India@75: Jai Hind and Happy Birthday Big Momma. Continue to Soar My Beloved Country!
- As it fights to hold on to its unique identity and not turn into just another “Westernized” nation, its future remains bright.
My beloved India, you continue to be one of the biggest paradoxes I have ever experienced – your cacophonous chaos makes me want to scream at the top of my lungs and run back home to the peace and quiet of the United States, and yet, surprisingly, it is something I find myself craving for my spirit.
The loud horns of rickshaws, scooters, motorcycles, and cars are interspersed by melodious musings of an errant koyal bird – something so intrinsically Indian, that it transports me to my young days, living in Baroda, and taking it all for granted. You are the charging pad for my soul, whenever it is depleted of energy and spirituality. In the face of your teaming millions, sometimes the poorest of poor, I see the richness of genuine happiness and love.
Although those tall, beautiful glass and metal edifices dominate your urban landscape; it is the shanties beneath them, and in the back alleys, along the rural backroads and small villages that tell the most compelling stories of people refusing to give up – dreaming the dream to make it big someday.
On a recent trip to India, I saw a young man selling Indian flags at a traffic stop, to celebrate India’s upcoming Independence Day on Aug 15th. I gave him money but told him to keep the flags – he refused to take my money and insisted I accept at least one flag in return. There was pride on his face – and when I accepted the flag, he showed me his pearly whites in a big proud smile, said “Jai Hind” and walked away. That integrity, in someone so young and clearly impoverished, is why India remains one of the richest countries in the world.
Mother India is that demure woman, not beautiful in the traditional sense, but in every scar and wrinkle on her face is a story of stoic determination of caring for all her 1.3 billion children – not always fairly or even equitably – but with the spirit of inculcating the value of hard work and determination, of integrity and strength, of indeterminate love and hope – that, from those blue tarped shanties and slums, from those rural backroads and villages, from her many tribal communities, might emerge a woman or a man who would architect the next big change in this world. In fact, Mother India just got herself the first tribal woman as President – President Droupadi Murmu of the Santhal tribe of Odisha in Eastern India – and India’s second female President.
Far be it for me to gloss over the corruption and abject injustices meted out toward the common citizen of India but let’s face it – the entire world is guilty of doing it to its citizenry. But despite these glaring issues that can be overwhelming and frustrating, an average Indian still feels immense pride in Mother India’s promise. And in that promise, they find hope and resilience.
I am blessed beyond belief to call the United States of America my adopted home – and in an interesting way, it is Indian in me that has made my American experience richer and more compelling – to see everything I have and continue to achieve, with gratitude and not an entitlement. I don’t take being American for granted – and I have finally learned that for as long as I have taken India for granted – I shouldn’t have – after all, it’s her culture and gravitas that has made me a true American, nee a citizen of the world.
While India is fighting the battle to hold on to her unique identity and not turn into just another “Westernized” nation, her future remains bright and beautiful. In her acceptance of the reality of becoming a global leader, she is adapting to wearing a pantsuit, a Western dress, put on some make-up while retaining her collection of sarees and jewelry – she is realizing all too well that she no longer has to choose – that she carries off a pantsuit and a dress and a saree with equal pizzaz and pomp, and looks beautiful and comfortable in her own self. She is realizing that it is ok to be multifaceted, without losing her identity and in that, is fast becoming more worldly than most countries in the world.
So, my beloved India, I am very proud of you. Although far from perfect, I see you striving for so much more in the face of adversity, poverty and insane political divisions – your unique ability to put one foot in front of the other and take that important step forward is what drags me back to you every chance I get. And in that splendid juxtaposition of managing progress despite your many challenges, you give me strength, you give me hope and most importantly, you make me proud to be an Indian American. I can safely say, for the millions of people of Indian ancestry living overseas, we love you more than you know.
Jai Hind and Happy 75th Birthday, Big Momma. Continue to soar!
Deven Parlikar was born and raised in India and moved to San Diego for his college education and decided to stay back and call it home. His professional career working with Native American and Alaska Native communities has allowed him the opportunity to live and work in Southern California, New Mexico, Arizona’s Apache country and northwestern Alaska including the Arctic Circle. He is actively involved in social justice programs, health parity and access to health issues for vulnerable populations. He and his wife, Medha, have three children, Mallika, Meera and Eshaan, and two furry children, Beni and Hana and continue to live in the greater San Diego area.