I would like to mention few incidents or rather reactions that I came across when I interacted with few locals here in Brussels whom I met in metro, neighbourhood, bus stop, park and a casual interaction initiated:
- A shopkeeper from Iran who runs a petty shop asked me my nationality when I was at his shop for renewal of my mobile subscription as a part of very normal casual conversation. When I said Indian he instantly asked “Shahrukh Khan” (an Indian actor)? It to some extent re-emphasized a Facebook post that I came across recently that for many in the world “India” means “SRK” as the hero is called fondly. I couldn’t have further discussion with him as I had to hurry up.
- A smile passed and a conversation begun: An elderly lady wishing my daughter started speaking to me about where do I live in Brussels, since how long I have been here and where do I come from. When I told India, she recollected and started to narrate her travel diaries to me. She told me that she visited Agra ( I hope everyone knows TajMahal, one among the seven wonders of the world). She seemed to have enjoyed her visit but she didn’t winked once before saying that she did found her tourist destination to be crowded and hustling & bustling with noises which are fairly of very high decibels.
- A lady whom I met in metro had a fairly depressive views about my homeland. She actually visited Kerala ( a state in the southern part of India). Though she found it very beautiful and mesmerised by Ayurveda treatments and spices available there but she never minced her words when she said there’s so much poverty in India. She actually said “people in India are very poor” (had she been publicised by media she would have faced the wrath of Indian public just like faced by the CEO of snap chat on calling India a poor country 😉). I interrupted her by saying her views are not right as we are marching ahead and fast too. Then she tossed another point that she came across in India – Casteism, Untouchability. She spoke about the plight of people fighting not only poverty but an evil practice that kept humanity at bay. She seemed to have been very much moved by what she saw. I tried to explain her that things have changed now, why exactly castes exist and how over the centuries the very idea of castes has been misused and misled people but before I could elaborate on the issue I had to get down at my stop.
- A mother whom I met in bus on learning that I am from India said in an excited tone “I love the food there”.
These are few instances which depicted how India is perceived other than the media footage that shows India as a fast growing market for automobiles, leader in information and technology sector, a politically correct nation that goes an extra mile to make sure it’s ties are maintained and strengthened with other nations (well exceptions are always there, if you know what I mean).
As a citizen of India I feel elated when I see the world media or people praising the very presence of India on global stage and every effort no matter how trivial it is, taken in the wake of development, be it for the benefit of the country or for the world collectively gets noticed. But that’s it. The amount of shaming we receive still weighs down our positive image. Bitter but truth. Over a half a dozen decades of independence yet poverty and illiteracy coined as synonyms for this country though change has been initiated but the destination still far off. Still only a few faces represent the nation and many of those few are more about gloss than substance (I particularly mean the people from entertainment industry that too in front of the camera – actors not heroes). Still social stigmas and evil social practices mark the face of Indian society in the global village which is worth a thought to be spared.
So the question that arises here predominantly is who is responsible for this. Answer is pretty simple – “WE”. We are responsible for the current depiction of our country in the world. How? Our habit of turning a blind eye towards the apparent truth, blindly following a practice in the name of tradition without questioning the purpose of its existence, our penchant for pomp and show, to an extent too much patience or non reactivity to the issues of core concern, habit of passing the buck, still lurking in past….. I can go on as I am a part of “WE”.
I understand no nation is flawless and as a nation we can never afford to look away from the issues at hand to improve the way we are looked upon in the world.
India is a country of rich, varied heritage and culture and a glorious past and the world is a witness to that. What next? What about the future? For what should the world look up to to India? How our country should be looked upon throughout the world? Let’s ponder over these questions.