I love my nation. No, I don’t have those that take the laws into their hands behind me as I state these words. This is an expression of emotion I make wholeheartedly. I love it, because I’ve had the fine pleasure of growing up within different pockets of this vivid land — each unique, with a different lesson to teach. Each one of them with their cuisines, traditions and diverse approach to life itself. And yet, if there is a common string across all of them, it is probably the fact that we share the same nation. That at some point of time, our ancestors shared the same struggle against an empire which was much stronger and more complicated. That we could forego our divisions of faith, language, culture, geographic distribution or political belief to devise a better nation for tomorrow. I love it as it has been home to all kinds of people — traders from rome, refugees — distraught from war, emperors — seeking to wage war, seekers of wisdom from across the seas, the saints that set base atop our mountains, and you, and me. Over the years, it has been a young fledgling civilization that had its own systems of sanitation and monetary system, long before our European overlords even figured how to handle villages. An empire that at one point of time boasted about thirty-three percent of the world’s GDP — and a land with about one-third of the world’s hungry. This land of mine, has had a personal journey as dramatic as any 18th century novel could be — filled with ample instances of rises and falls.
Perhaps, I don’t really love this nation for those reasons alone. I’ve stayed in nations without a democracy and I’ve seen other aspects that personally matter to me, and I still see the beauty of this nation. Maybe it is a little too cliched to look at things like heritage and culture in the presence of a dwindling social system that looks down on the poor and state one’s love for the country. I love this nation for the fact that it lets me speak my mind, maybe even in the face of exceeding criticism from people who think otherwise — but within the right medium, framework and circumstances, those rights are meant to be protected by the law. Indeed, as a Christian from Kerala, I have my share of — ‘what’s up with this democracy’ moments when they come around and tell me I can no longer eat beef. But on the flip side I have citizens of this nation, close friends that ensure I get my beef steak on christmas night even when their religious beliefs condemn the same. I love this land for the fact that it gives me equal opportunity to take things into my own hands and flip the table around if I am willing to put in equal effort, mobilize resources and spend a good amount of my time. The barrier to change in comparison with other economies remains drastically lower. The fact that in spite of all of the flaws this administration has, in spite of its shortcomings in ensuring the needs of its gargantuan population is met, despite the countless scams and bureaucratic bull crap this nation has- it gives everyone a fighting chance.
I grew up in an India that took pride in its diversity and told me that guests were to be considered God. My teachers and peers were respectful of our differences, in faith and policy, but did not stand back from vehemently debating over what they stood for. This is the land where I could discuss the wisdom of the Quran, Vedas and the Bible with my atheist and religious friends and walk away without anyone being offended. That India still exists. I see it when I see my peers wish each other on occasions pertaining to different faiths. I see it when I find people being respectful of the prayer timings my Muslim friends observe. I see it when people admire how effectively the Sikh community mobilize resources for the poor and distraught and share their pain in the riots of 1984. That India has actually gone nowhere, and therefore, I love it vehemently.
However, the general aura of discomfort and dissident, put up in display each time someone criticizes decisions by the government makes me wonder what’s up. It’s almost like this nation is having its rebellious teenage phase where anyone questioning it is told to leave — sometimes to Pakistan, sometimes to the slaughterhouse, sometimes to personal disgrace. Perhaps the fact that the largest share of our population comes from a generation that is still very young, holds no experience in real life, drugged on ideology, looks up to a single leader as the solution to the maladies of its existence and possesses excess energy could explain the behavior. Each time someone seeks for the rationale behind certain decisions the government made, people are quick to label the person an anti-national and stoop to disgraceful slurs. Each time, individuals seek to protect their individual rights, they do so with risk of harming oneself off late.
Often times, I find myself wondering if the youth of our times need a crash course on democracy. If they need a reminder that democracy is a system where the governing work for the governed and not vice versa. That this is not a dictatorship where we look up to a single leader to solve our problems, but work as a collective force to fix the inefficiencies of this nation.
Take for instance — demonetization. In spite of the fact that major economists including the likes of Paul Krugman do not really believe in it, in spite of the fact that our own former Governor of the RBI did not back it — we have individuals without a basic education in economics touting it as the end all solution for it. Our lack of expertise combined with the dogmatic propaganda that is shared by media- all of which are owned in some ways by those working closely with the ruling party is leading to a scenario that questions the very foundations of democracy. Until and unless we maintain, protect and defend an environment where every individual can question the functioning of the government, we have effectively managed to fail what our forefathers left us. They worked underneath a system of government that did not bother for the poor, or give each individual their due rights in the free market economy and paid a heavy price to give us what we have — the world’s largest democracy. And yet, we take it for granted. In our pursuit for personal wealth and happiness, we forget the fact that all of it could be at risk as citizens of this nation if we do not maintain it.
I love this nation — for the silent voice of dissent that rises, in the face of riots and powers much stronger than one. For the rebels that question the functioning of this government and the intentions behind it. For the experts that do not sell their souls to the governing bodies and express the lack of thought behind some of their decisions. For my right, to write these words and right some of the wrongs, we collectively do. Nationalism, never has been solely about taking pride in what others did and left for us, but also about bothering to put our foot just enough in the game to maintain what we have, so our future generations have something similar to grow up in. It is not the willful agreement to the whims and fancies of the few in power, but the consistent inquiry of what could be plausibly be better for our collective shared future.