A recent news item gave me fodder for this week’s blog – the relatives of a deceased child assaulting doctors in a Mumbai Hospital. I am amazed at an Indian’s ability to transform himself from a peace-loving, law-abiding citizen into a rabid, rabble-rousing behemoth in an instant. It may seem a bit inapposite here, but let me still ask – would the relatives of the deceased child have gone on a gratuitous rampage assaulting doctors, if this unfortunate incident had occurred in an ostensibly “progressive” country like UAE? So why do Indians remonstrate so vociferously within India, but not when they are abroad?
In Dubai, where I have spent the past two years, I have seen taxi, metro and bus fares being hiked annually, but not a word of protest is raised by its Indian-origin denizens. Another example – close to the place where I stay, there is a flower-bed which has a wooden fencing around it. A few months back I noticed a rusted nail jutting out dangerously from one edge of this fence. It was such that if you were not careful while passing by, you were sure to get scratched by it. This nail maintained its status quo for over three weeks, when finally someone in authority must have noticed it and had it removed. I am sure quite a few passersby would have been hurt by this nail, since this garden is close to a metro station, with loads of people passing by regularly. Now had this incident occurred in India, there would have been howls of protests from all around, with angry letters being written to editors of national dailies, and groups of people holding dharnas in front of the Municipal office! Like all forms of protests in our country, this too would have, in due course, turned violent. Sadly in our country all it takes is one dolt to cry wolf to turn a group of docile demonstrators into an unruly and unmanageable mob. And if the authorities were to use force to disperse this uncooperative mob, there would have been scallywags and human rights activists outside the CM’s office demanding justice for the injured.
Why is it that an Indian who rebukes the heavy-handedness of his country, does not even raise as much as a snivel when similar excesses happen in the country they have emigrated to? Why does an Indian who promptly burns private and public property on hearing about a hike in petrol prices, keep mum about a similar price increase in their adapted country? What makes this Indian curb his loud and ostentatious religious spirits while celebrating festivals in a foreign land? What makes an Indian stop his vehicle well before the zebra crossing and motor around without jumping signals, when driving abroad? Is this due to fear of the strict laws in these countries? I believe not, since there are many Indians who are currently enjoying long-term residency in penitentiaries in these countries. So what is it that transforms a zealous Indian into a meek, upright citizen overseas? I personally believe it is due the fact that the very same Indian takes the laws of his motherland for granted. Of course, our government’s lackadaisical attitude in implementing these laws also help, but it is more to do with the resolve by Indians not to follow rules in India. An average Indian nonchalantly bribes his way out of trouble in India, while playing the virtuous upholder of law, when abroad. Little does he realize the moral harm he is causing not just to himself, but also to his nation’s image!
We have organizations, both public and private, which act as moral chaperons to the government in power, and continue to ensure that India does not descend into a state of ochlocracy or despotism. Agreed, we may not be as mature a democracy as the US or UK, but we are slowly, steadily and surely, retreading our intellectual wheels so as to chronicle new paths in the world order. The problems facing India exist in these countries too, but our density of population just magnifies and expounds our issues. So what is the difference? The major difference I can see between us and them is that despite all the flaws their countries may have, their people are fiercely patriotic towards their homeland. Believe me, I have worked with people from different nationalities, and almost everyone I have interacted with speaks with pride (sometimes bordering on xenophobia) about their homeland, irrespective of the shade of black that is used to paint their country. Unlike this, most Indians only spew proscribed vituperations to deride their motherland. Strangely, for celebrating an Indian cricket victory with a rambunctious party is equivalent to displaying supreme patriotism! I have friends who have now comfortably ensconced themselves in the shores of Dubai, but continuously ridicule India, constantly complaining about everything that is wrong in India, while heaping praises on life in Dubai. What they conveniently forget, and which I remind them about, is that the entire population of a country like UAE cannot equal half the population of an Indian city like Mumbai – so governing this mass is well near impossible! Their chosen defense to this is to say, “China”, which though much more inhabited than India, is a leader in global economy. To which, I remind them that were India to follow the same kind of tyrannical governance that the Chinese abide by, then India would be way ahead of China. But would the Chinese kind of imperious authority be acceptable to our Indian arm-chair altruists and snooty gentry residing abroad? Why are we Indians not thankful that we live in a country, which actually permits dissent and allows questioning of authorities; a democracy that allows its media to air its views without fear or prejudice? Why are we not grateful enough to act responsibly?
Keeping in mind the dynamics of managing this populous giant, with its multifarious citizenry, multiple languages, religions with minute sects (and sub-sects) intermeshed within these, we have not done too badly for ourselves as a country. Our country may have begun on the wrong foot after gaining independence, what with successive governments having lined their pockets at our expense, and I personally do not know if the current government under our current PM’s leadership can chart a new course for our country. But as an Indian who respects the collective choice of his electorate, I will surely give him a chance to do so – after all, as all true Indians the one thing I have an abundance of is hope! I do not envy my dear friends who have acquired citizenship in a foreign land, to attain that indefinable “quality of life” tag – having worked abroad for a few years, I personally fail to see the seductive charm this tenuous tag holds over you. As our PM recently stated, you are India’s “deposits”, so be it. But I have just this request to make of you – please do not be disrespectful towards the country that gave you an identity in the first place. Do not go about blaming the government for all our present ills – till we as Indians do not change our attitude, India never will! Time to clear the cobwebs of the mind…