Back in late 1980s and 1990s, we, four siblings of a nuclear family, lived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In those days they had just started broadcasting a Hindi movie every Thursday on the English channel (there were only 2 channels back then, the Arabic one and the English one). We were overjoyed with the rich Indian culture portrayed in the movies because we had never been to India before. The idea of extended families that lived together, the mischiefs the little cousins were up to, and how everyone stood together during the hardships faced by the khandaan. It made us feel lonely in a foreign land for the first time and India became our Dreamland. As the elder sister to my twin brothers, I took it upon myself to introduce the concept of cousins experiencing different adventures together through storytelling when we played with our teddy-bears and dolls and enacted different scenarios set in India.
And then we got the cable and 24 hours access to the Indian TV, and we began to understand why our parents had always insisted on us celebrating every Indian festival in whichever way we could – Eid was our major festival of course, for Christmas our father brought a chocolate cake and we decorated an old fake tree with ribbons, for Diwali we lit candles on the terrace, for Holi we crushed coloured chalk in water to throw at each other, for Rakshabandhan we used to create our own rakhis and again used coloured chalk to smear the tilak on our brothers’ foreheads… Ah the list is long, but we did have a number of ways to bring India into our sweet little home in Saudi Arabia.
Then finally one day our dream came true, and our family relocated to this wonderful country, our motherland. Those who are brought up here sometimes overlook the importance of living in our own country, the joy, the freedom, the rights and a place we can call our real home. People around me point out to all the things wrong with India: the intolerance that has been bred amongst us thanks to the political agendas, the fear that every female experiences when they leave their homes, the hefty sum asked by a corrupt official for doing his duty, the lawsuits that have been dragging for ages, the scams that we read about every other day, the filthy and unhygienic conditions in some parts of every city, town and village of India… There is so much that is missing from our Dreamland now that we have grown out of those Bollywood movies and have seen the real India. We see people fighting and killing each other over petty things, we notice injustice at every step, we fear for our safety and are frustrated with the present condition of our Motherland.
We sit down and focus on the good things happening around us. When a lady picks up the empty wrapper from the ground and instructs her child to use the dustbin in future, when a child fills up the containers with water everyday for the thirsty birds during summer, when a teacher buys supplies from her pocket and spends her Sunday afternoons teaching the slum kids, when a man buys an extra packet of bread and milk packet and leaves it at the doorsteps of his struggling neighbour, when a retired Navy officer tracks down the owner of the lost wallet he found and refuses to take anything in return for his efforts, when an IAS officer reports the attempt to bribe her and makes sure that everyone is treated fairly, when the bus driver waits with a lady traveller at an isolated spot until she gets an auto to her home, when a young girl helps the injured man reach the hospital and waits to report the accident to the police even when it’s the middle of the night, when an official goes out of his way to help a retired schoolmaster get his pension on time, when a Muslim guy narrates the history behind the pose of the Ganesha idol he made, when a Hindu lady raised a Muslim boy for 6 years until he found his lost parents, when children sing our National anthem with pride and out National flag is hoisted high… That’s when we begin to appreciate the innumerable things that makes our country great, things that little Indian children living abroad in the late 1980s could only dream about.😊
It is time to make our country great again. And it will take efforts from each one of us to achieve that. There are 1.35 billion of us… Imagine the power we have if we stand united against the obstacles hindering the progress of our Nation. Let us each do our bit against corruption, against the unsafe environment we have created for our women, against the hatred and mistrust that is being bred amongst us, against every negative voice that puts our country to shame. Let us get back the days when we were proud of being Indians and the entire world acknowledged our achievements.