If you had to substantiate in a 10-minute argument that India is a great country, what would you say?
I was frantically trying to finish my presentation for tomorrow, when my Polish colleague decided he needs to know more about India, and that too, NOW. The usually peace loving person that I am, I found myself entrapped in an argument and I don’t even remember how a friendly discourse had turned into a heated argument. Maybe it was because I was caught off-guard or because I was half distracted with my work or because it was well past my normal working hours, but I could manage no more than –
1) We are the country with the biggest and most successful democracy in the world.
2) We are the country which invented 0.
3) We are one of the earliest civilizations in the world, with unparalleled contributions to literature and philosophy such as the Vedas, Gita, Mahabharata and Ramayana.
4) Unity in Diversity – We are a land of diverse cultures, languages and traditions which co-exist peacefully and have a single nationalistic identity.
5) We are a country that has had many great scientists, philosophers, writers, artists such as Tagore, Ramanujan, Mother Teresa and so on.
6) We are the country that successfully overthrew the British empire through the novel, non-violent ‘Ahimsa’ movement.
When you are debating with a European, whose image of India is limited to a picture of poverty, colonisation and political instability, you need to do better than this.
How do you say the Vedas are unparalleled, if in the first place he has not even heard about the Vedas? How can you say with conviction that the political instability that is often associated with India cannot be attributed to the democracy we have? If someone thinks 0 is just a numeral, not a philosophical concept to represent the void, how do you convince him otherwise? If he thinks there are constant fights between different religions in India and has read about the Hindu-Muslim riots and Babri Masjid, how do you say that is not the norm? For a country of a billion people, is it only statistical that you have some great achievers. To make matters worse, I could not list an overwhelming concentration that defied the rules of pure statistics. In fact even statistics don’t seem to help much sometimes – Why don’t we win even a single Olympic gold for that matter? Why can’t we solve our ‘issues’ with Pakistan the non-violent way?
Call him ignorant, you sure can. But the best of teachers excel in teaching the worst of students. Call him annoying, I sure did. But all said and done, I am proud of my India and I wish I was better at expressing it. After half an hour, I decided that regardless of whether my Polish neighbour agreed with my views on India or not, getting back to my presentation was no more a matter of choice.
If there are any Indians reading this, did I miss anything? For the “debate” hasn’t ended.