Ofcourse, I am an Indian!

Ofcourse, I am an Indian!!

But who are those “chinkis” from the North-East? & the South-Indians. They all look the same. And worse, they all talk the same too. Oh and these I-am-an-Aryan-civilization-descendent north indians. Who do they think they are to be so self-aggrandizing? not to mention their insufferable (and unimaginably obnoxiuos) attitude! Oh, and before I forget, these gun-totting biharis who have no sense of society or civility. Not to mention the shrewd and cunning gujratis who are quietly amassing wealth in the stock exchange at the cost of other people’s money! and amidst all these, the quint-essential Mumbai-ite (or is it Mumbaikar?) who tries to distance himself from the rest of the country under the pretext of being a culture of its own. Does he forget that it is the people who define the culture & not the other way around. Talk about a misplaced identity crisis!

Today, I see unprecedented hatred amongst Indians based on regional identities. Who needs a Pakistan to spread terror in our country. We indians (or should i say, Biharis, Maharashtrians, Tamilians, “chinkis” et al) are sufficient enough.

Yes, I am an Indian. But not before my regional identity. So while I hoist the tri-color on 15th August and hold my head high for my country, I am still angry with that “south-indian” auto-driver who duped me yesterday.

So when did this regional divide escalate to such proportions that it has become a threat to the notion of “One India” itself. Maybe it will be of good measure to recall a time from the yester-years, the India under the British Raj. A strong national sentiment of independence was motivation enough for those Indians to forget their regional identities or differences. One can argue here that not many people migrated to different areas of the countries except the political fraternity to even ignite a conflict based on regionalism. Most of the movement was fairly limited to one’s state with the occasional visit to a different state mostly for pilgrimage purposes. Maybe it was this reason that no conflict (at least not of the magnitude that we see today) arose which could potentially jeopardize the entire freedom movement itself. Ironically enough, the very fact that India is a secular state is mis-interpreted only as being all-encompassing of religions alone. But being secular really means to accept and acknowledge individual differences for a united whole. Obviously this implication does not manifest itself in the Indian context.

Times have changed. With the years, people have moved around and about. But for most of the decades that ensued, this monster stayed relatively quiet. Maybe the trigger came with the Indian IT industry. Suddenly South India became the talk-of-town with the Infosys & Wipros and the TCSes of the world suddenly going on a hiring spree across the country! And now you have hordes of north indians flowing into south indian cities. And its a cultural shock for most of them! Even basics such as language is a challenge. Not to mention the always trickling influx of people from across the country into Mumbai. A city, which is arguably the melting pot of the country, somehow loses out to be a kaleidoscope for the rest of the nation. Instead, its too busy involved in carving out its own identity distinct from the very country it is part of.

This cultural alienation, although inevitable, can be overcome by simply accepting its existence in the first place. The Indian society is akin to a thaali, where different flavors (read cultures) co-exist, while not necessarily mixing with each other. Of course, the problem arises when one flavor tries to expand its boundaries (mostly politically motivated, and sometimes cultural conflict driven). Often, our lack of appreciation of a different culture leads to grouse generalizations and stereo-typing of people around us. So if an auto-driver in Chennai charges you thrice the actual amount, you would instinctively generalize and blame the entire local population! And conveniently forget about the same problem back in your own city!

I confess, I have done the same stereo-typing myself. Being a Mumbaikar, I too have, for a long time, seen myself as “different” from the rest of India. But not anymore. I have come to realize that being an Indian is not just about standing up for the national anthem or taking pride in having a larger military than Pakistan or winning in cricket.

For me, being an Indian is about accepting every other Indian the way he is. No matter where he is from or what he speaks.