I am usually proud that I am an Indian, and that I live in India, a country of emotional, sentimental people; a country where people don't just live but also look for the meaning of life. A country where the spiritual and the material coexist in equal strength.
But there are moments when I feel deeply ashamed to be an Indian. Moments that make me wish I lived elsewhere, in a country where prime ministers and chief ministers were not always doddering septuagenarians or octogenarians, where ministers were not always keen on leaving sufficient wealth for their grandchildren's grandchildren to live in comfort, where politicians were sensitive enough to put an arm around the shoulder of a flood victim or embrace the son of a bomb-blast victim, where television channels showed adult films instead of 'breaking news' (you can never be bored by the sameness of watching a pair of breasts as long as they belonged to different women, or if the same woman made an appearance at different times; but to watch the same footage for hours on end and listen to hysterical anchors -- that's torture!).
However, what made me feel ashamed to be an Indian most recently had nothing to do with what's happening in India, but what happened in faraway Norway, where nearly 100 people died last week at the hands of a mass killer. Since I don't watch television except while having lunch on Sunday afternoons(I often finish eating while an interminable ad break is still on), I read about the tragedy in the next morning's papers. Most papers had front-paged the picture of a rather good-looking man moving about in a state of daze (one paper showed him embracing another man by way of consolation).
In fact, I happened to notice the picture first, and thought he was a Hollywood actor, the kind who did a lot of World Cinema. Only when I read the headline and the caption did I realise he was the Norwegian prime minister, who was fearlessly out in the open to console the victims of the mindless shooting. The image made my chest swell with pride, even though I have never set foot on Norway nor do I know any Norwegian. And then I sighed to myself as I lit up the first cigarette of the day: "Will we ever have a leader like this?"
Our leaders only pay visits to hospitals long after a tragedy has taken place, and there they solemnly stand by the bed of a victim or two, their hands joined in front of them (perhaps a way of saying that their hands are tied), and return to New Delhi to resume normal life. They don't know the important of body language -- no matter whether they are inaugurating a project or visiting a hospital to condole victims, they always wear the benign grandfatherly expression. Had the Mumbai kind of blasts taken place in the US, Obama would have been on the spot of the blasts, with his arms around the shoulders of the affected and with an expression in his eyes that the perpetrators of the blast would have read as, "Just wait, I am going to fuck you!"
But then, this is India. Here, people have enormous tolerance levels. And such tolerance levels only help in thickening the skins of politicians. There was a time -- oh, that was so long ago -- when railway ministers resigned after a rail accident. It was not as if the minister's negligence would have caused the accident, but there was something called moral responsibility (an extinct term today) and they owned it up.
But today we have politicians like B.S. Yeddyurappa, the chief minister of Karnataka, who continues to desperately cling to his chair in spite of being slapped with serious charges of corruption and in spite of being asked by his own party to step down. Any self-respecting politician would have stepped down by now and declared: I will not hold public office again until I come clean. But the desperation of Yeddyurappa to hold on to power is evident from the fact that at least during the last several months, he has done little other than visiting various temples in various states to seek divine intervention in his favour. How much more shameless one can get! So as an Indian, I routinely get treated to pictures such as the one produced below. What a shame!
(Since the pictures above were sourced from the internet, that too in the heat of the moment, I am truly unaware of the identity of the photographers or the agency distributing them. I only hope nobody minds the pictures being reproduced here).