Patriotism is the last refuge of the weekend columnist. So as the members of the Jai Hind Brass Band congregate outside my window to practise for the Big Day on Wednesday, I put my mind (sic) not to jotting down the grandest moments of the last 60 years, but to making a list of 60 things that make us, great Indian passport-holders, not break into the Mongolian national anthem — “Daisun-u köl-dür kejiy-e cü oruqu ügei / Dangdayan engkejin egüride möngkejin-e.” (We will never yield to the enemy’s foot / And we will prosper for eternity) — or settle down in places like Springfield, Massachusetts. In other words, the things that make us decide to remain non-NRIs.
Over 60 per cent of India’s population is under-30. Keeping that in mind, I have restricted my ‘60 Things That Make Us Stay in India’ list to 39 things — so as to not make matters too complicated for our readers, especially the ones that represent youth. I did put my foot down, though, when the marketing department ‘suggested’ I carry extracts from Barron’s How to Prepare For the New SAT just this one time... .
60* things that make us stay in India (*39, actually)
1. The possibility of going to the Taj Mahal without paying the exorbitant amount reserved for foreigners.
2. The appeal of low taxes. You don’t pay. And you don’t ask the government how it spends your money.
3. The freedom to honk while driving outside hospitals, schools and even institutions for the hearing impaired.
4. Not worrying too much about global warming. The chances of the Northern Gangetic Plain experiencing snow one day makes the region an appealing future ski resort.
5. Finding Indian taxi drivers without having to go to New York.
6. Not finding Pakistani taxi drivers here at all.
7. The ready availability of baingan ka bharta.
8. No guilt of having to call servants ‘domestics’ or ‘house helps’.
9. No one spelling Gandhi as Ghandi, Gandi or... .
10. Hearing Buddha being pronounced the right way, and not as Booda, or even worse, The Booda.
11. Being able to have an accident on the road and blame it on the Almighty, the government and the other person, strictly in that order.
12. The freedom to call anyone who doesn’t agree with you ‘fascist’.
13. Having checks and balances in the system to protect you from other people calling you ‘fascist’.
14. Following English Premier League football without really having to cheer for any particular team.
15. Writing about small town India in the kind of detail that foreign publishers are willing to pay you dollops of money for.
16. Watching tumbling bosoms and bolting belly-buttons in films without having to explain to your grandmother.
17. The luxury of feeling good after giving a beggar Rs 5 and telling him, ‘Get a job, lazybones!’
18. The choice of using an Indian-style lavatory.
19. Being able to quiver with moral indignation when foreigners think all Indians are casteist.
20. Understanding lyrics of songs without having to Google.
21. The opportunity of being called ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’ by juniors in office without worrying about imperialism.
22. Having faith in Virender Sehwag.
23. Not mistaking Karan Johar’s new, dynamic India as the real thing.
24. Reading William Dalrymple without post-colonial angst.
25. Feeling liberated by uttering the words ‘You want to be my friend?’
26. Feeling positively good about being a virgin at 31.
27. The luxury of blaming Pakistan for your water problems.
28. The luxury of blaming Inzamam ul-Haq for the death of Bob Woolmer.
29. Being among people who know that ‘second slip’ is not a comedy gag or an overdressed woman.
30. Knowing that zebra crossings have racist overtones and therefore are to be rejected.
31. Not getting perturbed when two policemen walk by holding hands.
32. Having dry days that make drinking an even more precious activity.
33. Having faith in a President who is open-minded about spirits and the dead talking through the living.
34. Having an Albanian become a Nobel Prize-winning Indian citizen. (There is no Albanian citizen of Indian origin winning the Nobel Prize.)
35. For being a nuclear weapons State without any peacenik really hating us.
36. For always being before the hyphen in any hyphenation; eg. Indo-US, Indo-Anglian, Indo-Pak, Indo-Outdo, etc.
37. Not worrying about jobs being lost to East Europeans, Chinese, etc.
38. Knowing that Lagaan didn’t win an Oscar because the Academy Awards jury was anti-Indian.
39. Reading a pointless list in a pointless column knowing that it may have kept you off drugs... at least for today.
Okay, you may now throw the flower pots and the chairs at me.