Last evening was watching the pictures of our trip to the south-east, taken a few years back. It brought back a flood of memories of a wonderful vacation. Of a different and yet somewhat similar lands. Was impressed how everything worked with clockwork precision, the people disciplined and following the rules without a stick over their heads, the cleanliness, honesty and a sense of pride for their land .
But there were a few incidents that left a bitter taste in my mouth. It made me wonder if we really took pride in being an Indian or so to say if India was personified would it take pride in us Indians?
We were a group of Indian tourists and in almost all the places we visited and all the tourist buses we sat in our tour guides never failed to drive in the point that we were lowly Indians compared to them. Whether it was to point out that their were no beggars, dogs, cows, etc loitering on the roads, to saying that their was no noise pollution due to honking horns(amazing, really!!) to pointing out that nobody used the road-sides, walls etc as their personal lavatory and took pride in all the fines imposed (from littering to chewing gum).
It is mandatory to point out that the Indians didn’t help the matters by their actions. At one resort a couple from our group was caught stealing away a couple of spoons from their room (spoons??how duh!!) in their baggage. Were those spoons worth the embarrassment of having your bags opened and the said items fished out by the hotel staff in everyone’s presence???
But what was more interesting was the behavior of the people while they were in that country. They carried a piece of wrapper in their hands for hours until they found a dustbin to throw it in. Were particular about following all rules. Gushed over the clean roads and the washrooms available everywhere all the while saying ‘our India is so dirty’. What I wanted to ask them all was WHO makes India. India is not just a mass of land surrounded by water on three sides as we learnt in geography class. India is what we make of it. If India is dirty it’s because we make it so. If India is corrupt, we make it so. It is we who litter our streets without a second thought, we who misuse the facilities provided to us, we who break rules or try to bend around the rules for a little benefit. But when ever cornered we immediately fall back to harping upon our rich culture which I’m sorry to say is nothing but a misguided sense of ego. We love to bask in reflected glory whether it’s a Mr. Mittal or a Sunita Williams or in the scores of second generation Indians making headlines in their adopted countries in various fields. We love to fawn over a white skin and golden hair and take pride in the oft clichéd praises they shower on us while they rake in the moolah and go laughing all the way to the banks.
Anyways, getting back to the trip, my day was made once we were back at the Mumbai airport. Some of the ladies from my group and me went to the washroom, which were definitely not the epitome of cleanliness. Immediately one of the ladies started cribbing and said (in her mother tongue),”India is so dirty. Everything was so clean there..etc.etc.” before I could think of a fitting reply to her, a tiny voice, (in marathi) piped up from behind, ”what India, India? What are you saying about India? Don’t say bad about India. It is best.” The voice belonged to the cleaning lady who was in-charge of the washroom. She was an uneducated woman and also one we normally shun. She hadn’t understood a word of what the lady had said. Only heard India’s name taken in a derisive and derogatory tone and responded immediately. Needless to mention it silenced the cribbing lady effectively.
And me? I wanted to hug that woman right there but restrained myself. Retrospectively I think I should have done just that.