Manish Modi, the eloquent proprietor of the Mumbai bookshop HINDI GRANTH KARYALAY, has just sent this email, complete with a fantastic collection of photos to illustrate some of the characteristics of India that he refers to. His bookshop has proved invaluable to me in sourcing obscure texts on Jainism, which arrive within days from India by airmail. See their website.
We are a nation of incredible, hardy, sturdy, lazy, loving, caring, open-minded, ultra-conservative, easy-going, chilled out, ultra-fussy, intellectual, wise, learned boneheads!
Individually we are sharp, collectively we are dumb.
Individually we are street savvy, collectively we are naive and fall for the most incredible of tall claims.
We produce the largest number of graduates in the world, and yet we elect the largest number of louts and lumpen elements to our parliament.
We are the largest democracy in the world. Yet, any rabble-rousing moron with a microphone in his hand can hold our country to ransom. We can deal with the terrorists, but are incapable of dealing with our corrupt politicians.
We support the Lokpal Bill, but do not realise that it seeks to subvert the democratic system of checks and balances that are necessary to keep a country on its toes.
Incredibly, despite loudly and vociferously supporting Anna Hazare from the comfort of our drawing rooms, we seldom hesitate to pay bribes if it speeds things up.
We are religious and claim to be the spiritual gurus of the world. But despite having a tradition of some of the most subtle and advanced spiritual thinking, we are shackled by the terribly inhumane caste system. Not many people speak out against it.
Lower castes are still treated like pariahs in India’s villages. And till the time we vote for people based on the caste they represent, or based on their mother tongue, we are supporting chauvinism of the worst kind.
We, who are educated, well read and travel the world, seldom bother to step out and vote. We are scathingly critical of our country and the way it is run, but are willing to look the other way when the country requires us to sacrifice our comforts.
We talk of the secular fabric of this nation, but allow our electoral choice to be governed by candidates’ last names, ethnic roots, caste background and religious affiliation.
I am writing all this, because as an Indian, I too am guilty of being complacent, callous and uncaring. It is time we did something about the pitiable state of our country. Each of us, in his own way, can make this nation a better place. Let us start by taking our responsibility as citizens seriously, and turn out in very large numbers for the coming local elections.
If we elect goons at the municipal level, we shall have goons and duffers in the parliament. If we elect good guys and throw our weight behind them, we shall have a more responsible government and a better run nation.
Here is a chance to fix some of the shortcomings that bedevil our nation. Let us become better citizens, turn out in large numbers and vote good people into office.
JAY HIND! VANDE MATARAM!