It is Independence day tomorrow and one of the two days of the year ( cricket matches not withstanding) when the Indian feels patriotic. We will have the tricolour flying all over and people greeting each other ( if at all ); the goosebumps and the blood rush while hearing 'Vande mataram'.
But to be very honest I don't think most of us, including myself, are patriotic in the true sense of the word. Pinning a flag on your shirt or singing the national anthem out loud does not prove our love for the nation. First, let us learn to value a human life. Let us learn to respect an individual for the choices he makes. Let him have his right to make them; infact give him a choice to make in the first place.
Two days back I read a news item in the newspaper that a tribal girl was paraded naked through the village and it was even videographed and circulated as an MMS clip. And all this for having liked a boy outside the community. The girl and the father are under police protection for now. First, she isn't given her right as an individual to make her choice. She is insulted and scarred for life. Is this how one treats a human being? Even cattle are treated better. And what safety does she have now? How can we be sure that the police officers who are supposed to be guarding her aren't tormenting her further? How do we know they wouldn't insult her for what she's been through or wouldn't take advantage of her? Would we as a society be able to provide her the security to continue living in peace without her past coming back to haunt her? Will she ever be able to regain her self-respect and confidence? Imagine how shattered we would be had it happened to you or me. I wouldn't be surprised if I read in the newspaper that she committed suicide. And yet we as a society won't change. We'd momentarily feel sorry for her; we'd feel miserable for her father who would invariably be thrown out of the village; and would be angered at the people who brought about this situation (which many of us will still believe is the girl herself!). Then only a minute and turn of page later, we'd be reading avidly of the new restaurant that has opened only a block away having forgotten all about the incident. This is how insensitive we as a nation have become.
What about honour killings on similar lines? What about caste based discrimination? What about religious animosity? What about child labour? What about corruption? What about poverty? What about gender bias and rape? What about cold blooded murder of just about anyone including own parents and children? And we talk of development.
We proudly recollect Nehru's 'Tryst with destiny' and Gandhiji's philosophy. We talk of how the freedom fighters had envisioned the nation sixty years from then. We talk of making their sacrifices meaningful... and we have been talking of all this since childhood. But that is all that we have been doing. Talking. When will we get down to business and make a sincere effort?
Tomorrow when you see a couple of guys teasing a girl, will you show the guts to atleast go and find out what is happening? Will you stop yourself from handing a ten rupee note to the peon during your next visit to a government office? Will you stop hoping that your child is a boy? Will you stop peeking at the column for religion filled in the application of the guy next to you, however naively you mean to? Will you atleast talk to any responsible person at the small eatery when you next see a child wiping the table? Will you stop feeling superior or inferior to the person beside you for the caste that you were born into; it wasn't something you earned for yourself anyway. Will you accept an HIV positive person sitting across you at the table while having coffee?
I believe that the day every one of us begins to make such small changes, India is definitely in for a big change herself. Why are we always waiting for another to make the first move? Why are we so hesitant in trying to be different despite knowing that it is the right thing to do? Why are we so reluctant to part with a meagre amount of our monthly earning to aid a destitute, and old person, a spastic child or an orphan and yet do not think a second time before plundering twice the amount at a fast food outlet or a pub.
What do we mean by development? Nuclear power? Having the most number of billionaires? The most powerful millitary? The highest GDP? The biggest discovery, the mightiest invention? Why do we always look at the big things? Isn't it always the small things that matter? For each child to know what is right and what is wrong? For every man to have one square meal a day? For every countryman to have his basic necessities provided for? For when we leave home in the morning not to be worried about whether we will come back alive from a terrorist attack, a riot or from being run down by a reckless drunk driver? For every one of us to be true to our conscience; to have one in the first place? Then I would say we have developed as a nation.
Let us hope things will get better in the following year and do something, however little, towards achieving our aim. Why not follow the principles that we as Indians boast about to the world. As Gandhiji said, 'Be the change you want to see.' Each one in his own possible way.
To my motherland and to its people, Jai Hind.