Harsh and Kiran are young Indians and friends since school, with Harsh in a PG program in the US and Kiran working in India. This is a recent chat they had.
Harsh: Bharat has made the final decision, he’s staying back here in the US.
Kiran: Screw him. Traitor. I knew he wouldn’t be able to part with the money and luxuries.
Harsh: Don’t be ridiculous. Everyone wants a good life and peace of mind. It’s his call what he wants to do with his life.
Kiran: But what about love for the country, serving the country?
Harsh: I am just amazed at our general hypocrisy. People talk as if serving the nation is a job restricted only to Indians living abroad, while Indians living in India can very well carry on with the sanskar and parampara of corruption and selfishness, looting the nation to their heart’s content. I actually sense jealousy and envy here.
Kiran: Oh bullshit. I am proud of my country and its glorious history. I am very happy staying here.
Harsh: Is that so? You tried getting to the US once, but your visa was rejected. I respect Sita in this matter. She is brilliant and has all the talent to make it big abroad, but she never wanted to part with her homeland. She is even doing her bit by volunteering for the AAP. You’re asking Bharat to do something for the country, but I don’t see YOU doing much except working at a foreign MNC and whiling away your days trolling on the Net.
Kiran: At least I am not licking the boots of Westerners.
Harsh: For God’s sake what kind of logic is that? I don’t understand the ambivalent attitude of many of us with respect to Westerners. When they praise some aspect of India or its people our joy knows no bounds, but when they honestly criticize us, we pounce on them like hounds. And you still are living in the quixotic world of India’s ‘past glory’. Most of our current glory comes from either exceptional individuals who actually defied the Indian ‘system’ and became great without any special support — like Verghese Kurien, E Sreedharan, Abhay Bang — or those Indians who left Indian shores and were better polished, nurtured and valued in foreign lands — now how many examples can I give for that!
Kiran: Sreedharan and Bang? Who are they? I have never heard of them.
Harsh: Of course you haven’t. Because we have always been too unhealthily obsessed with historical heroes, which by the way aren’t even pan-Indian. Scrap Gandhi’s photo from currency notes and try to put someone else’s. There’ll be civil war. Bloodshed. Each region will want its own ‘hero’ there, and being Indians, no one will compromise, no one will show tolerance, no one will try to form a peaceful consensus. Thankfully Gandhi, peering through currency notes, is keeping India somewhat united even after his death.
Kiran: Well why the hell then do you plan to come back if India so repels you?
Harsh: That’s my choice. Not that I believe in traditionally defined patriotism. But I am attached to my native town and would love to spend my life there. I don’t know if I will be able to do any good work, but I’ll try within my limits. Tagore (I assume you know at least him!) once said that each new child born is proof that God has not lost hope in humanity. Applying it to India’s happily flourishing people, I still find hope. I believe I will be able to find like-minded people there and maybe we could do something together. Maybe.
Kiran: Good. Bharat should learn something from you.
Harsh: His hopes got shattered of late and I don’t blame him. In the past he was very determined to go back. But he is a person of radical and liberal ideas, and he realized that if he goes to India he will sooner get himself crucified or murdered than bring about some good change. He had dreamt of getting into the abysmally corrupt Indian health system and trying to clean it up. But now he believes any big reform in India is impossible. His cousin, an RTI activist, was mercilessly beaten up by political goons last year. But Bharat stayed determined even then. Later Narendra Dabholkar, with whom he had worked in India, was brutally murdered. He felt devastated. And then last week a book was withdrawn by Penguin fearing that the IPC’s absurd section 295A will screw them and their writers, and yesterday the Jan Lokpal bill was kind of permanently laid to rest by our great political parties. He has lost all stimulus of returning to India.
Kiran: Oh he’s a coward. He’s just running away. Come on one has to suffer a little to change society. It’s not so easy.
Harsh: Yes that’s true. No reformist in history has had a smooth run. Savitribai suffered, Hamid Dalwai suffered. And there are rare people who are ready to even risk their lives; but we can’t expect everyone to do that. Several good citizens are willing to take India out of this muck but they dread the uncooperative system and people. So they stay away. It’s shameful we have become such a society that it is absolutely mandatory for a reformist to either suffer horrendously or to die. As much as I stand by my own decision to return to India and try to do something good, I stand by Bharat’s to stay away from such a hypocritical society. Initially I had thought of giving him a nice pep talk, but I realized I have absolutely no valid points as of now! Even the Supreme Court has started giving some baffling decisions.
Kiran: Yes, now you foreigners are going to teach law to Indian courts.
Harsh: Oh great! That’s exactly how most Indians are taking criticism these days. We just can’t stand any sort of objections to the status quo, and invariably turn inflammatory and defamatory when someone does it. You know what, you are suffering from misdirected and misinformed patriotism. You so much like to pester us by asking all the time, “You’re coming back to India? Or are you settling down there itself?” It’s irritating. The few who want to return are nevertheless gonna do it, and there will always be some who just don’t wanna return at all. But for the many who are fence-sitters, the nation too has at least some responsibility towards them as they have towards it. For once people like you, who are staying there and have much more say in how the country and its society shape up, should direct one question to yourselves: Are we as a nation making them feel welcome, or are we repelling them?