India achieved Independence in 1947. Independence from the British was supposed to bring a wave of equality, development in infrastructure and a more vibrant democracy among other things. After 66 years, I can safely say that we have achieved a minute fraction of what our forefathers had envisioned.
Our Indian culture is boiling pot of biryani, idlis, vadapav, and dhoklas. We share lunchboxes with our colleagues, we gossip with them against the politicians of the country. But when it comes to marriage, the card of religion is played. I will greet you during Eid and you burst crackers during Diwali, we are tolerant towards each other’s religion and do respect each other’s space. But if I want to get married to your co-religionist, the family’s ‘izzat’ (pride) comes into the picture. In India, religion is of paramount importance. We are god fearing people but don’t hesitate to strike another in the name of religion.
We believe in equality. In fact we even have separate sections for the underprivileged in various streams of education and job offers, so that there is no caste system. But the very system that is meant to protect you and give you opportunities, classifies you. It tells you that you are not good enough but there is a helping hand. I am all for uplifting the masses, but by giving them quality education and guidance that they can fulfill their dreams without being classified. And there is an ugly side to this coin also. The rich procure seats to higher education based on their money and that is where our education system has completely failed. If only we could have struck a balance between the two early on, India would have been a superpower today.
While browsing through the newspapers, I glance at the various matrimonial advertisements. Parents look for a suitable bride or groom from a particular religion, education and last but not the least ‘fair skinned’. The bride in general has to have a wheatish or a fair complexion. This is irrespective of the fact that the groom could be lost in a dark room and could be located only if he smiles. We have always distinguished people based on color, right from the British era to the current times. In one hand, we are proud of our dusky skin and on the other hand we are promoting fairness creams with shade meters nonetheless.
Recently an Indian origin contestant won Miss America. The racial comments that were passed were quite astounding. There are two sides to this. First, she was born and brought up there. So it means that you can migrate to another country but I am sorry you can’t move up the food chain. The conflicting part to this would be this – Let’s say if a person of another nationality, whose ancestors were not Indian won the Miss India title. Would we let it pass? The press would have a field day taking opinions of various celebrities and former Miss India’s. The women’s’ wings of various organizations in our country would go on a hunger strike to make sure the decision is overturned. To be fair we are no less from the racial discrimination than the ones who tweeted about it.
I know this seems pessimistic about my country but I know the pros and cons of India. Today I can renew my passport within three months. Earlier it took at least six months. I can have a landline (telephone line) installed within one week as compared to the three months waiting time to be allotted a number, not so long ago. I can travel a distance of 10 miles in a matter of an hour due to the various bridges across the harbor as compared to the two hour drive earlier. I have witnessed the revamping of our international and domestic airports. So I acknowledge that India is progressing slowly. But it needs to be the hare instead of the tortoise in this race if it wants to fulfill the dreams of our forefathers and be giant global leaders in politics, education, business, and health.
September 30, 2013.