a tick on a form. It’s a personal observation I’ve made over the past fourteen years, so trust me when I say that I expect the skepticism.
Well, maybe it’s our upbringing, but I never lost the Indian in me despite being in New Zealand. I’m privileged enough to enjoy the best of two worlds in a fabulous Hannah Montana fashion (minus the blond wig and fame, sadly). But no matter how much I change my accent outside home, or use typically Kiwi slang (‘cuz that’s just how it is here, aye mate) my Indian side outshines the rest.
(It comes out on display in the lounge every year!)
Being Indian feels good. I don’t know if it’s the family or friends, food (or fumes!), but I’m always drawn back to India. It is said that the world is in India, and I can certainly see why! We have snow capped mountains and white sand beaches; over a hundred languages and skin colours across the spectrum; the spiciest curries and the sweetest mithais; mosques, churches and temples- all in the largest democracy in the world. It’s a pity then that we don’t appreciate it nearly as much as we should.
When I see India from a western perspective, it’s mostly negative. It’s a perspective conceived by a media that largely shows rapes and riots. When you hear more of India’s failings than her merits, you can’t help but see their point of view. Our colourful saris hide cries of discrimination and big buildings hide many mini Dharavis. And behind the ultimate Indian icon, Bollywood, is the battle to be fair and thus lovely. Nearly seven decades on from the promise of a better future and yet we appear to regress as much as we progress.
Therefore I have a proposal for my fellow Indians today: instead of only sharing quotes by Gandhi ji and pictures of our flag, let us embody the true essence of being Indian and all the positive that comes from it. Let not your grades worry you, nor let Deepika Padukone’s face intimidate you. Smile at the person you pass by in the bazaar instead of looking the other way. Stand up for the downtrodden and respect the Indian streets. We cry about our government but nothing is going to change unless we are the change.
Yes, I’m halfway around the world. But I’ll always strive to be worthy of my ‘rich and varied heritage’. I’ll wear Indian clothes, and dance to Bollywood songs. I’ll be the bai‘s friend and throw my litter in a bin. I’ll thank the rickshaw-wala and smile while eating gola. No country is perfect, but in my eyes, India comes pretty damn close to it. So on this seventieth anniversary of freedom, let’s celebrate our independence with our unity. Jai Hind!