When India Lets You Down

“But you’re an Indian,” he said. I don’t know whether it was what he said or the tone he used that made me feel a strong urge to box his face in front of 32 members of our college’s debate club. Fabian and I never got along well together, but after this incident, things changed between him and me—we became the worst enemies ever.

It can be a boon as well as a challenge to be brought up abroad and be surrounded by a transnational environment in university. It is like representing my motherland in front of other nationalities through the way I live, communicate and behave. Sure, I had lived my life in Thailand but deep within I am still an Indian. A faint criticism against my country could easily exacerbate me. I guess that’s why Fabian got into trouble that day.

It was a breezy Saturday afternoon. The debate club I was a member of had a new session with a brand-new issue to wrangle about. The discussion was on whether cultural background affects how a student performs academically. Everything was going well. Everyone had something to say about the correlation between their own culture and their academics. Finally, as the only present Indian in the club, I raised my hand to have a say. I felt it was utterly on me to place a positive image in everyone’s minds pertaining to my nation. Proudly, I reeled off by telling them something about the Indian background. Everyone was obviously impressed with India while I described its beauty, traditions and the people. Then I got down to talking about prominent personalities emerging from India and factually stating that the large number of globally well known engineers, writers, scientists, doctors and alike are born Indians.

I was almost getting on how our society places a lot of importance on education when the Zimbabwean-born Fabian shot his hand in the air, indicating that he had a point to rebut. Knowing how irritating he could get, I tried to ignore him until he wouldn’t stop waving his hand right and left to grab my attention.

“What!” I said out loud, almost spitting on him from across the room. Everyone looked him and uttered a sigh. I wasn’t the only one in the room tired of annoyance.

“But you’re an Indian,” he said.

I didn’t know what he was talking about. He was getting more and more irritating.

“So? What about me being an Indian?” I asked.

I clearly remember his smug smile and the ugly reply, “Doesn’t your culture supposedly give more importance to women being a homemaker than being educated?”

20140329_fbd001_0I stumbled. Where did that come from? I thought we Indians were past that orthodox period. It took me a couple of minutes to absorb what he said. Then, rationally choosing my words, I mentioned that the number of families that still carry this belief has decreased almost to the point of extinction. Though somehow I still managed to shut that guy up, deep within I knew that it was a lie I didn’t have to tell.

After that, I only had a vague idea of what happened during that day’s debating session.
My mind was victimized by what Fabian said. I felt anger within me for his comment. I felt guilty for realizing what he said was true, yet blustering at him. For the first time, I didn’t feel proud to be an Indian.

Perhaps others haven’t updated their perception about India, but we all know that the perception is false. The blame lies within us. There are families that still don’t allow their girls to study and we, as their fellow folks, don’t do anything about it. Maybe it’s time Indians sat back and elicit thoughts about what’s happening in this “globalizing” country. It’s time for some change. It’s time to make India a better nation where, without any guilt, we can proudly reply to people like Fabian, “Yes, I’m an Indian.”

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8 thoughts on “When India Lets You Down

  1. I went through the same situation few years ago when I first came to Malaysia to study from Pakistan. Whenever I was asked question like these about my country or any south asian country ( PAkistan, India, BAngladesh etc) and were pointed out how women are being oppressed in our countries, I had just one answer to all of them:
    ” I am a standing prove that Paksitani/South Asian women can study, can go abroad ALONE to study/work!”
    They just stereotype the entire nation.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bilingualvegetable says:

    Hey. I think the social dynamics of India have changed. Women are given freedom to pursue their dreams and fulfil their ambitions (at least, that has been the case around me). The culture which this guy referred to HAS been wiped out to the point of endangerment, if not extinction. Another thing I’d like to say is that, like in India, child marriage was a problem in Zimbabwe until some time ago. Another cultural practice from Zimbabwe allowed the father-in-law to sleep with the daughter-in-law. Every culture has some practises which are frowned upon, yet being progressive means stopping these practises. And I think India is progressing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As an resident of India, I believe that our country is doing everything it can to overcome it’s social evils. Being a colony of British for more than 100 years, when other countries were busy trying to develop, we were busy trying to get our freedom. Yes, some of old tradations like child marriage have been eradicated at most places, but revolution is not even everywhere. All countries have something or the other that is wrong and it’s ok, a perfect world is just a figment of imagination. Our country has such rich history, beautiful places to see- from Kashmir to Kerala and not to forget our amazing food. Our festivals are unique and enthralling and something to be proud of. So chin up sister, you belong to the country that is full of various cultures and languages. We take unity in diversity into a whole new level. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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