It’s nothing more than a lump of poor houses built with mud and plastered with cow dung.
It’s nothing more than a bunch of filthy rich, power-hungry, immoral creatures running the wheel of ‘democracy’.
It’s nothing more than a sad little chicken that has been trying to stand up on its feet for the past three fourths of a century, in vain.
In fact, it’s nothing more than a sad excuse of a miserable piece of land in the name of a ‘country’.
It’s a land that has mystified the world for centuries with its splendid tales of wealth and beauty. And when wide eyed tourists step onto the shores of this country, they are ripped off, robbed and raped. No other questions asked.
It’s a land that has been ‘poised’ for the leap for decades now; it’s been ‘developing’ for years now; it’s been liberalised, privatised, globalised and in every way, thoroughly sanitised. Yet the streets of its financial capital, Mumbai, are choked with the stench of overflowing gutters, heaps of garbage, and sometimes, the remains of immobile ‘citizens’ themselves.
It’s a land where the man and the woman who vote are nothing more than helpless, frustrated spectators of bomb blasts and terror attacks; justice just cries out silently for mercy from under the shackles of an omnipotent bureaucracy.
I wish I could leave right now. I wish I could grow wings and fly away to some far-off country in the glorious West. Or that I could grow fins and swim to some nearer country in the East that is smaller but happier.
I can’t leave India.
Not after I’ve heard all the sounds on the streets – the mad honking, the screaming of drivers, the crying of hawkers, the mooing of cows, the barking of dogs and the cursing of fisherwomen.
For I know, that beneath all that, there is a child waiting to go back home from school into the open arms of his grandmother.
There is a husband who is going to make his wife’s day unforgettable by giving her half a garland of small, white flowers.
There is a working woman hurrying back home after buying vegetables for dinner at night.
There is a college student on her way to coaching classes for the next six and a half hours. She has to top the entrance examinations. It’s her parents’ dream.
I can’t leave India.
Not after I’ve seen glimpses of life in the village – the half-starved bullocks tilling the land, a toddler suffering at home from malnutrition, the sweat gleaming on a farmer’s forehead as he works in the field, an aged Brahmin marrying off a man and a woman who have never met each other in their life.
For I know, these folk still find happiness in the splashing of water in the muddy rivers. They still enjoy rolling a bicycle wheel with a thin stick because willow bats are too expensive.
In the age of the internet and the computer, they gather around an 80-year-old man around a bonfire on a starlit night to hear fantastic stories about ‘those days’.
I can’t leave India.
Not after I’ve seen the colours and sounds and lights of celebration all around me.
For I know, there is no other place in the world that would open its arms to a complete stranger and let him become a part of their life.
There is no other place where complete strangers become family after dancing with a baraat in the middle of a narrow gully, their feet jumping in tune with the sound of drums and the blowing of shehnais.
If there’s such a land that breathes, throbs with life and feels emotions more humane than us humans, it’s this land called India.
If there’s such a land whose sons and daughters have willingly given away their lives for it, regretting only the fact that they had but one life to sacrifice at her altar, it’s this land called India.
If there’s such a land whose soil, whose water and whose air at first breath become a part of you, and make you an inseparable part of them, it’s this land called India.
So go on. Go and choose to live your life in the ‘glorious’ West or the ‘mystic’ East, whichever seems more promising.
You may hate or love that distant land called India that seems to be wriggling in a puddle of mud of its own making. But you can’t ignore it. You can’t get it out of your system.
Because, ironically, it’s only in these muddy puddles that the flowering of a ‘thousand-petalled lotus’ happens … the other places just grow flowers.
That’s my India.