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Amrita Tripathi
Monday , August 20, 2012 at 10 : 08

What's to celebrate about India?


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The annual India Day Parade in New York and the flashy display of all that patriotism by NRIs made me start to wonder what it's all about. Watch it here: The annual India Day Parade in New York

Yes, many of us are proud of our culture (as much as we know of it), our heritage and history (often selectively taught to us). Watching people on Madison Avenue throng the food stalls and order bhel puri and inhale the chicken biryani and such, I thought to myself yes, well, we can take pride in our food too. It's a "domestic cuisine", a writer of note told me recently, and I never thought to put it like that, but yes it's true.

But the state of the nation? How can you be proud of that? Beyond the empty rhetoric. "You can't be Indian and not be interested in politics," I caught myself telling a younger person today. What on earth did I mean? At one level, I clarified that you can't be an Indian journalist and not be interested in politics (even if you don't cover politics, and I was quick to point out to this aspiring journalist, how tricky it is to start covering politics!). The point is, I'm interested in politics, and if you're on this site, so are you.

But what a mockery it all is, sometimes I can't help but feel. I'm not singling out politicians, that's been done to death. They're a harangued lot and yet it's hard not to be jaded. They pander to the media now, conscious of the spectacle, conscious of the soundbites, the quotes, the statements that mean nothing. But then again, everyone panders to the media now. And we've got too many people saying things for the sake of them, proving points, covering their own behinds, and sometimes, yes they say the right things. But it's lip service: nothing gets done.

Oh, too broad a generalisation? You could argue that. Trust me, I'd welcome a dose of "Hey, you're missing the point, the glass is half-full in India, why these days, we have electricity across most of our cities (!), clean drinking water, diarrhoea is no longer the number one killer, and sanitation, well..."

Go for it!

To survive in India - and I speak of and to the urban elite here - one lives in a massive bubble. You and I know this for a fact. We blind ourselves to what goes on outside that safe zone and the apathy strengthens the fabric of our insularity. We'll take our special economically liberated zones where we can, and pretend not to see the below-poverty-line tragedies unfolding. Pretend not to feel it vibrating in our bones, this talk of change and revolution. Whoever sounds the call, we dismiss as alarmist, pro-Naxal, and disparage. Best not to be too earnest. Best to sound jaded and cynical and mouth off against the powers-that-be, but not change a damn thing.

Best, perhaps, to move continents altogether and come out, waving flags.

Yes I'm proud to be an Indian and what a welcome change that is, from the cringing embarrassment, in my youth. Yes I'm proud of democracy and freedom of speech (such as it is) and the fact that the powers-that-be re-thought the antiquated law against homosexuality; that even as we speak, they may be re-thinking the antiquated sedition law. (You can't fault me for optimism!) But I'm aghast and sickened by the news coming out of India. How could I not be? Bigotry, bias, persecution, hate, domestic violence, discrimination against women, minorities, the Other ... Fear and hatred, and the flames are fanned all over again. In waves.

Remind me what we're proud of again?

The Parade in pictures

The floats lie in wait.

The Taj is an obvious entry.

Gandhi blesses people on a Manhattan sidewalk.

Men in blue...and women too.

Canvassing for the holy 'arranged' marriages

March on little India

The Tricolour takes over Big Apple.

Grub, grub, grub...

The congregation

All pictures are clicked by Daaman Thandi who is an international relations student at Jindal Institute/American University.


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More about Amrita Tripathi

Amrita Tripathi is a news anchor with CNN-IBN, and also doubles up as Health and Books Editor. An MA in Philosophy from St Stephen's College, Delhi University, she has also taught a few undergraduate classes at her alma mater, informally! When she is not tracking health issues, Amrita is busy chasing the literary dream. Her debut novel Broken News was published in 2010. Before joining CNN-IBN, Amrita worked with The Indian Express.

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