As I threw another draft into the dustbin, I was gripped by a daunting realisation. I am not qualified enough to talk about India. I know nothing. I feel ashamed and nothing embarrasses me more. I have to search for words when I speak Hindi and reading the devnagri script has become harder than ever. My ethnicity is Punjabi and I don’t know a single thing about what it means to be that. No deep cultural roots, no strong sense of nationalism. I feel like I have failed India.
This does not stop me from saying that I am deeply patriotic and have often played with the idea of joining the army – perhaps it is the Punjabi hot-blooded character – not learned but ever present that makes me lean in that direction. Thinking deeper I realised that this is not my cause. I believe education can solve all problems and that is where my calling lies. I have discovered from travel, cultural exchanges and social media interactions that we Indians have acquired a dismal reputation for ourselves. Forgive us, many of us don’t know any better.
I am one of the few people who have had access to education and thrive in an environment which allows for the formation of independent opinion. This is rare, but slowly improving. I have had parents who have, and continue to, take care of all my needs and make sure I am never left wanting for anything material. This is rarer. It makes me feel the moral obligation to pass on my luck to my countrymen. I will make sure my privileges don’t bind me to a desk job, and there are many others like me.
Perhaps it is a good thing that I don’t have any deep roots. It gives me the freedom to be objective. In my interactions with people who are more deeply connected with their cultures, I have seen a love for status quo. That perhaps explains the shameful treatment of Dalits and the horrendous medieval practices that continue till date in some parts of the country. But trust me when I say that they are fading rapidly. I am glad that millennials here are reaping the benefits of globalisation, that they are being exposed to new ideas and newer ways of living. We are forging a new path in this renewed effort towards nation-building. It is not political aspirations that drive us, but just a need to put India on the map, the obligation and need for transcendence.
Dear people of Trinity, if you are reading this, I ask you to give us another chance. I invite you to visit India and to be my guest. I promise that you will fall in love with our hospitality. I promise our mountains and beaches will captivate your senses and our people will find a place in your heart. If there is a heaven on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this.
Dedicated to Niloy, who I had long conversations with regarding the current state of affairs; Rutaba and Aparajita, for editing my drafts patiently, and Zee, who shares his invaluable political knowledge without judgement.