India Diary of a PIO

“India has changed. It’s time to move back and settle down in the ‘new’ land of opportunity. The best of the world exists there and one does not need to visit Europe or North America to see a truly developed economy. India is ‘The’ new world.”

Back home in Canada, I used to cheer and believe when a desi would sing such praises returning back from his once in while ritualistic visit to India.

A few weeks in India brings you back to your senses. But one has to shed the myopic vision of a visiting NRI or a PIO who is enamored by the desi food, extra fondness displayed by relatives which lasts for a few days, ethnic colors and off course the vision of a progressive India seen in newer and brighter homes, malls, metros and the likes. Anyhow the stay of such a visiting guest is short and he is able to take back the exact memories he came looking for. Thus he returns and lives happily thereafter back home in the comforts of the safe and clean communities of his adapted land.

But for the returning desi trying to settle down here after years or even decades of living abroad, other than the glitter of cell phones, fancier clothes, cars or homes and perhaps the slow integration of technology in lives, nothing else seems to have changed.  In fact India has become paradoxical. With technological advancements, the country is becoming more regressive and un-liveable.

As soon as you come out of the fancy airports and tread bravely on the roads and streets of India, you realize how painful the lives of daily commuters are. Public transport is a nightmare. Try traveling in a Mumbai local on any day, even first class. It is a real pain which only a soulless human body can bear day after day. One does not enter but is ‘pushed in and out’ of the train and every inch of space is filled with bodies who are used to be being packed as senseless commodities. The mad rush which one sees on all public transport vehicles in any city of India comes straight out of a B grade horror movie as its most horrible nightmare.

As for traffic on roads, the less said the better. Every foot nay inch of the road is occupied by cars, buses, scooters, mopeds, rickshaws, bullock carts, trucks- All driving as if they own the roads without even the slightest regard for other. Traffic signals, stop signs, speed indicators, they mean nothing to anyone, illiterate or educated. It is a free for all. Try Bangalore. It is the pits. The real Jungle! And for thousand more years, it will remain the same or become worse as we have lost the two things that could create a better road sense- segregating slow and fast moving vehicles and enforcing traffic discipline.

What is far more dangerous to drive on Indian roads is to be a pedestrian. It is a life threating existence. Every day millions like me fear for their life while crossing Indian roads. The sidewalks are normally covered with something or the other-rubbish, garbage, filth, kiosk signs, wires or perhaps huge gaping holes forcing one to walk on the road, always looking in all directions to save your precious little soul from the next big threat itching to hit you. And God forbid, if you need to cross the road. It is the biggest risk worth only if you have no value for your life. There are no zebra crossings and no vehicles stop for pedestrians.  I was actually advised by friends and family to hire a vehicle even if I wish to cross the road as they cared for my survival. However I ignored and to my horror, every time I have tried to cross the road, I have lived to recount that adventure as a life threating event.

Indians over the years have developed ‘transparent’ vision. Or one that is able to see through you without noticing your presence. I have stood in front of an elevator waiting for it to arrive, a foot and a half away to enable the passengers to off load before I enter. And lo! In a short while, people will arrive ignoring your presence and would come and stand in front of you from all sides as if you never existed. The concept of forming a line or discipline is redundant. To my surprise even colleagues in office buildings where you work would do the same, proving clearly the power of their X-Ray eyes.

Cleanliness is a joke- mere slogan used to create a political or social facade. In a party or a gathering, educated people would leave their dirty paper plates on the table and move away even though they could see disposal bins nearby. Roads are filled with filth, even human excreta in the best of the cities and business districts. People take pride in keeping their houses clean and at the same time throwing their garbage outside to keep their communities filthy. After a decade, I only notice a dirtier India, one which is even losing the spaces which were used to manage waste. Waste management and pollution control is a joke- Only left for some NGO types to ponder over before the drinks catch up in a party.

Religiously we are becoming more and more conservative and narrow minded. The very evils which our forefathers fought against are ruling roost. From television to real lives, the evil monster of superstitions and crazy rituals is the towering beast not just among the uneducated and undereducated but even among the very pall bearers of the educated society, both in the private and public domain. The land of Dayanand, Nanak or Kalam has well and truly become the land of Nagins, Vastushastris and Babas. Divisions due to religion, caste, creed are more rigid. It is now derogatory to be called a liberal!

As for political space, the less said the better. The ‘Bhakts’ rule the real and virtual spaces for a certain party while the ‘leftists’ rule the spaces for others. And it is difficult to have an independent opinion. If you do not support one ideology then you are its enemy. To differ and voice a different opinion is risky, even suicidal. Death threats and abuses are common in this war to install fear in human minds.

To be a part of a weaker section in any part of India is to live in constant fear. Ghettos are becoming starker, either of religion or of caste. Women are no safer and even today marriage and motherhood is supposed to be an important part of her life’s success.

There is an India of the elite and the Bharat of their servants and the class divide is becoming wider. The way servants and subordinates are still treated in India has shaken me to the core and makes me well and truly realize the gap of decades and centuries that we have to travel to enable basic human dignity.

Coming from the Canadian society where civility is a big yes to India, unfortunately has left me red faced. The richer India has become, the more uncivilised it has turned.

Would I want my children to return to India? Definitely no! Never!

Would I like to stay back in India? Not really but may be perhaps! Only because the bonds are still stronger even after a decade outside as I wish to bring positive changes to the land of my birth, a land which nurtured me and one where my roots still exist.

If only people understood that growth does not mean more money or power but liberating yourself and setting yourself free from the clutches of religious and social bigotry.

If only people understood that bowing to others and giving way to them would not make them small but only add to the richness of their character.

If only people realized that a tree grows higher as its roots go deeper in the soil and would develop humility as a virtue and genuine respect for the human soul.

If only India could well and truly remember its rich culture and become a country where Ram and Shabri could eat together, Krishna and Sudama could play together and Akbar and Jodha could love each other!

If only Indians could realize that lives could only improve by self-discipline and it is not important as to whom you are but what you do and how you treat others.

Livable India- It is yet a dream but did I say I am a dreamer still! One day, Beloved India, one day!

Published in Times of India on 18th July 2016- Link below-




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