27 July 2006

What holds us from being patriotic?

This is one of my articles which I had written during my initial days at Patni sometime during Nov-Dec 2003. Surprisingly, this was published in one of the internal e-magazines of Patni. Getting tempted to edit the article at a couple of places beacuse some things seem to be quite out of context now and the language can be improved at a lot of places. But lets keep this as a reminder of the way I started writing. So, just posting the article in its entirety. The epilogue has been added later.

‘India is my country’ – This is one sentence we all have said a thousand times in our school pledge but there were very few times when we really meant it. The word ‘patriotism’ has a very complex meaning and understanding it when it is used in context with a country like India which itself is so complex in its ethnic diversity is a mammoth task. In nation full of diversities like India, developing a sense of belonging to a single nation, a single culture is perhaps more difficult than it is anywhere else in the world. And we all know that we are not patriotic.

The truth is that we never really take pride in being Indians. We are not fiery nationalists like the Germans or the Japanese neither are we passionate about our country. We seldom take pride in our rich heritage and illustrious history.

So, what is that stops us from being patriotic?

The pride about which I am talking comes from strength & power, the strength of will, power to triumph against odds and the vigor to beat adversaries and adversities. I don’t mean to say that Indians are weak at will or they are not good at beating adversities. In fact, the opposite holds true. The history says that we belong to race of survivors who have always triumphed against whatever misfortune we encountered. But the fact remains that we are not as aggressive as other imperialist nations. When it comes to assert power and show our supremacy, we are generally timid and coy.

To cite an example of nationalist people, I would like to refer to Germans and Japanese. Both these countries have been imperialist countries in the history. Both the countries carried out their imperialist designs with great fervor and aggressiveness. Germans, don’t even refer their country as Motherland, they call it Fatherland, such is their sense of nationalism. These are the countries, which have always ruled others and never have been ruled upon. On contrary to these India is a country, which has always been ruled and plundered for the interest of her rulers – first, the Moghuls and then the Britishers.

Recently, I received a mail listing of ten things that make India proud. One of those ten things was that India has never invaded any country in the past 1000 years. But I would like to ask all of you that is it something to be really proud of? I don’t want that my country should start invading the weaker ones but at least we should able to defend ourselves at hour of peril. We have even failed to do so in the past, more than once. I, personally don’t believe in Gandhi’s theory of non-violence. I am a believer in Darwin’s theory of ‘Survival of the fittest’ i.e. only the best will survive and the rest all will be and should be eliminated.

For most of us born post-Independence, patriotism has got a different meaning. It is not holding strikes and hartals for our demand of freedom or bravely facing British bullets or dying for our motherland. Now the concept is different. Now it’s a desire to take our country to the pinnacle of success, to make it a technological and economic superpower, to show others that Indians can actually make things happen in this world and India no longer belongs to the club of developing and third world nations thriving on grants from World Bank and US.

Last year on the 56th anniversary of India’s independence, India Today had done a cover story on the ‘56 things that make India proud’. I believe that there are much more than just 56 things that make India proud. We have our armed forces, which is always a source of immense pride for any nation. Our forces are one of the most disciplined in the world.

We are a nuclear power. We also belong to exclusive club of nations, which have the ability of launching highly sophisticated and advanced satellites using indigenously built launch vehicles. We have world-class institutes like IITs and IIMs, which are as good as MIT, Wharton or Stanford. (Now it is another story that students from these institutes end up serving US). The list is perhaps endless.

Consider the case of the students who go abroad for higher studies and never come back. I, myself have asked bright young classmates of mine, going abroad for higher studies, that do they plan to come back. Their answer was a flat no. The argument they have to offer is that India has nothing left for bright and intelligent people. According to them, here only the corrupt and exceptionally powerful can succeed. Merit has got no value. In short, India has nothing to offer to the brilliant and hardworking. Although, I partially agree with them but the situation is not so grim as it seems. I would like to ask these people that above all what are you doing to improve the situation?

It’s not just a question of brain drain. If you opt to work for ISRO over working for NASA, then monetarily you may be losing a lot but the pride and the sense of accomplishment in launching your space vehicle, designed and fabricated at your own labs against all the sanctions imposed over us is simply unmatchable. It is something no amount of money can buy. I have met such BARC scientists who explain the latest developments in India’s nuclear program with a twinkle in their eyes, which speaks of the pride about which I am talking. Many of them have turned down many lucrative jobs to serve their country and make her a technological superpower in spite of all odds against us. It is on the silent hard work of these people that generations thrive and nations progress.

