August 15th, 1947. 0000 hrs.

India awoke to a new future. A future promising development, integrity and efficacious governance. Through this promise our nation was sculpted carefully and meticulously by the able political architects of the country we lovingly call “Bharath”. To the new age, India represented freedom — a movement so strong that it inspired races and people all over the world to rise against the tyranny of prejudice, colonization and slavery. But how has life progressed in Independent India? How has India evolved since the stroke of the midnight hour…?

I am fortunate to have grandparents who repeatedly give me comprehensive accounts of life — pre and post-independence. I cannot recall the number of times I have heard the phrase ‘In those days…’ which preceded a brief account of a certain incident in their lives which they photographically remember! Through these stories I saw India’s journey from being chained by the shackles of the British Empire to the young and progressive nation today.

But, how far have we actually come?

I do not speak of our soaring success in the fields of software, science, medicine and arts. I do not speak of our military arsenal. India has too many achievements in every sphere to be put into words, honestly. I speak of something which we, as Indians, value much more. Something which is ingrained carefully by our elders even before we are able to walk. Something which the entire world knows us for — Our Culture.

Indian culture has taken a major turn from what it was intended to be. Let us take the caste system which is considered as a dark spot in Indian society. The caste system was a segregation based on profession, merit and basic interest — not by birth. One was not superior to the other. A family could consist of a Brahmin, a Kshatriya and a Shudra in peaceful coexistence, thus, emphasizing on their vocation (which was based on their abilities and interest). This completely rational concept was twisted and turned into an evil method of profiling and divide. And this still exists.

Dowry, a practice so malicious which has resulted in many young women ending up into mere human ash dust. But how was this custom born? A young married couple was given domestic ware and monetary support occasionally, to help them start a life. A pure and kind gesture from both sides of the family. This eventually evolved into the wicked notion we know today as dowry.

We live in a society which has the potential of committing grievous crimes in the name of “Culture” and “Religion”. We live in a society which looks down upon inter-caste marriage to levels where the couple is brutally murdered or shunned away. We live in a society where female infanticide and gender bias still exists, where religion and politics are churned together to produce young, ignorant fanatics who fritter away their youth trying to protect a misinterpreted idea of ‘faith’.

I’m sure each one of us has heard this, but what can be done?

Let us be honest for a moment - if there is one game which the whole country plays other than cricket, it is ‘The Blame Game’. A hot cup of tea and a gathering of friends or family is all it takes for a prolonged discussion, involving criticism and deep analysis into a perceived flaw in the government, to begin with. Introspection is unheard of, simply because ‘Maine toh kuch nahi kiya’ (I did not do anything!). So is doing one’s part, and that’s because of the very common phrase ‘Isme mera kya?’ (What is in it for me?). And of course, how can I forget ‘Yeh sab toh hota hai’ (Things like this happen). The tolerance which Indians have is quite remarkable with a strong flavor of irony. One word a foreigner says against the motherland and we, magically, are pumped with patriotic adrenaline, but the news of a young boy being molested or an acid attack on a young girl is followed by a ‘movement’ of lighting candles which soon fizzles into ‘Yeh sab toh hota hai’.

I urge all of us to take the time and introspect our ever-so-perfect selves. I urge us to take up responsibility and the reins of the nation not with silent protests but with utmost energy and gusto. I urge the youth not to rebel against the law but to rebel against futile aspects of the ‘society’ and ‘culture’.

In the end, it is not our religion or, for that matter, our culture we are remembered for but it is our legacy which would be carried forward for years to come.