Column: LUV PUNE

Living in America, the US and especially in San Francisco Bay Area now a days is quite an experience. You are always torn between the feeling of being at home, literally every 7th person you come across is from India as the census goes, and feeling like an alien in a world of highly developed infrastructure and high speed cars, public parks groomed like private lawns and high-rise buildings illustrating the affluence and technological advancement. Yet, living in US is far different from what one imagines as an outsider.

The real American life, or the real life for a person living in the US is no different than the life elsewhere, and here I refer to life as ones ability to extract out of life, whatever one can. There are homeless people in the US too. And in my observation, their level of disorientation is no different (or better) than that of an Indian beggar. In India, being homeless is not that big an issue, some people live without a home by choice. People here drive the ugly, scrap metal cars too. People here also skip eating-out to save money like our parents always tell us back home. People do ask for help from neighbors and friends, and family when they are in need. People are unhappy about certain decisions made by the government and do express their displeasure in all the usual ways that we do back in India. So, what is the difference of living in the US. I believe the difference is freedom of personal expression. “I am who I am and no one has the right to make me feel ashamed for who I am.”

I was driving to work the other day when I saw a license plate on a car ahead of me, it said “LUV PUNE” and what a pleasure it was to see PUNE embossed on the license plate of that sedan.Why the heck didn’t I see that ever back in India? Why?

For starters Regional Traffic Office, the Indian counterpart of DMV, doesn’t even allow one to have a personalized license plates. And even if they did, I don’t think anybody would ever put up a license plate saying “LUV PUNE” or “LUV DELI” or “LUV JAPR” becauseĀ  we are too proud to associate with anything that is local. It is considered as a sense of low self esteem.

Secondly, it certainly looks more cool to have a the firebrand Metallica poster on your car rather than printing “I listen to Laxmikant-Pyarelal.” Now come on, who listens to them anymore. If you asked the kids, they would faintly associate it to some musicians that their grandfather might once have possessed a broken record of, without realizing that their parents were singing the songs composed by the duo to woo each other back in the 80’s. As a matter of fact, that is the time when Metallica was just beginning to form a band. I guess, as long as you keep banging your head and no one can see your lips, to check the lipsync (or the lack of it), you might as well pretend that you are the greatest fan of Metallica and advertise it on the back of your car.

Dear readers excuse my ancient views, but I feel strongly about the old times, for the quality of life and artful existence, which is being replaced by strong economic focus and mechanical way of life!

Anyway, moving on, I tried to think what made that person put such a license plate on his car. Was it nostalgia? Did it emerge from the need of associating with one’s roots? Or was it because it was exotic to use a name that most of the people (here in the US) wouldn’t figure out easily?

Whatever it was, I just felt good to see that someone had dared to express themselves. This post doesn’t have any point as such, just a random rambling. I just wanted to praise the person for having expressed their love for their roots.

Keep up the Luv!

Do we need religiously homogeneous Nations around the world? – II

Our country is and has been the largest working democracy in the world for last 60 years. That is quite a feat to achieve. What has made that possible? Very few people can claim to know the answer to that. I am surely not the one of those. However, I can attempt to put forth a theory.

What makes a sour relationship (between father and son, husband and wife, two siblings, or two business partners) last for decades; something that we witness quite often in our country. The answer is quite simple, interdependence. Only those relationships can last for decades in spite of constant bitterness that have some value on both ends that is of mutual benefit for the two participants. A rich father might be a boon for a jobless yet obedient son. A high salaried husband with a pot-belly might consider himself lucky to have a stunningly beautiful wife even if she lacks the home making abilities. Likewise, the Republic of India has been living in one such interdependent relationship, between believers and non-believers, haves and have-nots, industrialists and workers, politicians and citizens and there are millions of more such micro-relationships that form the bigger relationship between the nation and the nationals.

Now that I have drawn such a profound yet incomprehensible analogy, I can leave it open to interpretation of my readers (as an attempt to claim greatness for being abstract) or start explaining each and every word (in condescension), either way there is a relationship that is being exploited by one party more than the other. Without much-a-do I should inform you that this post is not as concrete as its prequel. I am not going to point fingers to this and that and start criticizing and/or praising things that are good or bad with our Nation.

