Not many battles were won against the common enemies of mankind: disease, poverty, unemployment and hunger. For the NRI the mantle of responsibility and duty does not rest lightly…writes Bikram Vohra
The power of media to turn perceptions into truths and generate rage, suspicion and contribute to the manipulation of public opinion on issues great and small have marked the recent 12 months. Tolerance or its absence was the crayon we chose for the most part of the year and crossed from one month to another on a rickety rope over-bridges which comprised half kept promises and better days ahead. The weakening of the rupee only underscored the doubts that the economic sun was hot on full flare.
India has to look back and ensure that 2016 does not replicate the sludgy motions of the past.
The better days stay elusive. Not many battles were won against the common enemies of mankind: disease, poverty, unemployment and hunger. For the NRI the mantle of responsibility and duty does not rest lightly.
Today, there are 32 million Indian living abroad on every continent and impacting upon the world, serving as a conduit for the best of Indian arts and sciences. From Indian frontliners in Silicon Valley to medical practitioners in Europe to business tycoons in the Gulf and Hong Kong, from Wall Street analysts to international beauty queens, Indian acumen and expertise have become marketable commodities.
Indian music has made its mark on the world’s stage. Indian food is a cultural given. Indian fashion now competes at the level of haute couture even as Indian fabrics are in demand in both the East and the West. Indian novelists writing in English have hit the literary scene with force. Indian professionalism in media, law, accountancy and engineering and information technology has formed a swathe and Indian business knowhow works on the cutting edge.
Let it not be forgotten that Indian labour translates many of these concepts and ideas into reality and it is the sweat and the sagacity that combine to make the Indian diaspora so powerful and so vital in the modern context. These 32 million Indians may live in scattered fragments in a hundred countries but they have never forgotten their roots and on every anniversary it seems as if the geographical distance is mentally bridged and the sense of togetherness which prevails salutes the billion at home and their congregation of brothers and sisters out in the world. This Diwali that light of patriotism shines even brighter.
Perhaps this is the dawning of the glorious age for the country and its people. Other influences from India also permeate the world. In Britain Indian takeaway foods have beaten the traditional Chinese cuisine. Indian TV channels are popular in the USA and the footprint gets larger all the time. Indian clothes, shoes, jewellery, accessories are globally popular. Indian music has hit an all-time high in universal acceptance and are played in Beijing, Tokyo, Naoirobi and Moscow. Indian stars have bounced into Hollywood and Indian films are celluloid ambassadors.
Above all, the Indian intellect has earned the seal of approval in across the spectrum disciplines. Coupled with the lowest ethnic crime record in the world, this makes the Indian community highly welcome as a creative and contributory force. What we can do for other countries we must do for India. That is the crux and one where we are often found wanting.
Over the years, innate honesty and the inbred acceptance of hierarchical authority often misinterpreted in modern times as weakness rather than a Teutonic fondness for order, gave Indians a leading edge. They moved swiftly up the ladder, excelling in organising business, in bargaining with logic and steadfastness and always ensuring that they did not cheat their employer. In these formative centuries of the Indian diaspora, the Indian stamina for mental exercise became a hallmark of the community’s worth and its favoured status. Indians meant good output and minimum hassle.
These traits have endured the test of time. By that token the Indian’s unquenchable desire to identify with the home country has never diminished. Even tenth generation immigrants maintain the same values and traditions as does the home country, often with more fervour and commitment.
I am reminded here of the famous lines of poetry:
Breathes there a man with souls so dead
Who never to himself has said,
This is my own, “my native land.”
In the poem he retraces his footsteps back to the land of his forefathers.
We too, as Indians abroad, engage in a continual effort to hark back to our roots, to be one again with the mother country. India’s triumphs bring joy to our hearts, India’s pain echoes within us. This need to be one with our roots has been at the core of the Indian global movement. And we have succeeded admirably. Our habits, our food, our festivals, our prayers invoke the priorities that have survived centuries and the richness of that tapestry is the worldwide legacy we have given to our children as they prepare take over the baton.
We cannot afford to sit outside our shores and be critical..
We have an active role to play and we must rise to that responsibility.