Sunday, 13 June 2010

Mint Lounge: I May Not Be An Indian

Yesterday, this article ( by Mint Lounge editor, Priya Ramani, was probably the most read and most RTed article on Twitter (Well, it was the most RTed tweet on my timeline). I think it is a brilliant article. It takes a certain amount of courage to publish an opinionated article like that, knowing that she would face brickbats for it. And face brickbats she did.

To me, it seemed like a piece written one day in an outburst of emotion. The title and the tone of the article strongly suggest it. But then I think, the author got it all wrong. None of the things she wrote, mean that she is not Indian.

Being Indian does not mean you must like mangoes. Being Indian does not mean you've to read Chetan Bhagat or Paulo Coelho (I've read their bestsellers, and I'll run a mile away at the very sight of their books). What you wear or want to wear is your choice, being Indian has nothing to do with it. A few Bollywood actresses wear nothing at all. Does that make them any less Indian? I don't watch any Indian soap on air. In fact I hate them from the bottom of my heart. Does that make me non-Indian? Nor do I speak or even make eye contact with people in my compartment while travelling. So I'm not Indian?

No sense of pride when she's made to stand in attention in a movie theatre, but impatience that her popcorn's getting cold. Well, for the lack of another word, I'd say that that is an attitude problem, and still has nothing to do with being Indian. The first time I had to stand in attention for the national anthem in a movie theatre I did not feel pride, but I did feel a sense of renewed respect for the national anthem. After all, the Indian national anthem is known to be one of the most melodious anthems in the world, and that is something to be proud of really. Standing in attention for the national anthem is not about pride, but about respect.

Only girl child can save India? I think it's the mutual co-operation and respect between girls and boys, rather women and men that can save India. Girl child alone cannot. That, still, is her personal opinion. I don't see what it has to do with being Indian. The girl-boy disparity exists all over the world and not only in India.

We aren't the greatest people in the world. True, only a zealot would say otherwise. She never understood Indians' sense of (fake) pride, as she puts it, during the "Jai Ho" phase. Agree Jai Ho wasn't A. R. Rahman's best. I'd also like to say that Slumdog Millionaire isn't an Indian movie, but a movie about India made by a foreigner, and we need not feel proud that it won Oscars. But aren't we happy that A. R. Rahman, with that song, has catapulted Indian contemporary music (the kind I think the author likes since she doesn't like Lata's slow version of the national anthem) on to the world stage? Why shouldn't that make us happy, and proud?

We're always on steroids when it comes to festivals and weddings, she says. Diwali, she points out. Every country has its own traditions and way of celebrating festivals. If she were in another country, she'd probably rant about them too. Few days a year, people get to let go off all inhibition, be themselves and enjoy, and she says we're on steroids. Still, it isn't about not being Indian. The author probably needs to introspect her outlook towards life. Festivals and weddings are happy occasions meant for enjoyment.

Being Indian doesn't mean you've to believe in Ram Rajya. That's what the BJP believes in. I'm Indian and I don't believe in Ram Rajya. I strongly believe in secularism. That doesn't mean I'm not Indian.

Aren't there Indians that invite only about a 100 people to their daughters' weddings? How does the number of people invited to a wedding judge how much Indian one is?

The author has harped on the stereotype that outsiders have about Indians, and tried to fit herself in it. She didn't fit in. Doesn't mean she's not Indian.

In fact, I see it this way. I think she's sufficiently Indian because she came back to India after her master's. It's so much better than studying in India and taking all the knowledge abroad to serve another country. She's aware that India hasn't produced any serious scholars after independence. That bothers her. If she weren't Indian, would it? Dunking non-biodegradable idols into the ocean disturbs her. Doesn't that mean she's worried that we're polluting our own oceans? The very fact that she has pointed out where she thinks we might be wrong is proof enough that she's an Indian who wants change, however right or wrong her personal opinions are. I think all that the author of the article needs to do is look beyond her cynicism and look at the brighter side of things, accept certain customs and traditions. Some things (like Diwali) just won't change. You might as well enjoy them. You'll make memories.

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