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Let India rise above India
March 16, 2006
There's very little fun in reading the newspapers nowadays. It has become all too predictable.
Even as the news treads the thin line between inanity and vanity, it is incredibly boring. And I, for one, am thankful for the morning biscuits that add an extra sparkle to my breakfast meal.
Take a look for yourself, and you can see what I mean.
On any given day, a couple of headlines explain how the Indian chariot of progress is kicking up a dust storm that will leave the Chinese coughing in its wake.
Yet another story will cheer an Indian or an Indian creation for a foreign award, be it the Oscars, Wimbledon, or even the first prize for the Snodsbury Grammar examination in a little (and fictitious) English village.
And how can one forget the quote from an unknown American senator praising some aspect of Indian society -- no matter if it is of any relevance to any issue at hand at all.
In fact, all politicians who have trouble getting noticed in their homeland can say things like, 'The daffodils in India are prettier than those in Holland.' They can then rest assured that at the very least, hundreds of Indian newspapers will lap up their words, even as filmmaker Yash Chopra pays a visit to the Dutch consulate to renew his visa.
This state of affairs is as tragic as is deplorable.
India is too great, too vast and too complex a land to have all of its news neatly ordered within two or three categories.
One can see why this is happening. For years, India had to lean on the twin pillars of exoticism and spirituality to gain any form of recognition from the external world. Now all of that is now changing as Indians are setting the pace in the worlds of science and commerce.
Even as the world changes, Indians find themselves at the forefront of this transformation. And India is demanding its fair share of respect from a planet that had studiedly ignored it for so many years.
For all of humanity, these are times that carry with them the sweet fruits of immense possibility. For Indians, these are also times that bring with them a great responsibility.
We have a destiny to choose, and it is important we make the right choice.
Sure, we can be a superpower of the modern age like America. But there are two Americas, and we have to make a conscious effort to be more like one than the other at every step of this journey.
One America is George W Bush's America. It is an America that is closed, arrogant, inward looking and suspicious. It is not based on any universal principles that will stand the test of time. On the contrary, it is a nation driven by reactionary policies that -- at the best of times -- can be described as opportunistic.
It is a nation that shakes hands with dictators on one hand, and bombs democracy on another. It is a nation where the flag has come to stand not for a people, but for a ruthlessly efficient mechanism of power, a rabid army of elephants that see the world in one colour – green -- and are unable to tell the villagers from the grass underneath their feet. A nation where all other countries are nothing but passive receptacles for its opinions, thoughts and actions.
The other America is a country of ideas that represent the best of the best thoughts from around the world. It is an America that nations have turned to for refuge, for hope, for innovation and for a moral voice, when it seemed that the darkest voices in the deepest woods had come out of hiding to take over the world.
When Woody Guthrie sang: This land is your land, This land is my land, From California, To the New York Island, the route he transcribed passed not through just one continental landmass, but the other way, across Hawaii, Japan, China, India and indeed the entire world with its oceans and deserts and mountains and cities.
This hunger to include is what makes America a great country today.
And who can relate to this identity better than India -- a country that through the ages welcomed people of multiple faiths, great voyagers and even marauding armies from the farthest continents?
A country that absorbed the developments in other civilisations and enriched them a hundredfold, be it in the fields of trigonometry, astronomy or even, in the courts of Ashoka and Akbar, the development of public discourse mechanisms that are the foundation of all modern democracies.
India should know the value of having this universal perspective. After all, we are one of the few countries that have experienced the greatness that resulted from it. Can we not cast aside the shackles of this narrow-minded nationalism and be great once again?
It is this India that India should aspire to be. And our media can drive this change by being the voice of the many rather than the perspectives of the few.
Domestically, our newspapers can turn their eyes to the hundreds of ripples and waves caused by millions of striving oars, rather than focus their attention on the sail that is as lazy, as is vain, puffing up with pride at the exertions of an alien wind.
On a global level, we can celebrate the world's achievements as our own.
Our news doesn't have to be organised in the least. It is at its most exciting when it is a collage of multiple images, a giant kaleidoscope, where a million pieces come together to convey the message of a universal truth.
It is this India that can be a leader of the modern world. It is this India that Rabindranath Tagore had spoken of when he wrote:
Where the mind is without fear
It's time to choose exactly what sort of country we want to be.Arun Krishnan writes for a technology firm. His other thoughts can be found at http://www.cuttingchai.com