Monday, December 1, 2008

Proud to be Indian....

Airtel has a new jingle. “Proud to be Indian”is the by line … followed a little later by the fine print …” Proud by Bharati”. The advert sounded good to hear till the other day. But now it kind of jars in the ear. Not that I am not proud to be an Indian any more- make no mistake, I still am but there is some thing of an embarrassment that is pricking me since the Mumbai incidents of the last few days.

The jingle talks about harnessing the power of a billion people but some times it looks like a fitting illustration of the Biblical “Sheep without a shepherd”. Actually at last count, we were 1.2 billion people and growing but it would seem that all those numbers don’t count for much. If people and we are not talking of straying fishermen clad in a loin cloth here; but people with the most evil of intentions setting sail in a boat or a ship, landing casually on the coast and then spreading themselves across the city and spread mayhem.

Law abiding citizens face a million harassments every day and they have learnt to take it all in their stride. Be it a family outing with a movie in the multiplex, or a shopping trip to the mall or boarding a flight in the airport , you need to be prepared to be frisked, empty out your luggage, not carry this or not carry that and be subjected to a hundred inconveniences every day. And people have got used to it over time. And yet any blooming terrorist – doesn’t matter what their ideology is or from where what accent they speak Hindustani in, can just saunter across without as much as a by your leave…. And no body stops them, forget about stopping them… no one even notices that they are there.

We make a lot of noise about illegal Bangladeshi migrants in the country. This is not to say that they should be condoned or nothing ought to be done about them. But what comparison is a large bunch of illiterate and unskilled refuges from Bangladesh or else where who are here because they would be starving in their home land or may be even executed or imprisoned in their home land – like say refugees from Myanmar compared to the bunch of ideologically committed killers. People from the poorer neighbors who are making a living cleaning our toilets or washing our dishes are hounded out like cattle and deported while those who kill and murder our people and vandalize our heritage – (those who do not know the history of how the Taj Mahal Hotel came to be built ought to read that up in Wikipedia) can simply saunter into our coast as if on a cruise and try to wipe it off the map.

Of course there are elements to be proud of in all this and the press and television channels have done the right thing by paying tribute to the many unsung heroes of Mumbai. But the irony is that the real irony is that the real heroes will remain unsung – after the Last Post has resonated out and the mourning and funerals are over, the unsung will be required to retreat into their conventional silence. And those people we really need to be proud of, the ones who don’t give press conferences; whom television channels don’t interview will once again disappear into the proud woodwork. Proud to be Indian – yes; proud to be Bharatiya, yes – but proud of the right people —- like the memorial to the Unknown Soldier; we need a way to honor the unknown citizens of all hues – the ones who really make us proud to be an Indian

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