Yes, this post is a response to the post by Sumedh Mungee. No, it is not an angry retaliation or a tirade against Indians who choose to make their home in other countries. Nor is it a rant about the ones who stay but have given up. This is simply my story. It is why I choose to stay and fight.
I’m not much of a patriot, I don’t have strong opinions about our politicians or our rightful place in the world. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel the world and see how things ought to be – the beautiful, pot-hole free clean streets, drivers that don’t have their palms stuck to the horn, suburban homes that have lawns and gardens, brilliant infrastructure (Tokyo Metro is heaven compared to a Malad-Churchgate local), polite, friendly people. I could go on, but you get the picture. Yes, I know what we’re missing – but I choose to live in India despite all this – because I want to change things.
There are many Indias, as Mr Mungee says, but there are a lot more than the three he talks about. There’s the mother who rents out her womb so her family is fed, there’s the super spoilt middle-class brat who’s never had to lift a finger his whole life, there’s the farmer who kills himself because he can’t stand to see his children starve, there’s the teen whose only mission is to party and spend daddy’s millions, there’s tired, exhausted working class India that only wants to make it from one day to the next with a modicum of dignity and self-respect. But in this multitude of Indias there is one simple underlying truth – if we want these Indias to change, we’re the ones who have to change things.
The disparity in income, the cultural differences, the dehumanised maid – they’re ills we live with every day. I’ve heard all the arguments before: You can’t fight the system, nothing changes, the corruption is never ending. We bribe our way through red tape because it’s easier to do so; we break traffic rules because everybody does it, we throw trash into the street because ‘where are the dustbins?’ I get it. India ‘sucks’ on a number of levels. But one of the cruellest blows is that people like you and me, people with educations, consciences and common sense choose to say: What can one person do? So we give up.
Who do you think is going to make the change if not you and me? It’s already obvious that the vast majority in this country refuses to acknowledge there is a problem. Someone has to make that start. I know it’s tough to be the change. But being the change is definitely braver than running away and infinitely more fulfilling than ranting about it on a social forum.
Cultures evolve when its citizens stand up and hold themselves accountable for their own actions first. A friend who runs an NGO once told me how he never used Social Media to recruit volunteers. It’s easy to press a like button, he said, but tiresome to give up a Saturday of fun. So true.
We’re turning into a race of defeated armchair activists. And the only people losing out are us. It’s time to ask, what have I done for my country today? And you really don’t have to do all that much to contribute. Start small – throw garbage into a bin instead of the road, use less plastic, volunteer to teach someone, help out at a women’s shelter, create entrepreneurs by microlending. The list is endless.
If you need a more concrete example – this one is tried and tested and one I can vouch for: Give your maid a day off every week, pay her an equitable wage for the work she does. Get her health insurance. Give her holidays for festivals. Treat her like a cherished employee. Is it tough? No. Will you always succeed? No. But you will change things – at least for that one person. You’ll make a difference. You’ll get to look yourself in the eye every morning. Best of all you’ll get to look your kid in the eye and say, This is your country – cherish her. Be her change. Be her champion.