Mera Bharat Mahaan*

*(conditions apply)

Today's The Hindu had a great Op-Ed article about a retiree who spent a few months in the US with his son and found that country to be 'dull, lifeless and robotic'. The article proceeds to do a line by line comparison between India and the US, extolling the virtues of India and her spiritual, gregarious society. Despite the corny ending with the line 'Mera Bharat Mahaan', the article was a clear winner for the place of a lazy Sunday afternoon read.
But I felt that the article was lacking on two key fronts. Firstly, it bracketed the most raging problems of India within half a sentence; concerns such as overflowing filth, slums, lack of sanitation, congested roads, poverty and so on. I understand that the point of the article was to focus on India's open and vibrant society, but still I cannot fathom how we can compensate for lack of basic human rights with a vibrant festival calender. It is ironic that in the next few pages, there was an article on how Indian festivals put a deathly strain on the poor to overspend and keep up their image in tightly-linked societies.
Secondly, I think that the point of view of the article is a severely biased one. It was from the POV of a septuagenarian living in the conservative, traditional city of Chennai. Being no stranger to Chennaite septuagenarians myself, I can frankly say that that demographic do not adapt well. They come from very orthodox backgrounds and their comfort space is heavily defined by their surroundings. They are yet to come to grips with even basic technologies, so expecting them to be unbiased commentators on the American lifestyle is unfair and flawed.
Lastly i would like to make it clear that I love India for its vibrancy. I have gone abroad on a few occasions and have spent a significant amount of time abroad but i am sure that i will never be able to live abroad for long stretches. I am hard wired Indian. (Chennaite in particular) But even then i recognize that India needs to change. it needs to embrace the best of western cities and societies if it is to proceed on this track of growth. Issues such as open sewers must become the center of attention and not remain by the bys. Clapping ourselves on our backs for having vibrant society and disregarding the chronic ills of our country is myopic and potentially disastrous. While it is good to see the glass as half full, sometimes we must look at the empty half for the sake of future generations.

Western societies have, on occasions, given up traditions for the sake of modernization. But having endured for 10000 years, Indian traditions will put up a harder fight. The challenge, the unique challenge in fact, that India faces is rapidly embracing modernity while holding on to its vibrant traditionalism. That is not a bad challenge to face, if you ask me. 

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