Of late I have been put in a difficult situation on numerous occasions by foreign nationals asking me to explain if what they heard about India is really true. Women are first on this list, and they are definitely curious if India is really a dangerous place for them as it’s presented to be these days by the media. A few weeks ago, I was asked by a Finnish woman “Why are gang attacks on women in India so common??”. Did I have an answer, heck No!
I’m also often presented with the difficult situation of explaining the opportunism displayed by Indian companies in taking away jobs in foreign lands. It’s not about the job loss that irks people it’s the cheeky way in these companies go about doing it. The people are made to believe initially that the incoming company is their well wisher and once the company gets enough foot hold, friends turn foes, almost overnight. The downsizing is then done ruthlessly in the name of professionalism.
Work ethics, long working hours, lack of interpersonal skills and unwillingness to adapt to other cultures just adds to the alienation of our people trying to settle abroad.
Am I part of the Indian Foreign Service unit tasked with improving India’s overseas image; the answer is “No”. You might then wonder why I worry so much about it then. Well the answer is that, I’m very proud of the country I was born in and whose nationality I consider to be an asset. The questions therefore did evoke a lot of emotions in me and made me wonder what exactly is happening. Why is the negative aura around “India” so strong these days? A land which was previously known as the protector of cultures, incubator for many religions, melting pot for various cuisines, why has it suddenly become associated with corruption, attacks on women. and holocausts.
The era of the Gupta Empire is known as the Golden age of India, spanning approximately from 320 CE to 550 CE. This was the period where most of what we flaunt as Indian culture was created. You can see temples designed in Gupta architecture as far as Indonesia. This was also the highest point of Sanskrit literature. India’s influence during this period spread in both directions, east and west. Had the world deciphered the texts or had the influence continued, the west could have just continued from where the Gupta’s left, rather than reinventing the wheel. How proud the Indian’s travelling to distant lands would have been of their civilization and how impressed would the people of these distant lands must have been interacting with the Indians of the Gupta empire.
From my observation every civilization has periods of golden age and also an equal share of dark age. For example the Germans are very ashamed of the Nazi history, Russians want to forget the atrocities committed under the rule of Stalin. The British wonder if the era of colonization is the cause for the present worries. In this light I’m compelled to believe that India is at present passing through its dark age. In my opinion this is the only valid explanation for all that we see, our country and civilization is going through.
We are taking a beating at all that we were once good at. Once the protector of human rights, refugees thronged to India to embrace its acceptance and be a part of the thriving culture. In spite of all the challenges different races thrived on this land and made it their home. Be it the Jewish tribes who settled in North East, or the Zoroastrians who made India proud with their enterprise, we set examples of multiculturalism and integration, the world can still learn from. Compare that to now, we issued gag orders on Dalai Lama and the only refugees we welcome and phantom voters from Bangladesh.
Promotion of indigenous art and culture has definitely been put on the hold, what matters nation wide are reality shows. We seem to be entrusting Bollywood to be our new cultural ambassadors. Some minister said that we are going to assert the Indian soft power internationally with Bollywood. Brilliant idea, how will my culture be known as?? Lovers dancing around trees and men lighting cigarettes with bullets?
Architectural innovation is just restricted to commercial buildings. No wonder the Mumbai CST station is the only building to feature in the top 10 train stations in the world. Preserving what our ancestors built with pride looks like a liability for the present governments.
Cultural evils like dowry and impacting the ratio of genders and leading to gender inequality and contributing to the lack of safety for women. Social inequality is leading to lack of safety for both men and women; exploitation and crime are at an all time high. Above all sheer disregard for human life just makes the whole society look disgusting; between 2001 and 2011 more than a million people have died in road accidents across India. Compare road fatalities to deaths in terrorist attacks, I wonder why we spend more money on preventing terror attacks than road accidents. Well the answer is “who cares”.
So these days when I meet people abroad and as and when they question me about corruption or lack of safety for women in India, I tell them that this is India’s Dark Ages. I also express my optimism that we are seeing signs of change and that we may soon enter the ascent to yet another Golden age. Just like the Gupta’s, India needs a clan of leaders to lead us into this era. The society will need to move the wheels but leaders are needed to change the course. I hope the ascent starts right after the 2014 elections and that we do not have to wait another five years to begin the journey of hope.
Is India A Sham Democracy ?
Lessons from Afghanistan – How Not To Win Friends And Influence People
Will The Indian Government Snoop On its Citizens (Snowden) And Pass The Data To Uncle Sam ?