Sunday, November 26, 2006

10 things to make you proud to be an Indian

Considering that there are so many top 10 lists on Reddit these days, I figure that I should write an optimistic piece about why Indians ought to be glad that they're Indian.
  1. We are secular. Sure we have our ultra-right wing fundies, but India is one place where you can scream, "I am an atheist", and not have anyone trouble you. Richard Dawkins wouldn't have a tough time in India. We listen, we think, and if you believe in a great Juju up the mountains, we don't trouble you. Also great if you don't believe in any Juju at all. Nobody will bat an eyelid if you wear a t-shirt saying "atheist" (or the local language equivalent) and parade around India. We're used to the complexity of faith, and the possibility that it might not exist for some people.
  2. Our politicians aren't out attacking some other country. We don't also kid ourself about a higher moral standard. We're just as human as the rest. We've had our share of brutality, and now we'd like to leave that behind, thank you. We showed the world that brutality is not the solution. If you cannot win the war in a peaceful manner, you can certainly not win it with arms. A Gandhi figure in Africa would do wonders.
  3. Vada-pav, and other absolutely lovely food. I often meet people who aren't from India but love our food. Just today I met an Argentinian who loves dosas. Now that is enough to hold your head high. Think dosas, curry, basmati, naan, chicken tikka, and dal. One of my favorite incidents is an elderly Japanese lady gushing, "I love curry", in a remote part of Hokkaido, which must see less than two Indian visitors a year. And cooked right, Indian food is very healthy.
  4. You don't need a car to get around. That means lower emissions, lesser trouble to mother Earth, and a quieter conscience. You don't need to drive to get from Bombay to Delhi: you don't even need to fly! You can take a train, and meet some colorful characters on the way. On more than one train journey strangers have invited me to an impromptu train party, complete with alchohol.
  5. We've got a democracy. Not a very functional democracy, but atleast we elect the person at the top. Every person's vote is counted, and not by a machine that can be hacked by a chimp.
  6. We know that we're poor, and we're trying to come out of it ourself. We aren't begging for aid, we aren't pleading for support. Let us study, let us work, and we'll provide for our own people. We've got a lot of poverty, but you won't hear of a "Fund for India" anytime soon.
  7. We love education. Everyone values education. Hindus even have a goddess of education. Parents tell their kids that education is the difference between misery and prosperity. And not the kind of education that says the Earth is 7000 years old. We study in real schools.
  8. Families exist. Parents don't get divorced as often. Children are brought up in a stable family of both parents, sometimes with a supporting cast of uncles and aunts. I have fond memories of spending time with both my parents, who are still together. I love my brother, my parents, and we're still a close family. We still visit, we care for each other.
  9. We waste very little. Bags are reused. Bottles are reused. Clothes are given to younger members of the extended family, or to household helpers, or exchanged for utensils. My family's monthly garbage fits in the weekly garbage output of average American families. Our newspapers are thinner (though just as pointless), we abhor wastage of food. Things aren't packaged in kilos of plastic, made of stronger material than bomb-shelters. Vegetables are sold fresh, and you bring your own bag. We don't put monthly carpets of grass on our lawns to make neighbors jealous.
  10. The law doesn't dictate personal freedom. Abortions are legal, for good reasons. Drugs like cocaine are illegal, but it is unlikely to get persecuted just for this, unless you're into other stuff as well. Alchohol drinking is permitted at 18, though it is no big deal to get it when you're 12, or 10. [1] Indians don't binge drink when they turn 18, because they can choose to binge drink at 10. Even tobacco isn't made into a big deal, so it isn't. If people choose to smoke, they can start as early as they want. This takes the sparkle off. Homosexuality is still technically illegal, but it is unheard of to persecute anyone for it in the way Alan Turing was persecuted.

Footnotes:
1. There are states where alchohol isn't permitted right now, but these things change with time: states have experimented with prohibition, democracy at work. States with prohibition are exceptions, not the rule.