A country needs a people who are proud of their own culture and civilisation to move forward. That is what true nationalism – not jingoism – is about. It also requires an intelligentsia which reflects this pride in its newspapers, books, paintings, sculpture, sports even. But for this purpose, both intellectuals and grass root people have to be groomed in the intricacy, the subtlety and genius of their own culture, while not being blind to its faults. We have thus to educate the children of India and this is why this book is addressed to all Indian youth, wherever they are from, from whichever strata of Indian society they originate, whatever is their first language. It will endeavour to teach them why it is a great privilege to be born an Indian today and what travails, pitfalls and genocides, their culture had to endure throughout the centuries. Then only will each Indian ask himself this question: ”what can I do for my country” ? In what way can I contribute to this great nation which is India? What is it to be an Indian today? What is meant by Indian-ness, this natural inner space, which automatically confers certain qualities” ?
Firstly and foremost: “I accept you; I accept that you may be White or Black, Red or Yellow, Christian, Buddhist, or Muslim”. Not only that, “but I am even ready to go and worship in a church or a mosque, besides my temple.” “I accept that my Gods are avatars, incarnations of the Divine, but so are Jesus Christ, and also Buddha and even Mohamed”. This is why India has always been a country of freedom, where all persecuted religious minorities in the world have found refuge over the centuries, whether the Jews, the Parsis, the Syrian Christians, or today the Tibetans.
This accepting of the other is an extraordinary statement and a marvellous instrument towards world peace, at a time when the two great monotheist religions of the world, Islam and Christianity, still say: “there is only one true God in the world – mine- and if you worship any other god, you are an Infidel and a Pagan and it is my right to convert you by any means, or even to kill you”. The 11th September 2001 attacks are nothing but a consequence of that dangerous theorem.
What else ? “I have inherited from my ancestors the tools to become a better man, whatever my religion, ethnicity and profession: a better Christian, a better Hindu, a better Muslim, a better carpenter, or CEO, IT engineer, or sailor”. What are these tools ? Hata-yoga, India’s gift to the world, which has been copied and imitated everywhere (although Time magazine did a story on yoga without mentioning the name “India” once). What else ? Meditation, this extraordinary technique of coming back to one’s Self, of settling the mind and the body, which is today practiced by millions around the world – another bequest of India to humanity. Pranayama, the science of respiration, perfected by Indians for three millenniums. “Does the breath have any religion”, asks Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living movement, which has spread today in 140 countries ?
There is a craze amongst Indians to rush to the United States or to send their children to US universities. America holds thus a great fascination for Indians – most of them Hindus. But is America really the benevolent, casteless society ? Well, for one, what the White Americans did to the Blacks not that long ago, must be ranking amongst some of the saddest deeds perpetuated by one class of humanity on another; not to speak of the terrible and shameful treatment inflicted upon the hapless Red Indians, the original inhabitants of their land. There are also a lot of inequalities in the States: extremely rich people and some incredibly poor folks. American journalists and human rights activists like to highlight the “oppressed” condition of women in India. But as early as the late sixties, India elected democratically a woman Prime Minister, the highest post of the nation – and that for nearly twenty years. Can the country of triumphant feminism and gender equality boast of a woman President – Hillary Clinton did not make it recently? The problem is that most Indians suffer too much from an inferiority complex vis à vis the West, to point this out to the Americans who are constantly criticizing India for its human rights in Kashmir .
Yes, in America one enjoys the liberty to do whatever one wants without the red tape, bureaucracy and heavy taxation that one is subjected to in India, or even in industrialized countries such as France. But after 11th September 2001, freedoms have been heavily curtailed in the US, especially if you have a brown skin, as many Indians, are finding out today, being mistaken by ignorant Americans for Pakistanis, Afghanis or Saudis. Today, each of your movements is watched in the US, as there are video cameras everywhere, not only at airports, but also at traffic lights, in stores, at cinemas. Everything is known about you, thanks to computerization – and we even once heard on the PA of Atlanta airport: “ you can go to jail for something you say as a joke” ! Compare this to India: I have lived here for 40 years, I have gone to the most remote places, traveled to sacred spots with my cameras, tape recorder and white face. And never once have I been aggressed, never once has my passport been asked in the streets (try traveling in the subway in Paris if you have a brown face and a leather jacket), never once have I been mugged at late nights in Delhi, Mumbai or Chennai, whereas in Washington, the capital of the ‘land of freedom’, we were told not to go out alone in certain parts after 8 PM.
Some speak about the extraordinary “religious freedom one can enjoy in the US, where nobody bothers whether you are a Jew, a Hindu, or a Christian”. Fair enough. But let’s put it that way: the American population is overwhelmingly Christian and nobody there finds anything to say that the President of the United States is sworn in on the Bible, or that in some states a Christian prayer is uttered before the start of the school. India has a thumping Hindu majority (80%), but imagine the uproar if Mr. Modi and his ministers were sworn in on the Bhagavad-Gita ! Yet, India had three Muslim Presidents since independence. Did the US ever have a Muslim President?
Extract from the book ‘Hindu Power- Fears and obstacles’ to be released next year published by Har Anand, New Delhi