August 15, India’s Independence Day

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Many people here in America think India has advanced a lot in recent years. Media created this illusion.

Of course, India’s elite have prospered beyond imagination, and middle class Indians now spend a lot more money than they did before. Many of them have cars, and spend hours stuck in traffic, coming home from work — just like here in America. Many of them now have fridge, TV, computers, dishwashers, new furniture, cell phones…and are neck-deep in loans. Just like America.

Even India’s poor — slum and street dwellers included — have cell phones.

But is that truly the measure of progress? I wish India had prospered for everybody, and even after having lived here in USA for thirty years, I am still passionate about my motherland. I want India to prosper: everybody should be free, fear-free, and debt-free too. Everyone should be healthy and educated.

I don’t need anybody’s stamp of approval on my love for the country that I still consider my own. On 14th August, 1985, I left India to come to America as a foreign student to do a Ph.D. in science. America has given me a lot: I am now a completely transformed man with acquired knowledge, experience, abilities, and analytical powers. I changed careers from science to humanities to human rights, writing, and education. It would never have been possible had I lived back there. I have a lot of gratitude for America.

Yet, that place I left behind — with all its people, history, heritage, traditions, languages, music, literature, film, politics, and everything else you can think of — is deep inside me. My Tagore, my Vivekananda, my football, my cricket. My family. My friends. The teachers I loved. All my precious memories. All the books I read in school, college and university. All the exams that brought tears to my eyes. All the successes, and all the failures. All the girls I wanted to be with. All the girls who loved me, and all those who did not.

An entire identity I carry with me. It’s an Indian identity, and it’s a Bengali identity. I may have become an American, but I am still very much an Indian. An insult on India hurts me, angers me.

India has progressed on the surface, but deep inside, it’s a traumatized, divided, fragmented, hurt country. And it’s not just India: the entire subcontinent is bleeding. India is falling apart on religious lines: Hindus and Muslims don’t trust each other anymore. India’s caste divide is now more pronounced than ever before. India’s poor now may have a cell phone, but they can’t send their sons to school, or their parents to hospital. In most places across the country, there is not even a school or hospital.

Monsanto farmers are committing suicide — every thirty seconds.

India’s daughters — a vast majority of them — live a life full of fear; their dignity is always in danger. Indian’s children are always afraid — of their schools, their syllabus, their exams, and their teachers’ red eyes. It’s an education system that is still not based on encouragement and free thinking; it’s still very colonial where questioning and challenging are not okay.

This is India’s 69th year as an independent country: Britain colonized, brutalized, and permanently wounded the country before they left. Worse, they purposefully planted seeds of hatred and division among the people of the subcontinent, after taking away from them the ability to think, and analyze, and question authority. People who have ruled India since 1947 — in the three divided nations — have failed to solve any problems of the common people, either on the social or economic front.

The Indian subcontinent is now perhaps the most corrupt place on earth, when it comes to its ruling class. India has created an extremely unequal society, where there is no gender, religious, or caste harmony. For nearly fifty years, a dynasty of extremely elite, corrupt and inefficient rulers and its followers ruled India, bringing it to the verge of destruction. Then, the power got transferred to a group of bigoted, fanatic, and hateful people; a politician whose visa was once revoked by the U.S. government — on charges of masterminding a genocide in Gujarat — is now the prime minister of India. His party’s mentor organization RSS was once implicated in the assassination of Gandhi. How quickly history is forgotten!

India now ranks very, very low on the issues of human rights, child mortality, female infanticide, corruption, violence on women, and environmental degradation. People who have their eyes open and an honest heart will tell you nowhere in the country’s history, such inefficient, illiterate or corrupt people went to the seat of power — across India. And with an out-of-control population that nobody cares to address, this trend will continue through my lifetime.

I go back to my motherland every year, and touch my father’s feet. He is now 92, and can’t go outside of his third-floor apartment. He does not want to believe it, but I see sadness on his face, when he reads the newspaper and watches the TV. The India he dreamed of, and sacrificed all his life for, is now replaced by a greedy, materialistic, and rabidly individualistic society.

In fact, copying America’s rabid individualism and materialistic lifestyle blindly, India lost its society altogether.

Just like America.

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