15th of August, 2011 is the day my nation celebrates its independence for the 64th time.
This curious thought struck me at an inappropriate time, an inappropriate place and with particular savagery(I still have the blues from the strike). The time was 08:32 PM, which isn't generally a time when thoughts strike me(this hard anyway), when I was sitting at McDonald's munching a Pizza McPuff, which isn't particularly a place which provides the fertile grounds for such(or indeed any) thoughts. Still, the thought bothered and nagged me, and I decided to do something about it(my first impulse was to choke and strangle it. When that didn't work, I settled for writing an article). But this particular thought didn't let up there. It kept irking me, irritating me, poking and prodding at my subconscious, hoping to elicit a response. Go away, said my mind to it. The thought turned a deaf ear towards it(a practice I find helpful. My mind has a mind of its own, and keeps whispering to itself, which confuses me no end). This thought, unlike so many else, wasn't happy going away. 15th of August is the day my nation celebrates independence. Yes, I knew it, have known it since I first formed conscious thoughts, and could have done without the reminder. There are enough reminders of an approaching Independence day - you have adverts in television, with everyone from movie stars to newspapers to chocolates and liquor brands all waving tricolours, you have netajis in their spotless white kurtas and topis(and big stashes of very black money in various offshore bank accounts) giving speeches about how this nation is a beacon for all the nations in the world, how the ruling party is spoiling the culture and heritage of India and how we all should take up arms against this phoren sarkar and lead the country to a brighter future, messages of a nationalistic flavour pouring from people you rarely hear from, and more recently, posting messages on various networking sites - Happy Independence day. All in the spirit of independence.
Frankly, it disgusts me, all this petty politics and cheap stunts in the name of the nation. It used to be simpler when I was younger, when I was too innocent to look besides the gimmick of "nationality", when I really looked forward to this day with pride and joy(apart from a loathing for the march-past that was to be held in school), when I could believe what I wanted to. But, alas, all good things come to an end. That time has passed, and I can no longer turn aside from such spectacles without a sense of guilt, shame and loathing. Do not get me wrong; I do not hate my nation. Rather, I love it profoundly- what shames me is the filth, the muck, the apathy hidden behind our nationalistic fervour, my own included.
64 years of independence. Proud to be an Indian. Proud of what? The steady worsening of our national debt? The rising unemployment? The migration of talented, smart individuals to greener pastures? The increasing obsession with foreign services, or the corruption and rot, from the highest office to the bottom-most rung? What, exactly, should we be proud of most? How can we celebrate happily with these issues still burning under the veil? Maybe that's what makes us Indians - ability to adjust to any situation(as shown recently by an underwear brand), or our unique quality of being in the midst of terrible hardships and still being content with ourselves?
Bullshit. That is what it is. We adjust because we can find no alternate way. We conform ourselves to provide minimum resistance to adversity. We're content because we don't think we deserve more. We're the classic pigeons - if we cannot see the problem, it cannot see us. We have self-esteem problems; we constantly undervalue ourselves so that others might take advantage of us. Proud to be an Indian, they say.
Most of us are glad to admit there are problems aplenty in this country of ours, that a solution is very urgently required. Most of us would be only too glad to rally behind someone who is ready to uproot all the problems and turn the nation on its head, as demonstrated recently when the nation rallied behind Anna Hazare and his fight for Jan Lokpal(everyone, from the common man to spiritual leaders stood up in support. Politicians echoed out promises and slogans from all corners possible on this round earth. They still ring in my ears). The cry and the hue has faded, all that remains is the echo of our own sound taunting us. At least, we can console ourselves that it was a start, wasn't it?
The idea is all well and good. Only, we're looking at it from the wrong angle. The problem is not with India- India is not weak, India is not corrupt, India is does not need fixing. Sixty-four years ago, our nation had hopes, it had dreams, aspirations. India was a giant in slumber, ready to awaken. What has happened since? We've steadily run the nation into the ground, walking over its identity, trampling its hopes and crushing its dreams, stripping the giant of its stature and throwing it to the wolves. We are the culprits, the ones to blame - us, each and every one of us. We are the ones to be pitied, we are the weak, we are the corrupt - we the pillars of India. We, the masters at blame-shifting and adjustments. We, the people of this country, the I in India. We have lost our identity, lost our faith in ourselves. We do not think of ourselves capable of anything. If there is a fault, there is always someone to blame seems to be the national mentality these days. We blame the politicians for corruption, all the while handing over a Rs. 100 note to the cops to avoid a challan. 1.21 billion people, looking for an excuse, a reason. Why should it be so? Why should we look to shift the responsibility of our actions, why should we seek to blame someone else? Do we lack the courage to take responsibility? Or have we just lost lost the initiative after two hundred years of foreign domination?
Whatever the reason, things have to change. No, that's not right. Things have to be changed. We should change them. We are the pillars that hold this nation, and we have to be strong, infallible, incorruptible. The change must be started - and it must come from within. The filth and the muck is too much to be swept away by a single man or act, but for 121 million people, it is not a difficult task. We must change ourselves, our practices, our habits. The cleaning should start with self. Only one can truly be aware of one's own faults and shortcomings. Start with yourself, and the nation will be freed from the shackles binding it, holding it back from finally being what it should be. We have the potential to reshape our destiny; about time we realized it. Only then, would we truly be free.
15th of August is the day our nation celebrates its independence. Let us find a day of our own.