I was born in India and have spent most of my life here. But just how
"Indian" am I?
What does it mean to be an Indian anyway? If we set aside the default label
that was stuck on you because you were born in this country, is there something
else that binds people together into being an Indian?
Ravi once opined that
nationalism was a constructed identity. He wrote: "Every generation finds
things we have in common, things that we share, things that we value and things
that we can be proud of, and builds a nationalism out of it."
And what if you don’t find too much in common with many people in your
country? I ask because for many years, I have felt a "cultural
mismatch" between me and the country I live in. I could not identify with
many things that form our "culture". For instance:
- I am a strong atheist in a country where religion is woven finely into the
cultural fabric. (My parents are very religious people, however.)
- I am a strong individualist in a country where the familial unit is very
important and indeed, marriages are considered unions between families, not
- In a country full of rituals for every occasion, I find no value in them.
- I don’t believe in the "respect your elders by default" Indian
principle unless they deserve respect.
- I don’t really celebrate festivals like Diwali and Holi. (Actually, I
can’t stand loud noise.)
- I’m a libertarian in a society that still mostly believes it should have a
say in what’s right and what’s wrong in the way people live their lives.
(Not to mention our socialist government.)
- I stop at red traffic lights, no matter how late at night it is or how few
cars are on the road. I’ve been wearing a seat belt many years before it
- I try to stand in the queue wherever possible unlike all those others
rushing to push ahead.
- I don’t watch Bollywood movies because they make my brain cells melt each
time I try.
- I consider English my first language because that’s the one I’m most
Sorry if I came across as a snob for it wasn’t my intention. I merely find
myself getting more and more pissed off with the so-called "culture"
of this country that is often hailed. Has our culture been reduced to breaking
traffic laws, trying to beat the law, being unruly in situations where some
order is required, spitting on the roads, urinating on walls, whistling in movie
theatres during kissing scenes, etc.?
Not that all people are like that, of course. I have met plenty of nice
enough people, but if I think about my average week, it’s spent being pissed off
at all the stuff I’ve just mentioned. It tilts the balance against what few
positive experiences I have. (There, that sentence was in anticipation of the
"don’t look only at the negative things" argument someone will surely
make.) And even if I didn’t, I feel like a cultural "misfit" because
of all the numbered reasons I’ve given.
How, then, can I strongly identify with this country? Is there any
"Indian" left in me?
Update (27 Oct): I am amused that in a blog entry where the words “West” or “Western” haven’t been mentioned even once, so many people have assumed the comparison anyway. Assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups, folks.