‘Incredible India’ is how we describe ourselves and today I want to show you how accurate that is. But first a warning: I’m using the adjective in ways the author of the slogan did not intend. My aim is not to attract tourists but to hold a mirror to ourselves.
Second, at a time when for many of us the most incredible thing happening in the country is the multiplying acts of intolerance whilst for some you could add the prime minister’s reluctance to adequately address them — both of which defy belief but can’t be denied — it would be a welcome diversion to examine why our countrymen think we’re incredible.
My research on the net reveals their reasons are eye-opening. It also shows that we, as a people, unlike our politicians, are ‘incredibly’ honest about ourselves.
First, the general reasons why we, the people of India, think we’re an incredible country — ‘India is a country where on the streets everyone seems to be in a hurry but no one is ever on time’; ‘India is the only country where people fight to be called backward’; ‘India is the only country where the reserved enjoy more benefits than the deserved’; and, finally, ‘India is a place where rules are made to be broken and roads are built to be dug — and we do both better than anyone else’.
Now, when we move beyond the broad view and see ourselves as individuals we’re even more perceptive about what makes us incredible: ‘In India it’s okay to piss in public but see what happens when you try kissing in public?’; ‘It’s dangerous to talk to strangers but it’s okay to marry one’; ‘If you swear in English people will think you’re cool but swear in Hindi and they’ll conclude you’re uncouth’; and ‘In India we worship Goddess Durga but kill our daughters because they’re not boys’.
But, ultimately, it’s when you observe how we characterise our thinking that you can spot how clearly we see the mote in our own eyes: ‘We’d rather spend more on our daughter’s wedding than on her education’; ‘The shoes we wear are sold in air-conditioned showrooms whilst the vegetables we eat are sold on the footpath’; ‘You need to have studied till the 8th class to become a peon but you don’t need any educational qualification to run the country’; and, perhaps, most tellingly of all, ‘In the West people have sex and hope for marriage whilst in India we marry and hope for sex’.
The truth is we’re an incredible country in many ways and most of them are far from flattering. But the best part is the net also shows we’re brutally honest about this. Whatever we may say defensively to foreigners we don’t hide the truth from ourselves. When we talk to each other — and that, after all, is what tweets, whatsapp, facebook and chat rooms amount to — we readily accept the reality of our lives, even if we do so jocularly. But remember, many a truth is spoken in jest. That’s certainly true of us.
Of course, this leads to a rather quirky conclusion. We wish we were less incredible than we are! Indeed, there are many areas where we yearn to be like other people — efficiency, discipline, honesty, logic, rationality and even, at times, unity.
But if by some miracle all of that were to happen, it wouldn’t be incredible India anymore! Now, what can we do about that?
(The views expressed are personal)