Thursday, August 28, 2008

Is this India, Bharat or still just a Union of States?

This month, Indian celebrated 61 years into being recognised as an Independent country. As per the constitution, we are a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, Republic of India and a Union of States. Yes that’s the “Officially ” how India is expected to be known to the people around the World.

If we just take a ride back into the past, it was the grit of Sardar Patel to bind land once broken up into countless number of princely states, territorial rulers and European colonies into one single identity. The Government then came in though as many possible channels to encourage the feeling of being one nation that drove away the Colonial powers, the last being the Portuguese in 1961. We have been fine tuned to say that we are diverse in terms of culture, religions, languages and social stratifications; end of the day, its Unity in Diversity that is the essence of India.

But does that mean that regionalism is non existent in India?

For starters, regionalism is a political ideology that focuses on the interests of a particular region or group of regions. In India, we do claim of putting India first, region- may be some other place. But I some how managed to see how this ideology is seen differently under different situations.

Some recent events have made me question if we still believe that it is still sometimes regional pride that overruns National pride. This is with regards to RJ Dheena of the Chennai station of BIG 92.7 FM. More than 135 hours continuously on the radio and a new Guinness Record for India. I regard it as a superhuman feat because 5 days on radio can be chaotic and claustrophobic for any normal person. Plus on a media where the freshness of your voice can hold an audience, its an amazing feat.

But I was surprised when I saw the statement made by the Cluster Director for Tamil Nadu of BIG 92.7 FM, Mr. P B Ramaswamy come out saying, ‘It is certainly a proud moment for all the Tamilians across the globe.’

I’m sorry, but did I read it right? “…proud moment for Tamilians … “

This is outrageous. I can understand the appreciation from all quarters, the channel using the feat it to boast about its people and culture. But where has the Tamilian angle come in? And since I can see this on two sites, this is more like a Press Release that went to all.

Even if I take no notice of why Hindi is not spoken in Southern India, or past discriminations against linguistic minorities in these states, this is a complete new angle. Does this also imply that you disown Abhinav Bindra, Vijay Kumar or Sushil Kumar as they non Tamilians?

My biggest question- how is this different from encouraging regionalism on the basis of language?

Now not in a mood of rebuttal, I saw another story which does evoke uproar. BMC or the Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation gave a month for shop owners to host boards with Devnagri script- the same in which Hindi or Sanskrit or Marathi are written. Boards in Dual languages i.e. English and Devnagri are also welcome.The ruling Congress-NCP coalition has no objections, the Shiv Sena in the BMC imposes the proceedings and the MNS makes it fodder for propaganda. End result- people refuse to oblige making it appear more like an extension of MNS Anti-North Indian protest.

Frankly, if sign boards in Kolkata can be in Bengali and English, Amritsar can have them in Punjabi, what’s the big deal about using Devnagri? If all political parties in Mumbai are promoting regionalism, how come their rallies start with “Vande Mataram” and sign off with “Jai Hind, Jai Maharashtra”??

I’m in no mood to draw any conclusions…rather this is not something I intend to do. What I’m out to seek is what exactly Regionalism is? Is India or Bharat still one country or now just a Union of States?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Awakening....

It seems I have decided back to go on to talk some of my points on the Socio-Political and Economic India…not sure why this topic interests me.

A generation awakens

Yes, that’s what the tag line was for Rang De Basanti, a movie which reflected as to how lives of some college student of today changed when they came face to face with the morals and virtues of some people of the same age a few generations ago. At the same time, another movie “Lage Raho Munnabhai” got back the Gandhian philosophy in a refreshing way to us.

The result, well- candle marches became popular and a new way of revolt called “Gandhigiri” caught the winds. (Gandhigiri became so popular in 2006 that Mid-Day released a special issue on it on the occasion of Gandhi’s birth anniversary that year). As an individual, I’m not really sure of how much of it was a trend that will stand the test of times. My reason, this generation has woken up to so many new mornings that a new awakening beckons its doorstep almost everyday. And that is the big question I am seeking an answer to…. Do we need to go back and revisit the ideas that are almost half a century old?

I believe that my generation; which means anyone in the age group of 25 to 35, has seen India in a manner few others might have ever lived through. People born during 1975 to 1985 might have been a generation that was a witness India in a manner that can be rarely possible again. The Social, Political, Economical systems underwent so many changes that we might now say; “Ok… what we have is good…How long will it last?”

To begin with, the Politics in India has turned into something very different from what it was before. Every generation does go through its own set of political tamasha. But the National Pride that was infused from the freedom struggle carried on till the 70’s. The effects slowly fizzled out and a new political fabric was being woven. I would be a big fat liar if I said that I was a witness to the Emergency, the Janta Party rule or that the assassination of Indira Gandhi had a direct impact on me in any way. But these things did make some changes in the system that had a bearing in some ways: like the insurgency in Punjab made it mandatory for children to be told that any unattended article on a bus or train was to be left alone or a chocolate from a man you don’t know is a danger bell.

Having spent life in an area where I had rich Gujrati’s on one side, Partition camps of Sikh’s- Sindhi’s and Muslim’s on other two and a vast land of migrant populations in Dharavi to complete the siege, growing up through the Riots of 92-93, the Mumbai Blasts were not the easiest of times. (For the record, I was amongst the 5 Marathi speaking kids in my class of 44 with me the only guy). To just sum it up, I believe that this generation has yet to find the right balance between tolerance and fundamental values.

The economic developments have also been something that I feel is some thing unparallels to anything before or after. I grew up in a family that had a car ever since the 60’s; thanks to my grandfather’s stable job and privileges. By the time I was born, we had an identity only glorified by the Ambassador Mark 4 and the Bajaj Super 150; the only luxuries that the License raj offered. But we also saw the birth of the Maruti 800 and Hero Honda CD 100 in India. From Campa Cola to Tiger Beer, somehow we might be the last generation to have had the best of both worlds. We also welcomed the entry of Pepsi in 1991 and Coke in 1995. My fingers have traded 5 paise for a lemon drop and 5000 rupees on a fun filled evening. We have been on the fore front when We seen the stock markets start in India, the loop holes exploited by Harshad Metha and the day the sensex reached the 18000 mark.

The Social development we seen is one of the most remarkable on for any generation so far. The change has come due to technology. I have seen “Swimmy” on Doordarshan as a kid, Becker win his Wimbledon on a Sony Tinitron Colour TV (thanks to the Asian Games in 82). Today I’m picking the movie I want to see off a remote and deciding as to when I want to watch it. From the dumb bell-like black dial fone, to the sleek mobile handset, we saw it all. If I listened to a Mill workers special as a kid, carried a pocket FM radio in college and now listen to the World Space satellite today. Writing on paper has become passé for the generation next. I might be more in contact with my friends in US than my next door neighbor.

Our idols have been the 1983 Kapil’s Devils, child prodigies like Sachin and Sania. Of what space was left in our minds, the voids were filled of what came from the television screens of MTV. Clothing was no longer for just covering the body; it became the site for Brands to put their labels. Puri’s and Paratha have been replaced by Pizza and Pasta. India became a nuclear power, but so did the Indian families.

We seen the Mandal commission come in with its reservations, but also have undergone the Brain Drain syndrome. From an agrarian country to an IT-ITES superpower it has all happened; and all this in a span of 20 years.

I believe there can be just so many things that have changed for this generation, that I really am confused. So back to the original question…Does this generation need awakening?