Another reason that can be attributed to our lack of patriotism lies in our flawed education system, which is the brainchild of Lord Macualay who introduced it way back in 1839. After introducing it, Macualuay had said that the 10th generation of Indians churned out of this system will be morally & ethically so much corrupted that this country’s doom will be inevitable. We belong to the sixth generation who studied under Macualuay’s system and the result is before everybody to see, judge and comment.

Today, I am considered smart and intelligent, if I speak in English even if I can speak fluent Hindi and the person to whom I am speaking also understands Hindi thoroughly. They say that it creates a good impression on the person if you speak in English. This shows our very mentality itself is flawed. How can you expect a person to be patriotic or for that matter be interested in his country’s welfare if he’s ashamed of speaking his mother tongue.
You ask any urban kid belonging to the so-called upper economic strata of the society about Harry Potter, he or she will narrate you the whole story perhaps in a matter better than J.K Rowling but the moment you ask them about stories of Vikram-Betal or Panchatantra, they get absolutely blank. I myself have tried this. The kids, today are ignorant about their history and culture. What can you expect such a generation of citizens to do for their country who themselves are not aware of their roots.

Our present education system is something, which was imposed on us by the Britishers and we are still clinging to it even after 57 years of independence. This system needs a drastic change. The system should be devised by keeping in mind our culture, our society and our changing needs.

Patriotism is not just speaking Hindi and using swadeshi goods. It’s all about taking pride in being an Indian and doing something, which makes India proud.

I am a strong advocate of economic liberalization and globalization, which brings about the feeling of competition and competition brings out the best in us and helps us to excel.
We, Indians represent a significant part (more than 15%) of world population (this is something not to be proud of), but still we don’t have any representation of our culture in international forums like UN. This was the first time that an Indian PM (Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee) delivered his UN speech in Hindi.

The problem with Indians is that, everybody strives for individual growth but nobody cares for the community. We must develop an international outlook with a broad understanding of the changing world around us. But at the same time we should be knowledgeable enough about our history and heritage. Then only we will be able to face the world head on. This is the key to be a superpower.

Small actions of ours like spitting on the road and throwing thrash here and there, speak of our sense of responsibility towards our country.
When you yourself don’t contribute anything for the development of our country then you have no right to blame the government for being corrupt and inefficient.

In the nutshell, it can be concluded that most of us are not concerned or bothered about the development of India. They remain indifferent to India’s plight and keep on blaming the government and the system but they often forget that they too belong to the same system, which they are cursing.

But, all is not lost. The picture is not so dismal as it appears. There is still a lot of hope and we are striving to achieve excellence in every conceivable field and should continue to do so. We all need to be more responsible citizens and try to keep the interest of the community over individual interest. This may sound like an ideal scenario but it can be done. We should continuously and relentlessly work hard to take India to pinnacle of success and regain our past glory. That will be the day when every Indian will be proud of India’s achievement. Then even the superpowers of today will hold India in awe. For that to happen India needs to come out of her present image of a weak and developing nation. Now it is our responsibility to make sure that it happens.
It will be a different kind of freedom for us, something much different from what we attained fifty-seven years ago.

Epilogue: I don't believe in 'popcorn patriotism' (don't know who coined the term but read it in one of Ms. Bachi Karkaria's articles) where you paint your face in tricolor everytime India goes to bat or get a rush of adrenaline by shouting anti-Pakistan slogans. Patriotism for me is more than singing 'Jana Gana Mana' at the begining of movie in a movie theatre. If you bunk the first half of the office to watch an India Pakistan ODI and don't work for the remaining day because of the overwhelming sorrow of India losing the match, then you are far from patriotic. Patriotism for me is to contribute towards your country in a productive and constructive manner, however small the contribution may be.


Raghav said...

Well written piece..I agree

Sagar said...

Great work Aaryan for a beginner. I agree with a lot of things. However, some points i would like to counter.

You say India has not invaded any country. Yet on a more intangible level u see the race of Indians is the one slowly emerging as the strongest. We may not be brow beating the others into submission nor boasting of a “Fatherland”. Every nook, every country we see Indians slowly emerging as a force to be reckoned with. The diamond traders of South Africa, the software giants of Silicon Valley, the “Potels” across the world by the Gujarati Patels, the Malayalam Manorama in Gulf and today the landing of jobs in India. My point here is that we don’t need to be aggressive to be patriotic. Empty vessels make more noise. After 3000 years of history, I want to see how the others have survived. Egypt, another great ancient civilization, is nowhere today in terms of economic prowess. Iran, the Mesopotamian Civilization, is full of theological morons, who use the Quran for their own purposes. So I guess we don’t really need to trumpet it out. The Indian today is a lot more assertive. Several Hinglish words are incorporated in the Oxford. So my dear friend, I guess the future belongs to India, with Indians spread across the 7 seas and straddling all corners of the world.