Having lived in London for almost a decade, a few days back I decided to come back to my motherland Bharat. Like any social media enthusiast, I thought the best (and frankly easiest) way to break the news to the world would be to pour my heart out on Facebook...And so I did. A friend messaged: "I read your status...Made me happy #lemonjuicetoourcolonialhangover." For those of you who are as ignorant as I was, lemon juice is the best cure for a nasty hangover, apparently.
And that got me thinking. Why do we assume that people living abroad have a colonial hangover? Assuming I have a colonial hangover because I have lived in London all of my adult life, is like me assuming you are a chauvinist if you're a man. Is that always true? I guess that is a whole different can of worms, probably for another day.
Assuming I have a colonial hangover because I have lived in London all of my adult life, is like me assuming you are a chauvinist if you're a man.
I am in no denial of the existence of the colonial hangover—fair-skin obsession, life-abroad dream, extreme Anglophobia/philia. In spite of British colonisation in India ending decades back, clearly it was only on paper. Swami Chinmayananda rightly said, "India is free, not Indians."
On the other hand, those of us who consider ourselves patriots, why do we (almost blindly) assume that we are better than others, when we don't live our own culture to the fullest? There are so many who don't live in Bharat but live the philosophy of being happy, of the values and virtues we claim to be our own. One can allege that it is thanks to colonisation that we don't live our own culture in the first place. True, but for how long will we blame our past? When will we take charge of it as a choice we make every day? That will help us get out of the so-called colonial hangover. A life of complete alertness where these subtle notions can be broken down and our true culture and nature is revealed to us. Thanks to great monks that walked this earth to spread their wisdom, Bharatiya culture has travelled many oceans today and taught us to live by its principles no matter where.
Bharata = Bha (light = knowledge) + Rata (carry/devoted/maintained). So, you can be a Bharatiya even if you don't live in Bharat... and you could be far from being one even if you live in Bharat. So my geolocation is not a judgement on the patriot I am. One can live our culture in the midst of all pairs of opposites, in the midst of all attractions and aversions of the world of desires. We are a culture of rishis and the Himalayas, but we are also a culture of living that same Gita in the midst of the battlefield. Living that knowledge, training and mastering the mind to reach our highest potential; being the exemplary householder, warrior, employer, employee, father, mother, monk, and optimising whatever path we pick—that is us living our culture. And that is the Bharatiya, the human, the very culture of "Being."
You can be a Bharatiya even if you don't live in Bharat... and you could be far from being one even if you live in Bharat.
Emotional patriotism is more detrimental to our nation than not having any patriotism at all. Why? Because it doesn't let us grow. It makes us stagnant in assuming that we have the upper hand, no matter what, and brings a false sense of confidence. We are not perfect yet, though we do have the potential, no doubt. But today we do also have a lot to learn from the West and vice versa. Why not be more graceful and show more sportsmanship and live our culture of Vasudeva Kutumbakam (Universal Family)? We see more discrimination in our own country—between the South Indian and North Indian, a Delhiite and a Mumbaikar, an Indian man and an Indian woman, a villager and a city dweller, a rich person and a poor person— than we see any form of racism between Indians and non-Indians abroad. I am not saying racial discrimination doesn't exist. But truth is, till the time we see duality, we will have fear—dvetat bhayam jayate (the other/duality gives birth to fear). Where there is fear, there is an act of defence. That defence manifests in all discrimination. Where there is empathy and oneness, where is the room for fear? There is only room for compassion and love, no matter what. So why do we take this false pride that we are good because others are evil?
Let us rise to our own best. Our country, ancestors, lineage has given it all to us. Let us focus on living that culture rather than focusing on the differences. Let us down the lemon juice of awareness and conscious reflections, using the wealth of knowledge in our scriptures, and carry that with us regardless of where we are, who we are... and think what is the real hangover? Think! Let us be true Bharatiyas.