This year I will complete three years in the US. There is much to love about my new home. A nice suburban house with landscaped gardens, taps with running hot water all 24 hours, orderly traffic, trains on schedule, leafy roads, shopping aisles filled with delights, green bucks, fire engines that arrive on time, a well-stocked library and a landscape that changes with every season...
Yet, this week, Raja Menon's Airlift made me miss chaotic, mad India. In the movie when the Indian tricolour came up and the strains of "Vande Mataram" reverberated in the theatre, I wanted to be on the flight that took off for Sahar airport in Mumbai. I wanted to go home.
As a community we come alive in times of crisis.
Even though I love being in the US and learning about my new world, India is a constant ache in my heart. I am determined to move back to India in a few years, though my friends believe I am merely posturing. According to them my responses will change when I become used to the lifestyle here; I will no longer want to be engaged with the Indian madness for extended periods of time.
I am not judgmental about why some Indians, or world citizens of Indian origin will never think of going back to settle in India or don't even want to acknowledge their Indian roots, but here are five Airlift reasons why for me "Saare jahan se accha Hindustan hamaara!"
1. Our spirit in the face of crises
The government might have taken 12 days to get its act together for the Amman evacuation, but it was the spirit of Indians in Kuwait that helped them survive. As a community we come alive in times of crisis. When Mumbai struggled with floods in 2006, people opened up their homes to complete strangers to give them shelter; Sikhs and other communities set up free community kitchens to help those in distress. The city was that much more compassionate. This is not unique to Mumbai, and the story is replicated in crisis after crisis across India.
We always adjust... it is what makes us share our food and stories with complete strangers.
2. Our hidden gems
Yes, the government is indifferent, and the bureaucrats are notorious for their red tapism, yet there are those who are committed to their work. When DDA (Delhi Development Authority) in Delhi inadvertently allotted me an apartment that already had a legal owner, it took my family 15 long years, with innumerable hours at their office and tons of meetings with the officials to finally get what was legally mine. And finally it was because one mid-level manager pushed for the resolution of my case -- and no, he was not known to us and he took no bribe or compensation. It is people like him who ensure that the system has not broken down completely.
3. Our inclusivity
There is grave concern that India is getting intolerant. That Hindus are becoming belligerent, the call for a Hindu state is growing shriller and India is no longer a safe place for minorities. Airlift made me believe again that Indian culture is effortlessly inclusive and immersive. The cast may have been carefully curated to show Sikh, Muslim, Christian and Parsi characters, and a host of people from different regions in India, yet it did not seem unreal because we have indeed grown up in inclusive groups such as these. We don't have campaigns like #Sikhlivesmatter, #Muslimlivesmatter and so on -- it is a given. So even if there is a section of Indians who want to realise the dream of a Hindu India, there is a larger population that is pushing back just as aggressively.
India is my family, my home, and the place I hope to be cremated in. Like the Kurkure ad says, Tedha Hai Par Mera Hai!
4. Our talent for adjustment
We always adjust -- in the camp in Kuwait, and in the buses that take them to Jordan, Indians are packed like sardines, but there is a spirit of accommodating yet another person. Indians do it all the time -- in the Mumbai metro, in buses, on trains, on roads, just about anywhere. This behaviour may not conform to the Western concept of private space, but it is what makes us share our food and stories with complete strangers, and why we form close bonds of understanding.
5. All kinds of flavours
Of course there are irritating arm chair critics who criticise everything and everyone; they do everything but help! There are those who want special favours, and those who use money to get more privileges - but somehow they make life that much more masaledar!
Ah yes, there is much I dislike about India as well, but India is my family, my home, and the place I hope to be cremated in. Like the Kurkure ad says, Tedha Hai Par Mera Hai!
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