My India, but I cannot recognize it

Is India my home? No one else has to ask me this question, because I ask myself this question after being out of India for the seventh year now.

This question comes not from how the Germans, South Africans or other nationalities look at India, but from the thoughts that I witness whenever I have to plan to book my tickets for Mumbai. When I come across people here in South Africa, they relate me to the land of Gandhi, who surprisingly still has more respect in South Africa than he does in India. They also relate me to the land of Bollywood, or to the land of textiles, but when I think of India, I can’t relate to any of these things.

I am very proud of the way we were brought up in my country, of my being an Indian and this seems like one of the reasons for not applying for a citizen status in the countries that we reside in. Even applying for my daughter’s citizenship is delayed although she was born in South Africa. But today I can’t relate to current India anymore. I still keep searching for the India I came from. I don’t know what exactly I am looking for, but yes I am looking for something that made me who I am and I am not able to find it there.

We have everything in India still everything feels fake, be it people, emotions or doctors, or products. It’s not that things are all authentic out of India but the tall claims that we make about India; its culture, the warmth, Ayurveda, safety, education, all seem fake.

We pride ourselves on a close-knit culture but I can’t see it anymore. India say around 8-10 years ago had a voice, not a political voice necessarily, but a voice of concern. If something wrong took place on the streets or even in the neighbourhood we saw our elders speak out, we did not need morchas and candle marches because we spoke out there and then. Today no one cares, frankly the so called close-knit families also don’t speak up. Well I don’t know whether they care or not, but now the standard expression is “Yaar it’s better to keep quiet, why interfere in others’ business?”, Either the mess in their life has increased so much that they don’t want more on their plate or they really feel that gone are the times when we really knew our neighbours.

While I was growing up, every friend wanted to be as close as family; but today even family wants to be friends and this I see when the time comes to pitch in! The most hilarious thing I have noticed is that Indians from India, don’t want to acknowledge another Indian when they are abroad. They try to escape from us when in public, especially if they have settled in a “Developed country”, the common line is, “Yes we came from India but we belong here now!” It seems like we all leave our “cultural” warmth behind. Well, when it doesn’t exist in the place of origin anymore, I can’t complain much.

I also don’t know if Gandhi even exists in our culture other than on the currency! And for some reason, people think Bollywood is Indian culture, but it’s only a medium of entertainment, and has nothing to do with life in India.

About doctors and Ayurveda, the less said the better! Allopathic medicine is practiced honestly and responsibly by very few doctors. It is not wrong to wonder if the doctor actually knows his or her subject! The essence of Ayurveda seems lost in some strange marketing gamut and has lost its essence of being one with nature.

Safety – that’s a serious concern, because whether it is a woman or man, we have to think twice before stepping out of the house after 9pm. Of course, a lot of people do it, but no one can guarantee their safety.

Education in India has become very expensive because it is now a profitable business. But no one can guarantee that shelling out more money can give good education in return. We definitely had more educated and knowledgeable teachers while growing up and learnt for free in government-funded schools!

I see apathy in everything. The prime minister has been requesting us to keep our own country clean, but his words go unheard! It is not that I don’t acknowledge problems of poverty or population in India, but I can’t ignore the cold apathy that has taken roots there.

The worst of it all, we really don’t value life in India, which make our expressions fake or rather unreal; I guess because there are soooo many of us. You know the theory of abundance!! Be it a child or an aging person we want to push and move ahead. I still can’t forget the lady in a flight, who told a fellow Indian passenger who was trying to get her 1-year-old into the bassinet, “Why do you have kids when you can’t take care of one? You guys travel with little kids and make it uncomfortable for all of us.” I remember the India in which another woman would offer to help with a crying kid.

This, I tried to pass on as a rare experience, but I heard a similar view for the elderly, who was trying to enter the escalator in a mall, a young college kid remarked, “Uncle age ho gaye hai, abhi ghar pe baitho” (Uncle you are old, now sit at home). If you try to reason out with them, you are gifted with a smirk and a look.

All of this makes me think, I like where I came from but I don’t wish to go there. I am not sad when I write this because it is an observation which surfaced very slowly and has had ripple effects. I don’t like where India is heading as a society. The relations between relatives look shallow, the smile on the face of a man or woman on the road seems fake, but I am not the only one who finds it that way, this view is shared by many, many Indians in India and those residing abroad as well.

A lot has changed, and with it my heart, which does want to call India my home but I just cannot convince it to do so!