What does India mean to the World?

08 Oct 2006
Posted by Kiran

The West Wing is one of my favourite TV shows. It is about the President Of The United States (POTUS) and the White House staff and what they go through in the course of their daily lives. The workings of the White House, at least as it is depicted in this show, really intrigues me.

However there was one particular episode the story-line of which, though obviously fictitious, disturbed me quite a bit. It depicted a "situation" being dealt with by the POTUS wherein India had just attacked Pakistan and the way the US dealt with it.

How does the situation get resolved? Well, the USA assures India that in return for withdrawal of troops, the USA will provide computer technology. And India happily agrees!! Both India and Pakistan - more so India - have been portrayed in the episode as irresponsible nuclear nations that crave for International aid but are too proud to request it, and hence resort to such tactics to gain attention. I believe the comment one of the White House staffer makes is something on the lines of 'that is the way it usually works - give them something and they quite down'.

All is well, since it is only a fictional story, to be taken in that spirit. However, I believe this also speaks a little about what the makers of this show think of India. And I am sure that they believe that the audience would agree with this portrayal of India.

The makers of this show are not alone. A few years ago I was in the USA and I happened to drop in at a Doctor. He was an American and was quite interested in knowing more about my country. He asked me questions such as "Do a lot of people own cars in India?", "Does India have National Highways?", and so on... I gave him honest replies; I told him that Indian roads are indeed bustling with cars and we do have highways crisscrossing the nation. However, I also admitted that our road networks may not be comparable to the Interstates of the USA. He smiled at me.

I have had quite a few similar conversations and the picture I get is that India is seen as a poor nation that is - amazingly so - making a mark on the world map.

I am aware that India has a long way to go in a lot of areas, there are a lot of problems that need to be dealt with - I have spoken of a few in one of my earlier posts. However, that is not all that India is about. What most people seem to not know of is the vibrant culture that is India, the fact that Indians are mostly a happy lot. The focus always seems to be more on the negatives than the positives. Why?

I think a lot has to do with the way Indians portray themselves and their country abroad. Indians tend to compare Indian infrastructure with what they see in America or Europe and openly complain about how facilities are lacking in India. What we fail to project are the positives - the Indian education systems are among the best in the world; India can boast of some of the best brains in the whole world; the word "family" means something in India and Indians actually care about it; the Indian media is not as partisan as the media in some of the developed nations - what we see in the news is usually unbiased journalism; India can boast of some of the best medical facilities and specialist doctors in the world; the list goes on.

India has always been pictured as the land of the snake charmers and elephants. The fact is that there still are a lot of snake charmers and elephants in this country. That is what makes this country so diverse, so colorful! If you manage to travel across the length of India you will encounter a myriad of experiences; you may also get duped or robbed while you are at it, but you are guaranteed a very unique and enriching experience. You would come across a variety of people - from the Sherpas of Shimla and the turban clad natives of Punjab to the typical "Madrasi"s from Tamil Nadu - all so different, yet, all so Indian.

India is successful because of its diversity, not despite it.

Being Indians I think we owe it to our country to be good ambassadors for her. How many of us truly know India? Why is it that we Indians are so quick to deride India but hardly any of us actually take the pains to get to know the positive side of our land?

On a recent trip to Europe, I visited a number of places within a span of one year. Following that, I spent a year back in India and set foot out of my hometown only a few times and that too due to some commitments, never on pleasure. This is quite common with most Indians - while abroad we take a lot of pains to actually visit various places and take in the experiences those countries have to offer. Very rarely, however, do we ever venture out to take in such experiences in our own country. How then would we ever know what India is all about? How many Indians have actually experienced India?

India has its many ills; but it is still a great country. We Indians have to experience the greatness of India first. Only then will we be able to show the World what India really is and only then will the World stop condescending over us.