Over the years, I have spent a fair amount of time in different parts of our country – for education, then work and ofcourse leisure travel. One such travel a few months ago, brought up some thoughts which I decided to pen down here.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say India is country of many nations. Even within each of our states, there is so much diversity that when we meet each other we will think of how “we” are different or what sets “us” apart from “them”. “Them” could be people living across the street (since ages), from a neighbouring city/state or someone from the opposite side of our Country.
There is no denying the magnitude of social and cultural differences in India. We like to identify ourselves in many ways. Tamils, Mallus, Punjabis, Jats, Marathas, Khasis, Dogras and so on. Then we have religious identities and of course the caste and the sub castes dynamics.
There is diversity and we revel in it. It doesn’t matter which region of the country we come from, or which caste, community or religion we affirm to, we have things in common which continue to unite us. Bollywood for one, cricket matches, disdain for our politicians, love for our country which especially peaks during Independence and Republic Days or when faced with military aggression, and so on.
However today on this Republic Day, I would like to highlight some nuances, which we tend to overlook, cause they are not bragworthy. Yet these are common traits we have as Indians, notwithstanding the north-south, east-west divide.
We love breaking the traffic rules: Not sure about the several archaic traditions or customs that we still follow doggedly, but traffic rules are something we love to break. As far as this aspect goes, there is no difference above or below the Vindhyas. Pune, Chennai, Shillong or Delhi, we are like that only. Then, what about CCTV cameras, challans, fines, etc ? Well those are for the faint hearted. Not for the most of us. And the famous trick with a Gandhi note works with most of the traffic cops in all parts of the country.
We love our potholes: People who allege that our governments are elitist and pro-urban, I’d say you are wrong. Look at the state of our roads. Whether its a city or a town, it’s bad everywhere. In fact, bigger the city, bigger the potholes on the roads!
Piles of garbage on our streets is a way of life for us: Except for a few high streets, like roads around the Raj Bhavan and the Vidhan Sabhas and the like, most streets are littered with garbage. After all, we like to keep our street animals well fed, even if it is plastic or spoilt food. And we are now so used to garbage, just like advertisements, that garbage is no longer visible to our naked eyes.
We don’t mind urinating in public: Whether it is a bus stopping at a wayside
Shabby Government offices: A visit to a government office anywhere in the country and one can find walls and corridors smattered with paan stains, tables piled high with files, damp rooms with little or no ventilation.
However, somehow magically there is one room in the whole office, which is always spick and span. You guessed it right, that is the room of the officer in charge. By the way, it also has a clean toilet, a soap, cleaner and for some reasons, there is always a white towel on the officer’s chair.
Officials demanding ‘their cut’
We like taking selfies with wires dangling behind us: The jumble of tangled, messy electrical wires and cables hanging from electrical poles is common sight whether you live in an urban sprawl or a small town. Whether you are in Ludhiana or in Bangalore. And somehow we make sure there is a wire dangling on the spots, where one can admire or take pictures
Cheating in exams: My friends across different states can vouch for examination centres, especially in border areas of the state, where students get to cheat. Somehow the invigilators on duty don’t seem to be aware of such things ever. The kind of social service we do is immense, after all, a kid barely able to pass in school can actually become a good doctor or engineer in the future.
We are all civil engineers: Well all Indians, at least once in a lifetime, do become civil engineers, architects, structural engineers and sometimes even Masons. We fancy designing and building our own homes, our own way. We don’t care whether we have planned roads, utility ducts or garbage disposal systems. All those amenities come as an afterthought.
We are a country of adventure-seeking backpackers: Yes, you heard me right, we are a country seeking adventure. Every day, we see people, mounting their motorbikes, with a backpack, without helmets, of course, seeking a daily dose of the adrenaline rush of going to and coming back from the office. And then if this was not enough, we like to cling to the buses and trains on the sides or on the rooftops. And this happens regardless of where we live in this country.
Well, there are many more which can be enumerated here. However, I am hopeful, a day will soon come when these things will not be a common recurrence in our country. Till then let us continue to enjoy the unfettered freedom, which has been bestowed upon us.
Wishing you the best for what the Republic of India can offer in its 71st year of existence. May we contribute our bit in stenghthening our country and continue to celebrate our unity in diversity.