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Swades February 12, 2009

Posted by Chatore Diaries in India.
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When I was in school I had only one dream. When I went to college my dream was all consuming. When I was doing my masters, I could not think of anything else.

I wanted to go abroad and settle down. After all, a lot of my relatives were based in the UK and the US of A. After all, how difficult could it be. I would have a better life, a better place to raise a family. Clean air, clean water, no electricity problems. Everything new and shiny.

And then I happened to watch SRK’s Swades.

And something inside me changed. Maybe it was the concept of the movie, or maybe it was SRK’s fantastic portrayal of a successful NRI. Maybe it was the following line from the title track:

“Mitti Ki Hai Jo Khushboo, Tu Kaise Bhulayega

Tu Chahe Kahin JaYeh, Tu Laut Ke Aayega”

But something sure did change in me that evening. All of a sudden I was feeling like a rat who wanted to abandon the sinking ship. My girlfriend Sonal (my wife now) is a strong nationalist. Indian was where she was born, India is who she would serve, and India is where she wants to heave her last breath. I did not share any of these feelings. For me it was just a place I called home. Just that.

But this movie, changed all of that. It is the only movie which has forced me to question my belief system. To make me ask myself, what right had I to leave for strange shores without having re-payed my debts here. Could I forget the childhood I have had in her lap? The air that I breath and the land that I walk on?

What was I running away from? The bad roads or the dirty water? Was the corrupt politician scaring me away? Or was it the long queue for everything?

I was running away from myself. From who I am. From what we have made of this nation. Nobody seems to be able to hear her cries for help.

Today, there is a lot of ‘anti this’ and ‘anti that’ feeling across the nation. Regionalism is at an all time high. Communalism and politics have succeeded in implanting the seeds of hatred in the youth today. I am sure this is not what Mahatma Gandhi or Shivaji Maharaj had wanted. When Shivaji Maharaj picked up the sword, it was to ward off the Mughals, away from Hindustan, and not just Maharashtra. Mahatma Gandhi hadn’t staged Satyagrah just for Gujarat. That too was for Hindustan. Shrimati Sarojini Naidu was not thinking only about South India. She was thinking about all Indians. How is that for commitment?

But look what we have done to their efforts. Some Maharastrians are fighting tooth and nail to throw out UPites and Biharis. Tamil Nadu is fighting with Karnataka for water. The North East is a story unto itself.

Who is at fault here? Not the Mahatma or the Maharaj or the Nightingale. It is you and me. It is people like Mulayam Singh and Raj Thackerey and Modi. The interest of the individual is more important than that of the group. How many of this ilk today can dare to take the noose today like Bhagat Singh at the age of 24? My guess is none.

So after a long conversation with myself, and a lot of soul searching, I have decided to stick and fight it out with these kind of people. How am I going to do it? I haven’t a clue yet. But I will for sure.

Someone said long ago: You can take a man out of India, but not India out of a man”. As for me, you can’t take this man out of India. Rest is all impossible.