To diehard Indian admirers, who cannot bear the criticisms of dark sides of this great country, this article is not for you – please hit the delete button NOW! For the rest, this narration is strictly my opinion, experiences through my eyes as a resident of India the last 3 years. I love this country, my forefathers were born here; I laugh and genuinely am happy for her in her successes and grieve when she hurts and is down. But I am no idealist, glossing over India rising, at the expense of sometimes impossible to cope and complex tribulations. Enjoy…maybe.
My dearest India,
I struggle arduously, my dear, debate if I should write to you, whether my pleas will make any difference to the sad state of affairs within you. Not, most probably. But I write nevertheless; what to do yaar, old habits die hard, na? You will definitely not agree with what I say after I am finished, and that’s okay; fiery frustrations will ease off my chest. These have been boiling up in me since I migrated to you from USA in early 2008 with my family. You see Jaan, my ancestry is Indian, and I wanted my daughter who was 7 then to get a taste of life in the land of my great grandparents. A land that is great and diverse; to a pardesi, a visitor, a cocktail of frenzied delights and disgusts.
When I first see you way back in 1980, I fall in love, instantly, with all of you, the whole country. You seduce me then, with your exotic Goa and Kerala, historic Agra and Jaipur, rustic and rural UP and Bihar; your cuisine of heavenly handi kebabs of Lahore and dosa delights of Chennai and ras malais relishes of Kolkata; the summer mango madness, your fascination with everything Bollywood. The people in your belly generally are, well, for want of a better world, innocent; welcoming, warm and oh, so hospitable. So you entrap me, with your lovely body; like a temptress in a local mujra and I drink in your heady jasmine. The more I come to you, the headier is your grip until I can bear it no more. I too, want to be near you, inside you.
So I pack up from Houston and move to Mumbai where I have few friends and relatives. Things get off fairly well for a few months of our marriage. But then, slowly, surely, like a jealous husband suspecting a wayward wife, I notice anomalies. You realize I am now a mere resident, not a novel outsider, so you gradually turn on me; the novelty fades, your glances at me are not exclusive any more but furtive, perhaps seeking adventures not of my domain. Our differences commence as irritants mostly, but you, my Jaan, have definitely changed, you have many more admirers, many more seducers. You are booming, economically, with GDP nearing 9%, you are reckless in greed and disregard, sheer neglect. In quantity, you ape the West blindly but shun quality.
Sorry Jaan, I will be very candid, and what I say should hurt; I doubt it however, previous experiences a painful reminder, I now realize you really don’t give a rat’s arse.
The following list of gripes about you infuriate me, to a point my doctor is genuinely alarmed about my blood pressure’s equilibrium:
1. Corruption: I see you are ready for a defensive rebuttal; hold it! Yes, I know corruption is a scourge of every developing nation. Perhaps. But you so proudly proclaim you are now a developed nation, no? Why, even Obama couldn’t contain himself, dancing into frenzy, proclaiming India had arrived; other ‘major’ world leaders couldn’t wait to jig in after him. I grew up in Africa, so am aware of what chai is all about. India, you, however, beats most countries I know silly, easily on this. From the pot bellied policeman on the street corner to the Cheap, sorry, Chief Minister to almost the entire State and Central Monsters, sorry Ministers are deep in it for a slice. Want a driver’s license, want to lodge a police report, want to buy land, want to register as a foreigner, want to use a scarce public loo…? Show me the moola! Shameless. Blatant. Even the above suspicion Army; caught with their hands in the till. The media makes daily headlines of scams or scandals involving officials or lawmakers, there is outrage, horror, calls for action, all eventually futile. Time passes, new, bigger, bolder scams make for new, bigger, bolder headlines. Corruption is in your system my dear, woven into your very fabric, as intricately as an expensive sari on sale at Sheetals.
2. Apathy: Ah, you smile; I see you know what I refer to, no? You don’t care! From the monsoon potholes that jar my car and rattle my brains to the overflowing, stinking garbage heaps on street corners to the shockingly diseased, perhaps rabid cur that is furiously scavenging on top of a heap. If it takes the Supreme Court of India to rule whether stray dogs should be put down or reprieved, I know there is something pretty messed up with the system. From dog and human poop everywhere I walk, the menace of gurka spitting (national pastime, no less), people urinating and defecating in public, the stinky pong that arises from Malad to Mahim that most Mumbaites are seemingly immune to, trains cramped so tight, I am treated to hues of armpit hair wherever I turn my traumatized head, noise polluting so awful it stings my ears…. Brand new airports, supposedly worth billions of dollars, with tiles cracked and misaligned. I won’t even discuss the (un)Commonwealth Games, it will make me puke on you. A $75 million project that ended up costing $15 billion and not even half the work to show for it. Can you imagine how many schools, toilets, roads…can be built with that kind of money? Nobody cares, because funds meant to upgrade most British era infrastructure are sitting in some Neta’s Swiss bank account.
3. Goondagiri: A “political” party threatens violence for perceived insult to anything Marathi or remotely Hindu and the State (and you) kowtows. Ban Valentine Day, ban movies, ban books, ban artists, demand all storefront signs be in Marathi, demand apologies or else. In Mumbai, all non Marathis, out! Your citizens, from UP and Bihar, out! Break some bones, destroy store fronts, threaten violence, all in the name of Marathi Manoos, coerced by none other than one man at the head of civic government; your authorities wring their hands and look on; pathetically impotent. What hope do you have for your redemption if over 70% your elected lawmakers have criminal cases pending? There is a constitution and all well meaning laws within you, my dear; very few, if any, enforced or upheld. Nice to show to the UN, however, no?
To be continued…