Indian youngsters have always been charmed by everything Western- Movies, Celebrities, TV Shows, Politics, Brands. Everything created abroad seems better to us. And understandably so. India is a relatively new country, when compared to the USA. The Great American Dream, although it has lost a bit of its shine over the last few years, still continues to attract many youngsters. I have school friends who flew out of India as soon as their families permitted them to. I have friends in college who cannot wait to get their degrees and settle abroad. And because these are their life choices, I am not judging them for wanting to go abroad.
But I noticed a strange trend during 2020 USA Presidential Elections. People who didn’t know anything about the Indian Political Ecosystem, were regularly putting out updates on their social media with respect to the former. I remembered the 2016 Presidential Elections, when Donald Trump’s accession to power caused a meltdown amongst the American youngsters. I was in Class XIIth at the time and vividly remember the tag “#NotMyPresident” posted by my classmates on all social media platforms. My first thought was, “Of course he isn’t! Our president (at the time) is Pranab Mukherjee!” I think that is when I first realized how deep-rooted our need to be “American” is. Thus, when this same episode was repeated in 2020, except this time people were rejoicing that Biden won, I was not as surprised.
But I was surprised when people were hailing Kamala Harris for being the first female Vice-President. Her Indian roots were often brought up. Even Indian journalists like Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai were awed by her rise to power. I was surprised because closer home, from Sri Lanka to Pakistan to Bangladesh, and in India itself, we had women heading their countries long back.
In 1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the first female head of a country in the world. She did not let her husband’s assassination deter her; she collected herself, took responsibility of her young children and simultaneously ran the government of what is today Sri Lanka. In 1966, Indira Gandhi became India’s Prime Minister. As much as I dislike most of the things she did during her tenure, I am glad that a woman was given the chance to be our Prime Minister, considering Indian society is not always kind to women in positions of power.
In 1988, Benazir Bhutto became the Prime Minister of Pakistan and in 1991, Khaleda Zia became the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. I understand that these women came from families which had already made a place for themselves in national politics; but it is still remarkable that they were able to get to the top, considering we often berate these countries for otherwise holding women back in matters of educational and employment opportunities.
In addition to these facts, I also saw many Indians claiming Kamala Harris as one of their own. This is perhaps, the saddest reality of Indians; we rejoice when people whose grandparents moved out of India long back, do well abroad. We forget that they are not Indians anymore. Kamala Harris is as much an American as Joe Biden is- the different colors of their skin or the varying family histories don’t matter.
Yet I saw even famous journalists like Rajdeep Sardesai call Kamala Harris’ accession to power as great sign of changing times because she has “South Asian origins”; this same man called Ram Nath Kovind’s election as the President as “political tokenism by the BJP” because he belongs to a Scheduled Caste. Barkha Dutt also shared a picture of Harris with her husband, asking Indians ‘if supportive husbands like him exist in our country too’. It is deeply saddening that Indians will disparage everything good in their own country, but at the same time, appreciate Westerners for those exact same things.
That we Indians suffer from an inferiority complex is a well-known fact. We adopt everything American- from their lifestyles to their accents- to seem “modern and progressive” amongst our peers. We take pride in not knowing Hindi words, we look with disdain at those who are deeply rooted to their culture, we mock our friends who are unable to speak in English, we don’t appreciate what India has given to the world. In India, we consider being Western in our ways as a sign of modernity. Anybody who knows how to use a fork and knife, speaks impeccable English and denounces everything Indian, is seen as “civilized”. Our biggest tragedy is that we use the words “traditional” and “modern” as antonyms, when so many of our traditional practices like Yoga, Ayurveda, Chakra Healing, etc. are now being adopted by “Modern countries”. These industries, in their nascent stage, have earned so much money in those countries because of the difference they have made to the lives of innumerable people. Yet, we look down upon these things and deem them as “old-fashioned”.
India’s burgeoning youth is India’s future.
Imagine if we started devoting more time to learning more about our own country and taking pride in everything that is Indian; we will be an unstoppable force. Lack of information and our mind-numbing education system have fueled Indian youngsters’ shame in their Indic heritage. They cannot take pride in something whose glory they are not aware of. To add to that, the constant influx of content from abroad just forces the youth to seek greener pastures abroad.
I am not against adopting Western mannerisms in our lives. A healthy assimilation of Western and Indian is only going to help us in the long run. Globalization has allowed India’s youngsters to have access to everything that our parents were bereft of. How we use this privilege is upon us. We can either completely annihilate our Indic identity by aping the West, or we can integrate the best of both worlds, and create a civilization that is even more beautiful than the one our ancestors left us with.