I left office at my usual time in the evening. Instead of taking a shared auto to the nearest metro station, I decided to walk. A walk of about 20-25 minutes. Most of this time is spent on walking on non-existent pedestrian pathways, dodging bikes and auto-rickshaws coming in wrong directions, braving clouds of smoke and dust due to speeding automobiles, stray dogs barking on each other, covering your nose due to some decaying caracass of an unfortunate animal which was killed few days back, lifting your trousers couple of inches from the ground due to overflowing water and similar omnipresent petty issues. So, it is strange to think that some of the most interesting and nerve-wracking imaginations can take place in my mind among these circumstances. Imaginary questions are devised and solved. Past is analyzed, smiled upon, frowned upon, shrugged upon. Future is imagined, perfected, dissected, built upon. Turmoil is not present just outside, but inside too..
So, the question which I asked myself on this evening was, 'What do I love most about India?'. But I can not pin point one precise moment in my growing up years, when this love happened. Was it when my dad asked me clap when Srikanth hit a boundary in a match? Or was it something else? I still remember sleeping as a baby on a early Sunday Morning while news of the murder of Rajiv Gandhi was coming. This news was a nuisance for my 6 year old brain, because it disturbed my dad and in turn he was trying to wake me up by saying,'utho beta..Rajiv Gandhi marr gaya!'. The love for India grew as I grew. Naturally. Uncondionally.
I love India. Despite unimaginable crowd in metros and malls. Despite huge queues to get in almost everywhere. Despite corruption. Despite 'work-in-progress' sign everywhere. Despite non-performance in Olympics. Despite frustration which it gives when you follow the process. Despite frustration which it gives even if you do not follow the process. Despite still being a nation of 'unfulfilled promises'. And I ask myself WHY? Why I do not regret even for a pico second to be born here and not somewhere else? Why I would not trade my being settled here for anywhere else?
My good friend and an aspiring writer Roy says -
The place and the environment that one has grown up in are inextricably entwined with what one needs to be happy. I used to think that this idea was solely based on the romanticized ideals of patriotism and gratitude to the homeland, but now understood that this was also cold fact. All things put together, in a life overburdened with personal wishes and desires, without being compelled to, the tricolour with a wheel in between had become my flag, the cricket team in blue was my team and a chunk of land in the south of Asia was my country.
Nothing which you get in this chunk of land is easy. Nothing which you achieve here is ridiculed as cheap. Competing with 1 billion population is not a joke. It can never be. We are the product of a continuous struggle. Every small achiever here has come after breaking thick co-coons consisting of all kinds of pressure. Nothing is given on platter here. Every opportunity is hard-fought for. So, how can you not love and enjoy when somebody wins, despite all these. And this is by no means a mean achievement. No happiness is small here. No smile is wasted here. What India gives me in plenty is opportunities. To be everything I want to be. To do everything I want to do. India tells me that every effort counts. Every sweat is accounted for.
I was disappointed when India were humbled by Sri Lanka in the SF of 1996 WC in, then Calcutta. I was elated when India won the first ICC T20 World cup. I was overwhelmed when an Iranian couple turned to me while visiting Taj Mahal and said 'That it is very very beautiful!' with such gratitude as if I had made Taj Mahal. I was heartbroken when there were communal riots happening in India. I was shocked when floods and earthquakes caused massive devastation. I was speechless when yet another scam was exposed. I was frustrated when people played blame game on every political and administrative misfires. But all this while, I was and will always be hopelessly in love with India.
I feel intoxicated with the indefinable fragrance which comes from the soil after rain.The 5 Rs tea at the tea-stall below my office building is infinitely better than what is served by expensive vending machines. Lunches at office can be like a picnic, with sharing of food and laughing at senseless talks and jokes. If you do not like one cuisine, you have umpteen cuisines to choose from. If you do not like the weather at one place, you have thousand places to go to. Sick of the snow? Go to the south. Sick of the desert heat? Just go 500 kms to your North. Sick of too many People? Go to islands. We just have to wish. And look. And Effort. And it is there. We have songs for every expressions and every feeling. If you wish, you can not be lonely here. If you want to be lost, there is no better place then being in the crowd. If you speak, there is always someone who will listen. If you are sad, there is always someone who will comfort.
We have somehow, made this giant machine work . We have our imperfections. Way too many, I would say. But, we are our own hope. We are our own strength. We are our own masters. There is still a long way to go before we fulfill all our promises, if ever. But we have come so far that there is no reason to not to be optimistic..
Thinking consumes time. And time passes unnoticed. I was still clearing up my thoughts, when I found myself at the entrance of the Metro Station. I stood in the queue, which was longer than yesterday. I just took out the book which I was reading before and started reading it. From the point where I had left it the last time.