India is known as the country that prides itself for the multiple cultures in its different parts – its motto is unity in diversity. This is where different groups of people accept each other for what they are and appreciate them; where people of various beliefs come together with the sole idea of harmonious and progressive existence. This is the country where men like Gautam Buddha, Shankaracharya, Guru Nanak, Kabir and the Bhakti and Sufi saints found their true calling, where people like Mahatma Gandhi and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose sacrificed their lives in search for a better tomorrow.
However, in the last few years some patterns of thought and consequent activities have emerged across the country that seem to ridicule all the noble ideas that went into the creation of the country we now call India. Following are certain grey areas that are threatening to turn into massive black holes and take the whole country with them in their own devious ways:
Racist jokes: These jokes or, rather, this form of humor represents a complete lack of understanding and empathy for people from other cultures. The most prominent in this case are jokes on Sardarjis, people from Bihar and Bengal and also people from down South. In fact one common tendency of people who employ such jokes is to think that the whole of southern India is Tamil Nadu and anyone hailing from this zone is a Tamil, which is a major insult to people from Andhra, Kerala and Karnataka considering their rich heritage, culture and standing as the original inhabitants of India. The Sardars and Biharis are supposed to be people without much intelligence – there is zero appreciation for their qualities of honest and hard labor that has, over the years, helped them survive and prosper in other states. The common perception regarding Bengalis is that the only thing that they have is intelligence – they do not have much by way of physical vigor and are basically effeminate people. Now this trend has made its way to people from the northeastern states as well. The recent death of 20 year old Nido Taniam springs to mind. The dominant thought regarding these people is that they are not Indians but Chinese, which is perhaps a shame considering the fact that several years ago they opted to be a part of the Indian Union in spite of the obvious differences in appearance and culture. They may have easily formed a separate confederation but they still decided to be a part of the Indian existence at large. It is shameful that there is zero appreciation for that.
Religious perception and resultant intolerance: The ones who suffer most in this case are the Muslims. Nowadays, the main idea regarding them is that they are mostly intolerant, backward people with little regard for laws of the land. They are also regarded as potential terrorists or criminals if they are from disadvantaged backgrounds. Question is, how can we be so ignorant about how they have enriched Indian culture through their musical, culinary, architectural and artistic contributions? How can we just plain forget how we adore people like the 4 Khans of Bollywood or respect names like Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan who have countless matches for Indian team? The major aspect to be worried in this case is that even educated people keep falling into traps. Then there are the various problems in Hinduism like casteism and supposed bad qualities like being a mangalik that can stop marriages. Dowry, which is supposedly sanctioned by religious edicts, is a major social issue as well.
Economic and educational perception: In India the dominant strain of thought among people is that ones who have failed to make major amounts of money in life cannot be relied upon and they are not successful. Similarly people who are not properly educated are not thought to be competent enough. The situation is such perception bars many truly capable and good people from enjoying the quality of life that they are entitled to. We all know that car mechanics are better at repairing cars than engineers who are any day more “educated” than them and we also know that money never lasts a lifetime but still in the name of security and trustworthiness we continue to bias against deserving people.
When the freedom fighters fought for our country many years ago and laid down their lives for a better tomorrow they would not have imagined the plight of the country as it is today. We need to ask ourselves and introspect if we are going the right way, if we are honoring their memories and sacrifices? We need to take the step towards becoming a nation from just being a country.