If there is one sentiment India has been terribly familiar with, it is cynicism. Decades have been spent under a pall of scepticism, little realizing that fundamentals in this country remain strong and that we are so much better off than so many others in this world.
Now don’t throw poverty, illiteracy, oppression of dalits etc on my face. Being in my job, I have a good of idea of all that. What has been different, since say mid 1990s, is a certain confidence. And if one were to put it honestly, we are dying to see ourselves as one of the global superpowers, and we know it is possible in the near future.
What also needs to be accepted is that India has proven to be a unique case in several aspects. It has leapfrogged in several fields without going through the procedures that economic books lay down. We have not taken the tedious course that several developed countries took, like the technological revolution, and earlier the green and the white ones.
India has always been a fit case of study of the opposites. So, while we still have unacceptable levels of people living under the poverty line and a big share of farmers’ suicide, which should never be; India is also a wealthier nation, perhaps beyond what it ever imagined. Poverty and illiteracy levels are also down, but yet need to be wiped out.
We have a booming service sector; we have smarter techies than anywhere in world, and without whom Microsoft wouldn’t be what it is today (Thanks Mr Bill Gates for the thanksgiving $40 mn cheque for infant care in India); we are also a part of a lot fancy clubs like the nuke block and ones who send up space missions and can build their own submarines and satellites.
Our founding fathers had vision to establish world class institutes and industries, which they called the temples of modern India. We are reaping benefits from them today.
Our educational institutes are among the best in the world, churning out one of the largest number of graduates in the world. So much so, it has got Barack Obama thinking. He has warned his people, “the Indians and Chinese are coming,”…..and that unless they improve their education standards, they could face stiff competition in the future.
We have world class hospitals and are providing affordable health care to Indians and a lot of foreigners. Our industries have led us to self sufficiency (thanks to the millions who put up with the ambassadors and B&W TVs so that domestic industry could grow) and are now at a juncture where our conglomerates are gobbling up a lot of foreign brands through successful takeovers.
Bollywood and other thriving regional film industries churn out the largest number of movies in the world, so that’s more than sufficient to keep us all entertained and swinging.
We have a stable government. Take a look at the neighbourhood, and it will spare me the explaining. Governments lose elections here and they walk out without a mumble, our Army Chief reports to our Defence Minister, who reports to the Prime Minister (and symbolically to the President); and these systems work. Nobody is above law, however much we may shout cheating.
Our Aam Admi counts. BJP knows that better than anyone else. The picture of Election Commission sending three officials to collect the ballot of a lone voter living in a jungle reserve in Junagarh is what real empowerment is.
We have a first class Constitution and we have had men with backbones of steel like Nani Palkhivala, who challenged despotic attempts of the all-powerful Mrs Gandhi and won the Keshvananda Bharti case and thus secured our sacred tome forever.
Such is its largesse, balance and intellectual depth, that several of the provisions of our Constitution have been copied by other fledgling democracies.
Our democracy is vibrant and kicking and being the largest, is a subject of study for the rest of the world. When a brief cloud of emergency came on the horizon, it was blown away due to stiff public resistance and the willpower of many like JP.
Our political system is inclusive. People who are not necessarily educated from St Stephens, the likes of Mulayams and Mayawatis, can become chief ministers if the public so wants. Our press is free; and shall I say fair to a large extent.
Despite brutish instances of intolerance periodically, over a billion people with a trillion differences live together peacefully. That’s like saying the populations of both the Americas and Europe, with all their dissimilarities and more, living together! Now, you get the picture.
We fight over caste, class, religion and our locality neighbours, who throw junk in our backstreet or cricket balls which crack our window panes; but we also debate together and accept each others views or agree to disagree (without having to go though the formality of a beer summit) and also celebrate Holi, Diwali, Christmas and Eid together. So, inspite of our diverse affiliations, we still know in our hearts that the invisible thread, which Nehru alluded to, holds us together.
If one we were to crisscross the length and breadth of this country, one would find that while everyone is extremely proud of their culture and customs, they feel everyone else has a right to theirs. That’s indisputable and a part of our DNA.
As a country, and we as a people have rejected the extremes. And that perhaps is the mantra or secret of our success. Emotive issues can sway us for a while, but out pendulum comes to rest at the center after all. Because we are a moderate people, with moderate views and have learnt to live and let live.
Because our primary education system, our history books, our parents and grand parents, as well as our ethos, has taught us that whatever we maybe, we are Indians first!