Today India celebrates its Independence Day anniversary. I come from a place where in school we are taught not just local history, but the history of the world. We’ve learnt the pre-colonial and colonial history of Goa (Portuguese), India (British) and every other piece of modern history in terms of who fought what war and what happened after. It’s long but we had a few years to go through it all. I don’t know who documented it but I relished it. After all, it was my favourite subject. While I can’t regurgitate important dates like I did then, I will never forget how proud I felt when I learnt that India’s humble but powerful Ahimsa Movement (non-violent) inspired anti-Apartheid in South Africa and similarly, the non-violent resistance of the Civil Rights Movement in America. Every man and woman behind these movements has no idea that their activism in that moment was going to lead to a free India and the end of segregation. They never shut up about it. It was a victory of conscience and greater good, “a tryst with destiny”.
When I went to college in Mumbai, I created a social circle for myself as one usually does. We seemed to have similar interests and understood each other for the most part. Then as year 2 came, my mind changed and I included more people and let go of others. I felt like I cared more as I learnt more about myself. I didn’t just want to joke around. I wanted to joke around AND give a fuck. I took more of an interest in expanding my horizons outside of the curriculum. I kept the friends who didn’t move, worship, love or talk like me. I had no idea I was doing this but I was hungry for a world that wasn’t protected like mine was. I was so privileged to be sheltered from so much that I wanted to know how everyone else outside my hometown navigated their spaces. I learnt. I watched new movies, learnt new ideas and was always reading new books that I never thought I’d get my hands on. I loved college. I loved my friends. I loved knowing that this world was so vast that it was okay to stand back to truly appreciate what it had to offer.
While I’m proud of the women and men who sacrificed much for a free India (and Pakistan), I am not ignorant that post-colonialism still has a heavy hand in the way we conduct ourselves when it comes to those without the same class, religious or caste privilege. We’re okay with other Hindus and Muslims fighting each other as long as we don’t have to get involved (my family is Catholic). In that respect, I will never support – with my vote nor with my conscience – the man who currently runs India as its Prime Minister. I will never forget the story my friend from college told me about the 1992 Bombay riots. Her family had to move flats and change the name on their door to a Hindu one in the hope of evading potential violent mobs. Can you even imagine being in that place? Narendra Modi is well-spoken as compared to the Ameribully but he feeds Hindu nationalist rhetoric in the same way DT does for white nationalists (shocker). I never thought either would be in charge but yet, even my most progressive friends were willing to put aside the fact that in 2002 under Modi’s leadership in Gujarat, the country saw one of its worst communal riots. I was of school-going age at the time and while it did faze me reading the stories of terror, it didn’t feel “real” even though they were just 2 states away. It feels fucking real in retrospect.
India is great because of how it brought people from every background together in the hope of a new nation. What’s happening right now in my adopted country of the USA feels like a similar if not worse nightmare. It might seem like its the worst betrayal but yet, I am not surprised. I’ve seen this happen before. The 45th President of the country came to power the same way the Prime Minister of India did – people were willing to ignore every divisive word and attack they made against marginalised groups and minorities. For what? Progress? You can decide for yourself with that 20 20 hindsight thing.
Happy birthday India (and Pakistan). If my history textbooks are to be believed, you’ve made me very proud. Your children stood up for a people who were deemed racially inferior in thought and action by European colonisers. Begun Hazrat Mahal, Rani Laxmibai, Sarojini Naidu, Mahatma Gandhi and every other person in between who volunteered their blood and time in service of ideas that were bigger than you.
In America they use the phrase “right side of history” to describe the morality or civility of a politicians’ or peoples’ actions. Neither of my homes is there yet but you can change gears right now to ensure a better tomorrow (yeah, I went there). Read all the books and get to know that violent racism that literally gave birth to new nations. Know it so the next (next) generation doesn’t have to. And for fuck’s sake, be a decent human being okay?
“…The ambition of the greatest (wo)man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us, but so long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over. And so we have to labour and to work, and work hard, to give reality to our dreams. Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world.”