What does India stand for?
I was taking a post snack walk with one my colleagues when this topic came up, though not exactly in this form. We were discussing amongst other things Indian attitude to the caste system, Indian crab mentality, Indian civic sense (or lack of it) and whether we cared about issues like global warming etc. I was wondering why we had this tendency to
look at everything as US Vs THEM. I mean while we are a gregarious and a warm set of people, why do we not think beyond our immediate family and relatives when it comes to helping. Why do we keep a boundary between whom we should be kind to and whom we should be indifferent with. Though I am sure we deliberately donot try to be bad with any one, we try to be consciously good only with people we are close with.
Think about our attitude to cleanliness. Remember the advertisement ( with Sharukh Khan ) aired by BMC ( Mumbai Municipal Corporation )where a family dirties the entire city but cringes to find the home messy. I was not too comfortable with this apparent dilemma- of a set of people extremely warm and friendly who can be totally indifferent when it came to certain basic sense like good behavior and civic sense. My intention is not to take a high moral ground and provide a solution but to figure out what can be a plausible reason. One apparent reason is that until basic necessities like food and shelter can be taken care of, we cannot really expect to build a critical mass of people who can think of the nation , social welfare etc.
But I was interested to know if there is a historical angle to all this. I mean India unites during crises – internal or external, as if given a purpose and reason for unity. But in normal times do we realize ‘what is the concept of India’ and what we stand for.
My colleague provided a plausible explanation. The concept of India did not exist before Independence because India was divided into more than 500 princely states and post independence while Nehru focused on a lot of important things like building institutions of science, technology and higher education, a non aligned stance when the world was getting divided by the cold war and a secular democratic nation, to the people of the country, India just remained a place to live in. We did not try to create the concept of a nation like the United States of America did.
I was reading an article by Arabinda Ray where he explains how after the opening session of parliament of a united Italy, painter, politician and patriot Massimo observed: “Now that we have created Italy, we must start creating Italians.”
I feel in our zest for nation building, we somewhere missed that we stand for. Indians until faced with a crisis do not fully understand the concept of a nation. We are still caught in regional conflicts. This can be accounted for by the fact that before independence there were as many as 568 princely states (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princely_state ). In fact it was our infighting that made us so vulnerable to attack. I will conclude with an apt observation by Maulana Muhammad Ali in the context of British Colonialism ‘‘we divide and you rule.’’
PS- Boi has continuously suggested that I reduce the size of my articles. Hence I shall refrain from writing huge lengthy articles and rather invite comments