For the first time I felt free, truly free. I wasn’t looking over my shoulder constantly to see who was coming or keep my antennas up even a tiny bit. I rode my cycle at a leisurely pace just like the locals, dreaming along the way with no care or concern even for the traffic. No, this wasn’t anywhere in India, but in another developing country, Vietnam. Everybody cycles there, so cyclists usually get the right of way. But that’s not the point; the point is that this simple experience hit me hard. What I have always craved for in my own country, I got it elsewhere. It hit me hard because of the fact that I will never get it here, in my own country. This ridiculous sense of Freedom.
In the course of my limited travel within Vietnam, I felt that this very young country (it’s just 38years since the war ended) has moved way ahead of India – in terms of infrastructure, amenities, lifestyle, discipline and attitude. So what is it that makes us the way we are – a poverty stricken, chaotic, highly patriarchal, corruption ridden country? Just as I was almost ready to drown in hopelessness, my country turned the table and surprised all of us yet again.
The Delhi elections and its eventual outcome, a political thriller of sorts, just showed the world how a true democracy can function and just how powerful a true democracy can be. For people like us, this gave us a much needed sense of hope and a momentum to keep pushing for all the changes in the system in a democratic way.
Infact, if I really want to see it, there’s a lot about this country that keep my hopes up. Where else would you find a country where a gruesome incident (amongst many others) brought an entire society to look deep within itself, question its deep seated traditions and force lawmakers to quickly amend archaic laws? Where else would you find this freedom of expression across media without the threat of a clamp down? Where else would you have such a strong human rights platform, despite some horrible mistakes like Section 377? Where else would you have so many good government schemes for its communities, even though most are on just paper? Where else would you have a limited but immensely strong network of environmentally aware citizens, when around the world most forests and rivers have run silent? Where else would you have highly successful space program at such a low cost? Where else would you have a country which can stand the might of international pharma companies because it believes in providing cheap basic medicines to all? Where else can you find dolphins being recognised as non-human persons with their own rights?
I might not be able to cycle so freely in this country in my lifetime, but I definitely want our next generation to find that freedom someday in future and without our poverty stricken, corruption ridden, patriarchal and chaotic society.
And now I have begun to believe that the more I dislike my country, the more I fall in love with the idea that is India.
Long live the idea of India.
Watch this very interesting video of how dolphins have been helping fishermen for the past 150 years: Dolphins help Fishermen