“India is great, but little late.”
I read this quote on the wall of a backpackers’ hub at Pushkar many years ago. The foreign friend was right, of course. But there are reasons and, more importantly, there is hope.
• India is a continent, not a country. Many of our states are larger than some countries. Many of our cities have more population than some countries (no, we are not proud of this baggage). Yes, we are slow because we are still recovering from centuries of invasions and foreign rule. But we are a democracy too. Let’s all remember that – things can’t be forced.
• We speak multiple languages. There are 22 official languages; while some countries speak the same language and claim to be different people. We have arguments and frequently misunderstand each other!
• We are a junction of four ethnic groups – Caucasians from the North West, Mongoloids from the North East, Negroids from the South and Australoids from the South East. We are a melange of races – we look different from each other, we tease each other! We have 50% reservation for our poorer “castes”, we have had dalits in the top-most places including presidents (in comparison, the US got its first black prez only recently).
• We are a melting pot of religions. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism were born here. Islam and Christianity have been assimilating here for centuries. We are masters of multi-culturism. Heck, we even have languages born out of this assimilation. They are called Hindi and Urdu.
• We have been a playground for international intrigue for centuries since the Great Game. The CIA , KGB, Chinese intelligence, ISI and Saudi money have created communists, socialists, fascists of all sorts in a country which still believes in democracy. Since independence, we have been victims of five wars, religious terrorism, communist terrorism and socialist corruption. Yes, we are messy. It will take a while to recover, or win.
• We have terrain of every type – the world’s highest Himalayan snowline, evergreen forests, deserts, coasts, plateaus, islands, you name it. We dress different, we walk different. India cannot be judged through one touristy circuit of Eat, Pray, Love fame.
• That the hordes of backpackers, hippies, Beatles, MIT-techies, Buddhists, ISKCON followers et all come here to find themselves is no surprise. We are the oldest, continuing cultural REGION with millions of gods (even one who smokes pot and swings the gender barrier), numerous goddesses , science and literature. People are here for its ancient culture – Ayurveda, Yoga, literary texts like Vedas, Upanishads, Tantras, Arthashthra, Bhagwad Gita, Manusmriti, the Epics, Persian architecture, Bhakti (including Buddhist and Sufi), tales of valour (the Rajput, Mahratta and Sikh resistances), colonial period and our multi-hued Independence movement.
• We have matriachial societies in many regions. We have had women in positions of power – including presidents and PMs. In comparison, many developed countries are still waiting for a woman prez!
• Our crime rates are comparable with the world’s – there are criminals everywhere. Women are as safe (or unsafe) as elsewhere, as the UN data (at The Spectator’s Index in Twitter) shows – most developed countries have higher rates of crime against women (including US, UK, France, Germany, Australia). Of course, we are not proud of this either, even though our chauvinist Bollywood is one main cause. Visiting friends, just follow the exact rules normal citizens follow for New York, or Paris, or Berlin, or London, or Sydney. Don’t take lift from strangers. Don’t go into or through known city crime zones without escort at night. Staring is an issue (rural societies do not know that it is rude to stare) due to the ongoing rapid urbanisation. Ignore.
• We are recovering from a longish socialist rule. There is a progressive democratic revolution in progress. Hence the counter – narratives on religion, caste, intolerance, safety, lynching etc mostly sponsored by the Leftists regimes (including US democrats!). Isolated cases of crime over this vast country are selectively (based on religion / caste) threaded together in leftist media reportage for a short period to build up hype about a supposed intolerant “agenda”, and then as suddenly vanishes.
• The aim is to develop a persecution complex amonst the minorities so that they vote for UPA and its coterie (as Congress used to say in the late 70s – “Jab tak Ali (i.e. scared minorities who can be appeased) aur Coolie (i.e. illetrate poor who live on subsidies) hamare saath hai, we can never lose”. We all know how 68 writers have been hired by Analytica, we know how 1000 crores of hawala money was received at NDTV (both cases in court), we know how some NGOs have sold their soul for power, fame and money. Our sense of political correctness has been compromised by a sustained misinformation and disinformation campaign.
Yes, we are late, but we will be great, AGAIN.