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India, my India?

A painful realization dawned on me recently: I may not be able to exercise my right to vote, for the foreseeable future. That is the life of expats who attempt to make a life in a country different from where they are born.

I have spent most of my life in India; I grew up in India, I grew as a person in India. The person I am today is because of everything I saw, learnt, read, heard and observed growing up. India instilled in me the importance of individual values, taught me that humanity is the most important religion and being considerate to our fellow human beings is the most honest act of worship.

My experience of India was mostly academic, filled with idealism, honesty, freedom, optimism and respect. To me, India was synonymous with freedom and liberty. The largest democracy in the world succeeding in its effort to bring together people from different regions, religions, languages, castes and cultures. A melting pot of diversity, color, festivals, and most of all, people. Oh, the p…
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Fact check, maybe?

The world has changed over the last 5 years. The world today feels more polarized and divided, than it has in recent history. There are deep-seated divisions in our society, which come to the fore every day in the form of resentment, biases, abuse and hatred.

But in the race to form, express and defend opinions, we have forgotten the importance of something integral that helps us form opinions: Facts.


"Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts."         -Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Facts do not belong to a political party, a social position, a religious group or a country. Facts are universal, substantiated, proven with evidence, and grounded in truth. Quite simply, facts are the truth.
We do not have to agree on our beliefs and opinions, but we must ascribe to the same facts. Facts form one of the tentpoles of a society. While our scientific and industrial prowess separates us from other living organisms, our disdain for antithetical facts tears apart millennia…

Opinions Matter.

I have strong opinions. But I also have weak opinions, and at times, no opinion. These opinions have defined actions I have taken at different times of life. Some pleasant, some terrible. The beauty, though, of these actions has been that they have been mine and I have lived with them, learnt from them and course-corrected. I have abandoned beliefs I have held for decades within minutes, and I have been reaffirmed of my opinions despite days of disagreements.
Our lives may be the results of our actions, but our actions are certainly a result of our opinions. These opinions stem from a variety of places. They include things we have learnt while growing up, things we fear, things we have read, things we have heard, things we have endorsed to fit in, and things that we adopt to rebel. More often than not, these things are fleeting, but the opinions that form from them, are not.
What bothers me the most, though, is the reluctance we tend to have to listen to conflicting or contradictory opi…

Individuality.

Until a couple of years ago, my short temper was one of my biggest regrets and an understood weakness. A lot of times when I got angry over a difference of opinion, my mother would share with me a metaphor: "When the 5 fingers on our hands are different, why do we expect others in the world to be just like us?" That, or the daily recitation of the Indian National Pledge in school that reminded me how India's diversity is its strength and pride, instilled in me the value of every person's individuality, and the respect for the same.

For quite a while now, I have seen people (and Indians in particular) struggle with their identities. Especially since a single opinion you have can come to define your identity among a group of people. Support a particular political outfit, and you get branded with a name that is supposed to be an insult. Support a particular idea, and the you will be labelled with an associated leader and interrogated about their mistakes. A lot of these …

Onward and Forward.

It is amusing to me how more often than not, we are more invested in the future than the present. We keep thinking about the what next, planning ahead, measuring our steps today and working steadily towards that well-defined goal. We carve out a path in our head and we try to stick to it, avoid deviating from it. Eventually, we get there. We achieve what we strove for.

But, somewhere between that journey, there's this sweet spot when all the pieces fall into place and the vision that kept you captivated is within an arm's reach with no hurdle in between. And that is a beautiful feeling. The last few days have been such for me and the goals I had set for myself a couple of years back, now seem right here. It is an understated, subdued emotion of happiness and serenity. The bearing of fruit of months and years of hard-work and systematic, planned efforts, coupled with the excitement of the life that lays ahead.

I keep going back to the past, and realize how it all falls into place…

I Will Be Your Prime Minister, Too!

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too. It was the morning of 5th November, 2008 when I heard these words from the then President-Elect Barack Obama as a part of his victory speech. This was a proclamation from the man who had just been elected the most powerful man in the world, that he understood the responsibility of the office he was just elected to. They were simple words exhilarating humility and goodwill, at the same time. For the last 8 years, I have had these very lines stuck in the back of my head, and even more piercingly in the last 6-7 months, and specifically in the Indian context.

When we talk about India, we talk about the diversity of the country. 'Unity in diversity' is often the one sentence definition of India cited across the world. It is a society where each person is respected for their individuality as an Indian. It is a s…

May The Light Shine.

I have respected the need for 'Freedom of Speech' ever since I first understood what it meant, sometime during a Civics class in school. It is the necessity for a society to grow. Ideas and opinions need to flow from one side of the table to the other. As a proponent of free speech, this freedom is something I take very personally and seriously.

But, today, almost 18 months after one of the most hallmark decisions taken by the Indian electorate, I wonder if such a freedom exists anymore. It does exist in the Constitution, technically, but on the ground? I'm skeptical.

A democracy like ours is very complex for me to explain, but a few things that I believe are underlying to the very fabric of our country are the need for rules and laws that are common to everybody. That all people, all religions, all languages must be treated equally.

Yes, the Constitution of India doesn't recognize a national religion or national language. Hinduism isn't the national religion, and Hin…