Before starting the ride, let me welcome this month’s new Ghumakkars.
If you are yet to get acquainted with them, please visit their author pages and leave a comment or two on their stories. You’ll be amazed by what you’ll find. Each one of them is unique in his own right.
We are all so different from each other that it does not surprise me when travellers to India find themselves confused about how to label this vast, diverse country. They often describe their experience of India as “overwhelming” but most of them still want to come back. As did the man at the ticket counter of one of the many British Castles. “India is crazy.” I didn’t feel bad when he quipped after he had greeted me with a British-accented “Namaste!” It is true after all. We are a crazy country. He gave me special discount coupons because my country “had been very kind to him” during his trip.
At most places, you don’t have to search for too long before you find some trace of India. From the Indian Chai Latte on the menus of almost all leading coffee shops to packed restaurants that serve “authentic Indian Cuisine”, you cannot ignore India. The influence of our country is palpable every time some international top-shot quotes Mahatma Gandhi or when a city in a foreign country organizes community fireworks on Diwali. Yes, we are a crazy nation and our craziness is our identity.
We do not need to look back into the history to find reasons to feel proud of our country. We do not need validation by the West to feel uplifted. There are enough reasons around us to make us say “This happens only in India” with pride. I came to the UK when the news of CWG mismanagement was doing rounds internationally. When someone important asked a group of Indian students whether our country will actually be able to host CWG after all, we refused to be apologetic of the situation though it was getting difficult to hold our heads up with every passing day. Since then, I made it a practice to search for and read at least one good news from India every day. And I was surprised to find a wealth of incredible initiatives that get buried under the morbidity.
For example, here is a doctor who only charges Rs 2 for treatment and here is a lawyer who fights cases for free for those who cannot afford it. The belief in inherent honesty and goodwill is reinstated by the heartening stories of IIT Alumni giving loans to students who have secured a seat at IIT but cannot afford the tuition fee. The money is lent without any collateral and the lenders claim of having no defaulters at all. And there is a website that gives voice to journalists from all parts of India and all sections of the society. Visit India Unheard and go through some of their videos and stories. They not only bring to light the issues but also small triumphs such as the success of mid-day meal programs at Raipur Primary School and the success of Solar Technology in securing crops in a remote village in Goa.
And quite recently, two school girls discovering a rare asteroid has demonstrated young India’s enthusiasm and ability in science while a school girl saying no to marriage puts a seal on India breaking free from orthodoxed, unfortunate practices. These are just some examples. Our country is brimming with such stories and is progressing in all areas. We only need to have faith and do whatever we can to help.
And travellers can make a lot of difference to the way the world perceives a nation and its people. When we visit a foreign country, it is an opportunity to showcase what being an Indian means. It is a great responsibility. Similarly when travellers from other countries visit India, it helps to make them feel welcome and comfortable while giving them their space. The opinion they form of the country goes a long way in ensuring that India and Indians are looked at with respect.
If we respect ourselves and our nation, we can be sure that the world will behold us in the same light. Travellers are stronger ambassadors of a nation than any government-appointed diplomat can ever hope to be.
There’s nothing unique about writing about National Pride on Independence Day. But some clichés are too precious to avoid. We love India. Like any other country, our country has its share of problems. And they are our problems just like India’s triumphs are our triumphs. Today, at the beginning of another year of our independence, Ghumakkar wishes all of its authors and readers a very Happy Independence Day and wishes our young country more frequent and grander triumphs in the coming years.
Till the next time…Jai Hind!