"How many Indians?" asked Mr.Hokushi Seisakoshu, our professor, from Japan. I didn't understand, what he meant.
"I'm sorry. I didn't get you?"
"How many Indians are there, in India?", he repeated his question, with a question mark on his face.
"110crores, sir!" I said, very proudly ' without realizing that a population of 110 crores, is not a matter of pride but a matter of concern! Anyway, that's not the point. I informed my professor, about India's strength, in terms of Indians.
"Very strange!" he looked amazed, "out of a population of 110 crores, I have met few Gujjus, Malayalis, Marathis, Sindhis, Biharis, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, but not even one Indian? Not even one?"
"Think about it Naghma?" he said, as he proceeded, with his trolley, towards the main entrance of the airport, with one hand in pocket, searching for his ticket. As he showed his ticket to the guards there, I bid him farewell, and took his leave. He was our guest of honor from Japan, and had come for a seminar on Kaizen, which means "continuous improvement". His speeches were really very inspiring ones. He told us how each Japanese felt indebted to his country, resolved to contribute towards its betterment. Its not about Japanese or Americans or citizens of any particular country, rather, its a feeling of oneness ' oneness or integration with your country, that leads to improvement.
Coming back to his question, it left me pondering for quite sometime. He was so true! Today, our country is divided into 28 states and seven union territories, but no one ever preempted, the fragmentation of mindsets, too, into regions, religions and castes. I remember my first day in college, where the first question thrown at me was-"Where are you from?"
My best friend, Anita Ali narrated one of her very startling experiences. She said, "For 25 years of my existence, no one ever wondered, who my parents were, but after 2003, suddenly everyone seemed interested in who I was, whether I read the Gita or Quran, I was vegetarian or a non-vegetarian, what will my children be, when they grow up?" Though she said, she read both the holy books, I know she read neither, and that she was a human being first, and then anything else.
Few years back, India had started progressing, but suddenly something happened that gave us a jolt. I don't know who did it, who started it, they belonged to which region, religion or caste, ' it can be anyone ' may be the politicians themselves, who felt jobless, without a task at hand; may be a superpower, who felt so threatened by India's growing might that it gave us an issue to keep fighting and bickering amongst ourselves, and keep us engaged so that we may lose our focus on the bigger goal. But the point is, are we an aimless and worthless crowd, who doesn't have any purpose, except pulling down each other? Are we so dumb and mindless, that we can't decide on our own? Instead of further dividing the nation, can't we be strong enough to stand as ONE, in front of few sick minded and remorseless people, who can in no way belong to any region, religion or caste? Yes, we can!
60 years ago, the father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi was killed by a sick minded assassin, but his soul has been killed time and again, by our fellow countrymen, who want to eat into the very roots of out nation, that is secularism.
More than a hundred years ago, Vivekananda said that jealousy is the national sin of India. We are unable to digest the progress of others and wish to pull them down even if we go down with them. This is also known as the "crab-mentality" of Indians. The term comes from a story of Indian crabs trapped in a hole. Each crab tries to get out ' but the others pull down anyone climbing higher than them and as a result none of the Indian crabs get out.
A similar story is told of crabs of a different ethnicity, which build a crab-ladder with teamwork and help at least one lucky crab to get out.
In her book, India Is For Sale, Chitra Subramaniam recounts the story of a senior Chinese diplomat visiting New Delhi who told his Indian colleague that one Indian intellectual is equal to two Chinese intellectuals, but two Indian intellectuals are equal to half a Chinese intellectual!
So long as we remain slave to such unhealthy practices, we will remain mediocre and we will see countries like China march way ahead of us while we revel at the sight of pulling other Indians down despite the fact that along with him or her, we are also going down the drain.
This represents a challenge to Indian secularism that it must win, if we are not to squander the gains of Independence and democracy. The main purpose of the 7/11, was to disrupt communal harmony. Mumbaikars did not allow this to happen, and put up an exemplary show of unity and fraternity ' which the nation has ordained for itself through the Constitution.
This is what is needed of us. Its high time, that we stop thinking as divided people belonging to various regions or religions, and start thinking as Indians. We have to set our priorities.
"Where the mind is without fear, and the head is held high,
Where the world has not been broken up by narrow domestic walls,
Into the heaven of freedom, my father
let my country awake.!" ' Rabindranath Tagore