One more Independence Day has come and gone. More programmes on TV celebrating our independence and more shouting from the roof tops about how great we are. More odes sung to all the glorious achievements of India and Indians. We have produced the likes of Aryabhat who gave the world the concept of "0", given the world Ayurveda, trigonometry, chess, ....... (I do not know the veracity of all these claims - I have not checked them out - these are just a few of the claims about which we keep thumping our chests over the ages).
All very fine. But what have we achieved or what are we achieving in recent times? Does not help to rest on our laurels and that too laurels achieved by people in ancient times. How long will we continue to harp on them?
We talk of the achievements of Kalpana Chawla - she achieved whatever she did on foreign soil. The opportunity to do so was given to her by a foreign country. How many women or even men in our country have been given this opportunity here? We boast of the number of successful Indians in foreign companies in the US or the UK. Why are these people not in India? What made them leave the country and go out? What is the population of India? How many people can we account for who have done something noteworthy? What percentage of the population does that account for?
Leave aside our achievements. Look at our politics. Look at our politicians. I need not recount a list of all the "achievements" of those "greats" who occupy the highest positions in our country. It is there for all to see, on the front pages of newspapers every morning, on all the new channels on the hour, every hour and throughout the hour.
Here is a country that sends people fighting against corruption to jail. It is something the British did to freedom fighters. Anna Hazare is fighting for freedom from corruption. And our own government is sent him to jail. So how are we any different from our erstwhile colonial masters, nay tormentors?
Is this what the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru and other freedom fighters sacrificed their lives to get us independence for?
Look at the gross indiscipline on the roads. Look at the lack of work ethic, be it amongst the poorest of the poor who work in menial jobs or people who man high positions in the government machinery. Look at the corruption and inefficiency all around. Look at the filth, illness and poverty everywhere.
Does the number of vehicles on the road, the number of mobile phones in the country and the number of television channels available make us a great country? Or is it the number of malls that have replaced the "kirana waala's dukaan"?
Sorry, it is not that I am not patriotic or don't want to be proud of being Indian. I am simply unable to rejoice over our independence till we pull our socks up and develop something called social and national conscience. Where is our honesty, where is our discipline, where is our work ethic? What about the moral bankruptcy in our country? How can we be proud of ourselves or ever look people all over the world in the eyes? Forget others, how can we look at ourselves in the mirror and say "We are great"?
It has become our habit to revel in various "facts and figures" and forget what we as a country have to come to. It is just my agony over the existing state of affairs that makes me present these other facts here. This should be food for thought for all of us Indians.
What we really need to do to grow as a nation is to take a good look at ourselves in the mirror and see all the blemishes in ourselves. Only when we see our own faults can we really set about correcting them and grow into a truly great nation - which we have a immeasurable untapped potential for. What we really need is to develop something called national character.