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Saturday, December 6, 2008

If I do not sing long and loud today, then when do I?

A few friends feel I am taking things a bit too personally. Yes, I do that. India and Indians have been lampooned and lambasted enough in my opinion. We are a beautiful people. If you need to know what hospitality is all about, go to a village home. Go to an Indian anywhere in the world. In an obscure town in the US , a Gujarati running a motel, made me some most welcome masala tea after the dishwater I had been forced to ingest and fed us dinner. He did not charge a penny and told me that I was at my brother’s place. Look at the face of hospitality our Taj staff offered their guests when under attack…staying put when they could have fled, guiding and calming them and acting like human shields! A waiter doing this as part of his duty? I will look at a waiter with new eyes from now.
If you want to see bravery, meet the average Indian. The Bapi Sen who gives up his life saving an ordinary woman from hoodlums, the men who jump in raging rivers to save complete strangers from drowning, even my father who refuses to pay even the smallest of bribes (the chai-pani) and will run endlessly to get the smallest job done for months and dare you suggest that he simply pay that dratted bribe and be done with all the rigmarole …they are the simple ordinary folk who want to make a difference. One of our constables threw a chair at the terrorist firing with an AK-47…a chair!! It is like me standing at the border and spitting at the enemy…that futile but isn’t it simply a marvelous gesture.? Especially since the constable admits his legs were quaking!

You want to see courage under fire then you need to meet an Army jawan. He is one of the most ill-equipped, most disadvantaged pawn who goes in to fight losing battles, thanks to policies made by people who might collapse if they had to spend a night in a bunker at a remote post, and he still turns the tide. He wins the war. He certainly does not do it for money or recognition…he is just a pawn and will be just as easily be sacrificed.

You want to see tolerance then see us. We not only accept all our diversities, we tolerate such conditions of living which would make the inmates of Hell rebel. 48 hr power shortages, 10 hour power cuts daily, roads that would make a camel throw up, traffic jams that stretch endlessly during office hours and make us hit the road an hour early simply to escape the worst of it…and the poverty that we tolerate…deaths due to starvation in a world that staples it’s stomach to stop eating!

And I am taking it too personally…I think we all should! We make one of the world’s most beautiful people such underdogs that my very body organs are rebelling. What do you feel when you see an animal beaten to death, a small child being hit, a man standing up to twenty and being killed? Multiply it a thousandfold and that is my feeling. I know that I might achieve the very pinnacle of success personally but it means nothing if my countrymen are being bombed on a daily basis. Personal growth and development is nothing if we stand where we are today….if God himself told me that I could be a Lakshminarayan Mittal today if I just turned a blind eye to all the horror, I would refuse.

Life does go on…take away all four limbs and the eyes and cut off the ears and the nose and the tongue and life would go on. Is that what life is all about…mere tenacity? A stubborn hanging on to the breath in our body? Or is it achieving what our Maker had in mind when He made us in his image?

Why I write is because every army has a band it marches to. I am in the band. I believe the glory of my country and I am not afraid to sing it out aloud. It is a song I heard as a child and it reverberates in me. If the song dies, I die. And if I do not sing long and loud today, then when do I?

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