I’ve been provoked and I can’t stop thinking about it.
Incident 1. It all started on Day 2 of my Singapore trip (Dec 23
Sun) when a hotel owner was too friendly. Maybe he didn’t have much
work, but anyway, he got pretty chatty with us and was asking about
how we like Singapore. All we wanted to do was eat noodles.
He started talking about his visit to India, and like most
Singaporeans, he had been on a Buddhist pilgrimage to India. I can
still remember the angst in his voice.
He said that the central government in India is good but the state
governments are bad. Strike 1. I had to agree.
He said that it’s not a safe place for businessmen to invest money. He
said one of his close friends made huge investment, but when the
government changed, the policies changed and the friend made a huge
loss. Strike 2. I don’t know much about such things, but I can imagine
that it is possible.
He said that India hasn’t advanced enough, there’s still too much
poverty, there’s still so much chaos. He said ‘take a look at China’.
For example, if the parents invest some amount with the government,
they’ll give back 10 times the amount in 10 years, or something like
that, and this is guaranteed by the government to safeguard the
child’s future. I don’t remember the numbers he used but I was
impressed with what he said. Strike 3.
I was beaten and didn’t know how to fight back.
I’m not a patriotic guy. I don’t go around burning boards written in
non-state languages, nor do I go around speaking only in Hindi and
refusing to speak in English. But I believe in the concept of India
as a nation and I instinctively feel that I should defend my country
when someone makes says negative about my country.
But I was stumped. I was completely caught off-guard. I didn’t know
what to say. I just nodded. I desperately looked for things to tell
him. But I got nothing. Throughout the trip, I kept thinking of things
to go back and tell that hotel guy that India is a great country, but
what do we really have?
Specifically, the question is:
Post-independence, does India, as a nation, have achievements to
be proud of?
I’m not talking about our ancient history or ‘culture’. I’m not
talking about what some Indian did when he went to a foreign country,
or even someone who went out of his way to achieve something within
India (like the paeans being written about Tata Motors and their Nano
I’m talking specifically about the 1. post-independence era and the 2.
‘as a nation’ part.
A week after that incident, I was still trying to forget about it. But
the same thing happened again on Day 9 (Dec 30 Sun) with the store
owner of a bookstore that Abishek and myself randomly walked into. We
had a long conversation about Buddhism and our beliefs of God and how
we pray. It’s surreal that we randomly started talking our intimate
spiritual beliefs with a complete stranger. But such is life. And then
she mentioned the same exact things that the hotel owner did. She
specifically mentioned that she was appalled at the poverty when she
went to Bodh Gaya.
Yes, we are talking about poverty, not just about the beggars on the
busy roads of Bangalore, but he fighting-for-food kind, the kind that
we saw in ‘Swades’ movie.
Incident 2. After visiting the Kaala Chakra
I realized how influential India has really been, especially to most
of South East Asia, from language to politics to trade, Indian-related
stuff is everywhere in South East Asia. I used to wonder about why
Tamil is such a common language here in Singapore, and only after
I visited this exhibition, I realized that this goes back to the B.C.
Notice the irony that I got to know more about Indian history and
influence when I’m outside India.
Probably because there is such importance given to history and culture
in Singapore. But people in India have no time for such things, we are
still fighting and struggling for our basic needs.
This immediately reminded me of “Maslow’s hierarchy of
We are still struggling in Levels 1-3, that’s why we are just touching
Level 4, and we’re a long way from reaching Level 5 of Self
Actualization. At least, my point of view.
Incident 3. I know there will be lots of people that say that I’m
wrong, and that everything’s fine in India. (It reminds me of Rahul
Bose in the “Everybody Says I’m Fine” movie.)
The problem is that everything’s fine as long as nothing bad happens
to you or you witness it, only then you realize how bad the situation
is. God forbid, you end up in an accident, only then you realize the
problems with the police, the hospital, the insurance, and so on. The
situation is the same everywhere, irrespective of the aspect of life.
I don’t know how better or worse we are compared to other countries,
but that doesn’t mean we can’t be in a better situation. There is
simply no reason to! We have the money, the people, the resources…
Incident 4. I came to know recently that at a premier medical
institution in Bangalore, teachers are openly telling students that
if they don’t “help” the teachers (i.e. pay them money), they will
make sure that 30% of the students will fail! I am not kidding
you, this is for real. Where’s the sanctity of education? Where’s
the concern for the students’ future? Where’s the concern for
encouraging future doctors (especially because the number of
doctors is already dwindling)? Where’s the concern about setting
precedents for future of medical profession? Even if they don’t
think long term, how will students afford this? I know many
medical student friends who have struggled to pay the hefty fees,
what about these students who simply cannot afford to pay bribes
Incident 5. Similarly, lecturers in PUC colleges have stopped
teaching in college and they tell students that they are anyway going
to tuitions. If not, they should join their own tuitions! What happens
to all those students who can’t afford it?
Incident 6. Abishek’s close friend and special effects friend Osmand
is a third-generation Indian. When he was about to fly from India to
China to visit his relatives, he was abused that he was a Chinese
person, and this for a person who’s born and brought up in India his
entire life! The difference in attitudes was telling when the Indian
immigration officer made him wait for 3 hours to prove that he’s an
Indian compared to when he explained, that he’s a third-generation
Indian originally hailing from China, to the Chinese immigration
officer, he said “Welcome home.” Now, Osmand is as Indian as it
gets, irrespective of how it looks. Tell me, who’s the racist here?
Osmand is so fed up of this attitude that he wants to go back to