This post is a step in the process of waking-up the monster; the monster that is India. A thinking India. A perceptive India. A wise and vigorous India. The politicians of this nation are like a viruses that renders the entire body of their host nonfunctional yet healthy enough to support their (viruses) growth. They have been living in our nervous system, hampering our ability to come together as a mass of thinking, feeling, reciprocating individuals that share pride in building their nation rather than crying over its slow and steady death.

The party that has ruled our country for the longest time has done nothing but carried forward the same system of divide and rule that British had employed to rule the world. This country has see division based on Region, Religion, Caste, Economic Status, Geography, Natural Resources, Language and Development. All parties that emerged afterward unfortunately learned the same tricks and found out newer ingenious ways of dividing the country. The first division was based on religion; Hindu-Muslim disparity lead to geographic division of this country into three parts, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

After that economic and caste based divide was deployed, using reservation as the key for making one section of people stand apart from the rest and therefore causing unrest in the Nation. A country that has just come out of imperialist oppression is bound to have a larger section of society not doing well economically. Especially with our National leaders making people believe that living for themselves was the most selfish and lowly way of life, tricking them into giving up all their belongings as a sign of solidarity, what was left in this country was pure and unadulterated poverty. This was used to divide people in economic sections: High Class, Middle Class and Lower Class. Thus began the economic divide and consternation between the classes. Even today when we read movie reviews, the critics don’t forget to remind you whether the movie is for the classes or the masses. The divide has been so deeply ingrained in our genes, our existence that we keep reinforcing it without conscious knowledge.

Regional breakup started in late 90s, and is fast becoming a political trend for all the parties, newbies or experienced, to gain vote banks. Ironically, our naive nation of 1 billion fails to understand once again, that they are considered nothing but vote banks by the politicians. Uttaranchal, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh are some unforgettable gifts our brilliant politicians have given us in last 60 years. And now Kashmir, Telangana and some of the North-Eastern states are already ptiching in for an independent status. I am sure that we will soon be a country with 1200 states, and we will need special permissions to travel from one state to another, whether it is tourism, education, job or property we are seeking. Be assured that poeple who are dividing us in order to rule are simply inept in ruling. They wil just divide, divide and divide us further until nothing is left to rule.

Coming back to the interdependence that I had talked about in the begining, as the cause for a sour relationship to survive tests of time. Now what exactly was I trying to state and how is all this rambling in between related to that. The answer is simple. Our nation lives on Hope. Pure and unadulterated hope that things will be better tomorrow and that somebody will do something to make things better. Like Gandhi and Nehru once promised, like Indira and Rajiv tried to demonstrate (and failed, uh! that we don’t like to remember, do we?) and like Vajpayee tried to establish but was too old to take it all the way to the finish line. We are a nation with hope but no plan of action. No alternatives of our own. No second choice. No plan B.

We don’t need a religiously homogeneous state to become a developed and progressive Nation. We don’t need an icon who sways us off our feet on false promises. We don’t need somebody to say that things will be alright. What we need is faith in ourselves and desire to be accountable for our Nation’s future. We need to ask questions, sound and intelligent questions, and shouldn’t rest until we find our answers. We need to challenge the unknown territories and explore possibilities for moving ahead. We need to stop believing in humans that want to be our Gods. We need to be our own Gods and grant wishes to ourselves. We should promise each other and ourselves that we will not sit down and rest until we have changed the destiny of this nation with our own hands. We will work hard and work without appreciation or reward if that is what it takes to build a developed nation. We will focus on issues that affect the future of our children. We will establish a safe and secure country, where every crime and criminal is brought to justice. We will be honest in our efforts and stand guard to the pride of our nation. We will not just die for our country, but die hard to make it shine, like it used to once.

My fellows country men, for once stop asking “What the country, or the politicians, or the parents, or the neighbours can do for you?” Ask, “what you can do for all of them?”