Today is India’s 65th Independence Day.
It’s a national holiday in that country (as it should be), and despite the official parades, etc., people have probably been partying like it’s 1985 for a few days, definitely since yesterday.
While I had to renounce my Indian citizenship some years ago in order to become, officially, an American (India doesn’t currently allow dual citizenship), part of me is always going to feel, if not be, Indian.
And that Indian part of me can’t help but marvel at what an amazing culture, society, country I come from… warts and all.
Those of you who have any experience of India know that it is huge. And it’s such a contradiction!
Image: nimbu via Flickr, CC 2.0
It’s got the Himalayas. Ok, not all of them, but a good part of ’em.
It’s got terrorists (way before the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks).
It’s got the Taj Mahal.
It’s a mess. Did you ever see “City of Joy“? (Much furor was furored back in Cal aka Kolkata when it was filmed, but it does depict how crazy that city – where I was born & grew up, incidentally – is.)
It’s got Bollywood (which industry, incidentally, is not representative of the entire Indian film industry but is still larger than Hollywood). And though no one may cop to it, I’m convinced the whole flash mob thing was dreamed up by someone inspired by the epic song-and-dance sequence in typical Hindi films.
It has female infanticide.
It has given the world Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism . . . and countless other religions or, at least, religious practices. Name one other country that has done that.
It can be ridiculously sexist.
Yet it elected the second female head of state in the world, whose Italian-born daughter-in-law is still one of the most powerful figures in Indian politics.
I could go on and on, but you get the picture. And while I imagine most countries and cultures are studies in contradictions, India seems to be one that takes that phrase to the bank.
I’m hoping to “go home” this Christmas (I haven’t been back in four years, and my husband and I haven’t been together in seven . . . see pic to left).
No doubt I will be exasperated, frustrated, irritated . . . possibly all at once . . . and then I will be madly in love again with the richness, the craziness, the warmth, the love that is India.
I can’t remember what precipitated it (perhaps India winning the cricket World Cup in 1983?), but it is now common practice in India for trucks, buses, most forms of public transportation to have emblazoned, somewhere along their rear, an Indian flag and the words, “Mera Bharat Mahaan.”
This is written either in the Devanagari script (which is the script Hindi is written in, and as you see in the top photo) or in English . . . sometimes both.
Translated, that means, “My India is great.”
And even though I’m no longer a bona fide citizen of India, I take pride in having been birthed there. After all, you can take the girl out of Bharat (pronounced “bhaah’rut” and which is the Hindi word for “India”) but you can’t take Bharat out of the girl.
And I wish a Happy Independence Day to all my family and friends who are connected, directly or remotely, to this great country.
Mera Bharat Mahaan.
[…] month, India celebrated its 69th Independence Day. In the last 25 years, this young democracy has seen many career options emerge, one of which is […]
One day I will visit India. I have many friends who speak quite highly of it. I find it fascinating. It is on my list of things to do sooner than later.
@thejoshuawilner It is.. but then, I’m biased. ;)
@mrdancohen Thanks so much for sharing!
Happy Independence Day Shonali. I recently read a book of history published in the 90s that takes a revisionist look at how partition was conducted. Contrary to most history books, this author lays a lot of the blame on Mountbatten. Depressing reading, seems like it could have been handled far better.
@cparente Thank you, Chris! Yes, I think most Indians would agree with that – it was really botched up. Not that splitting up a country – really, a sub-continent! – could ever be easy, but it does seem like they did an exceptionally poor job of it.
Shonali !!!!! What a post! As always, I loved this one too…Happy Independence day to you too…and yeah “Bharat will never get out of you” :-) & I hope to see you when you are here! :-)
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It’s one of those ‘dream big’ places I’d like to go – don’t even know much about it, except this .. this diversity of culture and personality; I’m romantically infatuated w/ notions of venturing to far off, exotic lands. Glad I delurked today, reminds me to keep India on my list. Have a nice time going home, FWIW.
@3HatsComm You should absolutely go, and when you do, make sure you let me know in advance, so that I can help you out with places to stay, etc. (I still have a lot of friends there, more, in fact, now b/c of social…!). I think you’d have a blast. And thank you!
I like how you balance the good and the little bad! I have stayed in India for a total of six years and yes, I still miss it so much!
Happy Independence Day. Jai Hind!
@Hajra You left India when you were 6 years old? Wow. Where all have you lived since then? It’s funny, because even though we haven’t met IRL, I think of you very much as Indian!
@Shonali I was born in India. But we moved to the UAE soon after. I went back to India for my higher education. I am very much Indian! :)
@Hajra So I know whom to stay with when I visit the UAE, right…?
@Shonali Absolutely! :)
And it gave you cricket and Rabindranath Tagore, right?
Happy Independence Day.
@bdorman264 It sure did! Say, did you know that Rabindranath Tagore is somehow vaguely connected to my family?
@Shonali Yeah, me too…..I’m still trying to make some money off that….:)
Great post Shonali!!! Your reflections on the past of India as well as the present are spot on!!
@jrsygrl621 Thanks, Priti! Do you get to go back often?
Great post, heartfelt too! RT @shonali Today’s #WUL post (mine!) has some thoughts on India’s Independence Day (today) http://t.co/mZhyzXXP
I’m excited for you to return to India as I know it will be a great experience for you. At the end of September I will be going to Hawaii and bringing Nate (who has never been!) and I’m excited for him to see where I grew up. The culture and lifestyle is so different in Hawaii and I think it represents so much of who I am. I also haven’t been to visit in about 5 years which seems like a lifetime! So Mera Bharat Mahaan! I can’t wait to see your photos in December!
@rachaelseda I still haven’t booked our tickets… I better get to it! And HOW EXCITING that you’re taking Nate to Hawaii (somewhere else I am dying to go). I can totally see Hawaii in you, my dear. Do you think you’d like to go back there to live, permanently, I mean?
What a great post, Shonali. And how inspiring it is that you’ve never let your birthplace go from your heart
We are all a product of our place of birth. Our challenge for the rest of our lives is to show to the rest of the world the very best that our heritage has to offer…and you do this very, very well, my friend.
Happy Independence Day!
@KirkHazlett Thank you, my friend! You know, it’s interesting that I’m not really plugged into the South Asian diaspora here in the DC area. I do have Indian friends, and friends of Indian origin, but they are people I’ve met through work and have subsequently become good friends, like newpr , shashib , rajmalikdc and others. I’ve made attempts at finding the local Indian community, but honestly, it’s been tough… and after all these years, I don’t feel the same urgency about it as I may have years ago. Yet I feel very Indian in some ways, as you know. Weird, huh?
“tanSEN was bengali my dear friend, so were a lot of other people! want to see the entire list as it stands today? so was subash chandra bose and sri aurobindo :)
and i can name a million others and i am proud to say our greateness can be exerted beyond our national borders. we are the fifth largest speakers!
these guys are not just making India proud but half the world knows about these guys dude :)
c’mon we bengalis have won pretty much every award in the world stage you name it we have it and we are damn proud of what we have :)
its the only country in the world which took rebellion because it couldn’t speak its mother tongue and it won! and won so hard that the UN had to adopt that day as the international language day, which celebrates languages from all over the world.
did you know that the FAMOUS SEARS TOWER is architectured by another bengali?”³
KAMONASISH AAYUSH MAZUMDAR
MBA, Institute of Management Technology, Ghaziabad
Co-Founder at Yappily (earlier known as Koove) Bengaluru, Karnataka
Wow. I could have been reading one of those WhatsApp messages some of my older relatives insist on forwarding me. ;)
Outside of beating the Bong drum – which Bongs are wont to do! – your point is…?