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I Cannot Be The Indian You Want Me To Be

26/03/2016 8:41 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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I am an Indian. I am also a mother. Both things together do not make me sacred. Why should they? I would like to step down from the pedestal that I have inadvertently been put on, please. I am so much more than a mother. My children do not define me. I am sure if my country were a person she (or for that matter he) would think the same.

India is not my mother. India is my country. Long back, in school, I remember participating in a dance sequence which showcased dance forms from all states, and in the end, my friend, dressed as 'Bharat Mata,' complete with a red sari, a big red bindi, long hair falling on her shoulders, appeared with one hand raised to give us all her blessings. Back then I remember imagining all sorts of scenarios--what if India didn't like being called a mother? What if it were Father India? What if she hated the colour red and was allergic to the bindi glue? What if she liked to wear denims? Today, I feel grateful for being born back then. Or else, I would have been languishing in a corner cell after having been labelled anti-national.

My Indianness never needed proof, but perhaps it does now.

So who decides everything? Who decides the country's gender? Is it simply a language by-product? Or someone consciously drew parallels between the expected roles of a woman and those of a nation? Who decides how we are related to our nation and more importantly how we display our respect? Would it suffice if I stomp my foot, raise my hand in a crisp salute every morning and yell, "Bharat Mata ki jai!"? I need to know. We all do.

Every morning I inhale restlessness. What is it going to be today? What will define nationalism today? Some days, slogans defines one's convictions, and on others, one's birth. Recently, a woman of foreign origin married to an Indian was told on the social media platform that she managed, "We tolerate you, we tolerate your language, we let you stay here." This was a response to her statement that she might be of foreign origin but is an Indian by virtue of marriage and doesn't need to prove anything to anyone. She is not an Indian by birth, others are not Indians by virtue of the ideas they adopt. She exited from the group she built thanks to the threats she received. She defied the prescribed definition of nationalism. Every day brings with it a new grotesque characterization of something that I took for granted. The papers fill me in on ever-narrowing, suffocating definitions.

I am the one who comes out, after you have rampaged on the streets, and picks up the litter. For I am an Indian.

My Indianness never needed proof, but perhaps it does now. There are days that I find myself thanking an elusive power above for not endowing me with a surname that reeks of 'sedition.' I choose my words carefully when people are arguing about religion or politics. I never used these two words in one sentence so easily, before. Now, the two easily mix. And where there was debate is now a blood-curdling cry for battle. Things have changed now. With every thought of dissent aired or imagined, a crowd roars and points fingers at the lone voice, baying for blood. They need proof--of your patriotism and mine.

But then there are days when my insides scream for a breath of fresh air. I want to yell, "Enough is enough." I am an Indian. And I do not feel compelled to shout "Bharat Mata ki Jai." I won't deliver that crisp salute either. I will resist every attempt that you make to strangulate us into submission to the psychopathic definition of patriotism. You out there can go on, cry for blood, and charge. But I am the one who comes out, after you have rampaged on the streets, and picks up the litter. For I am an Indian.

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