Friends, a little birdie whispered in my ears yesterday that Mark is coming to India. That we need to decide what he should know about our country, and perhaps what he shouldn't, makes the news a bit more interesting! You will ask me "Who is Mark, and why are we spending time on him?" Well, to me he is yet another foreigner who plans to visit India enamored with what Wikipedia or Youtube would have told him, or perhaps somebody whose great grand father would have written stories about this being a land of snake charmers when he was posted here in early twentieth century. I wonder whether his opinion about Indian women is drawn from his experience of sharing multiple cups of coffee with the pretty software engineer sitting in the cubicle next to him, or may be by closely following Indian women on the numerous beauty contests where they give good-to-the-ear answers to some mundane questions.
Be that as it may, I would like to spend time on answering these questions just because Mark will go back from my country as one of the many ambassadors who will tell everybody the truth on what this country is all about, based on his own first-hand experiences. And for this very reason, for every 'Yes, it is true that ...' about India, he should also know 'However, it is the same country where ...'. In short, rather than being told what India is, I would rather have him explore the country, by giving him an opportunity to observe both sides of the coin.
And this is where my words take over my thoughts ...
Yes, it is true that something abominable happened in New Delhi in the month of December last year and once again in Mumbai earlier this year. However, it is the same country where not one, not two, but eight banks and financial institutions are headed by women today and where we have woman chief ministers governing different states all over the country. Call it empowerment, call it equal opportunity ... the fact is that this is happening.
Yes, it is true that a certain state went through some communal riots between the two predominant communities a few weeks back. However, it is the same country where during natural calamities, it is these very communities who go beyond their ways and means to help each other survive nature's wrath. Be it the floods in Mumbai, or the earthquake somewhere else. I am sure Mark will be able to get so many of those stories online.
Yes, it is true that a few weeks back, a certain politician called her state a colony of India. However, it is the same country that around the same time celebrated India's Independence Day with a great amount of pride, with perhaps people from her own state participating in the festivities.
Yes, it is true that there are "empowered" sections of society in our country who think first about their rights, much before their duties and responsibilities. However, it is the same country where there are scores of examples of "not-so-empowered" sections of society who do not even think about their rights without fulfilling their duties.
Yes, it is true that many people today are getting ready to open their wallets for retail therapy, it being the festive season, and indulge themselves in all sorts of luxuries, with focus on materialistic pleasures. However, it is the same country where we see people not do these very things during certain fifteen days of the year, and spend time remembering their ancestors, in a way living in their pasts and thinking about their futures.
Yes, it is true that there are many cities in the country where you can actually collect so much water in the potholes on the roads that the water problem of the entire country can be solved. However, it is the same country where we see such engineering marvels like the railways in the Himalayas or Konkan, or whose scientists and engineers have shown their mettle in space science, nuclear physics and information technology, or for that matter, since we are talking about roads, come up with high quality infrastructure like Yamuna Expressway or Bandra-Worli Sea Link.
Yes, it is true that this is the country whose slums formed the background of a recent Oscar-winning movie. However, it is the same country that has also provided a far more enriching background to numerous authors of best-selling books like the one about the monk and his Ferrari! Please ask Thomas Friedman who told him the world is flat?
Yes, it is true that the interference of politics in sports administration of the country has led to its suspension from the Olympics movement. However, it is the same country that has given birth to numerous sportsmen and sportswomen who have made a mark in their field of choice in spite of the presence of these administrators, fighting against all odds. Mark would remember Mary Kom's interview on BBC last year.
Coming back to Mark's visit, I believe he has inadvertently chosen the best time to visit us. Be it festivals of all the major religions the country is going to celebrate, be it the dance of democracy we are going to witness in the month of November, the long-awaited retirement of Sachin and well-timed retirement of Rahul ... he will experience all the facets of the country that is India, with Indians showing all kinds of emotions to the whole world. If he wants to take back a true picture of the country, he must observe all this, and more.
With these thoughts in my mind, I sat down to write the mail to Mark, to welcome him to the land of curious contradictions and interesting conundrums, asking him for his flight details and giving him strict instructions on when exactly should he give me a 'missed call' ...
P.S. Thanks Preeti for the special mention of my entry in your blog.