Tuesday, 18 April 2017

India is a way of life

India, more than an emerging economic superpower, more than a storehouse of demographic dividend, more than a pioneer of innumerable sciences and streams of knowledge, is a way of life. It runs in your blood, brave and sacrificial saffron instead of scarlet; it shows in the purity of your selfless soul, white as a dove, and it presents itself in the green of your optimism, come what may.

To me, this way of life is manifest in how Indians conduct themselves, not just on their home turf, but also abroad and slowly sneak into the hearts of those they love - whether Indian or not- one joke, one careful consideration, one jugaad, one smile, one gesture of hospitality at a time.

Lufthansa’s latest campaign: #MoreIndianThanYouThink will make you appreciate the unique and refreshing allure that India enjoys in the world, today. Catch it here: https://youtu.be/TIgVoRK-A1o
What I like best about this TVC is the recognition of India as a superpower, as an influencer rather than a mere wallflower in world events. 

It pays heed to everything we hold sacred in our culture- the respectful and hospitable bow of Namaste, which stands for “I bow to the good in you”, recognizing equality with the person standing before you; the spread of delectable cuisine, which has placed us on the global map and our affinity for celebrating and dancing, irrespective of the occasion. It is no wonder that this ad will attract Indian audience like me, coaxing us to venture into a Lufthansa fight at the earliest and experiencing #MoreIndianThanYouThink for ourselves. For further information, here is the link: http://bit.ly/2oQTj8q

There’s no denying that the Indian way of life is why we have become a force to reckon with, in recent times. I will share some facts and some instances to help you see how. Read on!

1.      We are a happy, loving people

For an allegedly ‘poor’ country (reference to the Snapchat fiasco), Indians are a joyous people. You know you’re in a good place when the street urchins selling balloons flash their pearly whites at you as you purchase their bundles of joy from a rolled down car window. A CEO driving a Mercedes will dance to the same numbers at a wedding as a middle class salaried employee who owns a rugged scooter.  
We derive so much happiness from simple things- planning a family picnic, gathering for a birth, going window shopping with friends, having a hearty dinner at a relative’s wedding, chancing upon old friends in public transport, clearing our exams- that these little moments become our real treasures. For us, money is not equal to happiness. True, we do strive for betterment of our means, but that never stops us from being happy in the moment. We are ambitious and optimistic. Nowhere else exemplifies glass half full as Indian.
Despite having one of the largest military forces in the world, we advocate peace. We forgive nations who seek to destroy the sanctuary we provide to fellow living beings. We foster friendships. We are human, and proud of it.

2.      We put others before ourselves

Our strongly rooted values help us gain a foothold, wherever we go. I was in Germany on a language scholarship in the summer of 2011. While travelling to the Goethe Institute in Munich, one morning, I offered my seat to an old lady in the tram. A simple, routine gesture for me, this was something I always did in India (where public transport tends to be densely crowded), both out of the virtue of respect taught to me as a child and out of sheer habit. I didn’t even think twice before getting up, but the lady was so touched that she lovingly caressed my cheeks and offered me a currency note of 50 Euros “to go and have a pizza with my friends.” At that time, it was equivalent to about INR 3000. I was surprised and politely declined. It was her turn to be surprised, as I refused the money. My wheatish complexion and mannerisms must have betrayed my nationality, for she confessed she had always liked India…ever since her son came back a positively changed person from visiting our country.  
We are always taught selflessness and altruism, right from the very beginning. When our mothers eat only after having fed the whole family, when our fathers sacrifice meals for buying us expensive clothes and toys, when we grow up and provide for our families before we fulfil our own wishes…putting others first is a legacy in the Indian culture.
We care for people, not just our own by geography, but also those who we connect with, because of who we are- human.  

3.      We are adept at making things work

Broken plumbing? Fix it using basic tools. Jammed vehicle? Gather five people and have them push it, so it starts. Kaput electricity? Open a few plugs, rewire and you’re set to go. Catch-22? Don’t worry, we have a way out. No matter what the problem, Indians have a solution handy. We can make everything work. I have personally experienced how locks can be opened without keys (using safety pins), how dupattas can double up as sunshade and baby carriers, how things can be innovatively used for purposes they are never intended for.  Don’t believe me? See for yourself, how: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_jvqnmDVME
No wonder then, that India is the land of innovators and thinkers, right? As some would say, it is in our soil. J

4.      We are intelligent

We gave the world the beginning of the number system. We introduced decimals. We launched 104 missiles from a single rocket. We taught the world what today has taken the form of chess. We initiated microwave communication. We discovered herbs and their medicinal properties. We gave the world Yoga. Indians and people of Indian origin today lead the world in many sectors, including ICT, Finance, Physics, Cinema, Law, Medicine, Literature …you name it, we have made a mark in it.

5.      We are colourful, indomitable in strength and spirit

We have a rich tradition of arts and crafts, spanning state boundaries and generations. From forms of painting like Madhubani, Tanjore and many more to the forms of fabric weaving and production, especially silk in the South, jute in the East and cotton in the West, from folk songs that still grace our weddings to the mind boggling variety of sumptuous regional cuisine in each nook and corner, our creativity has found diverse expressions and made us virtually unstoppable. India is a leading exporter of gems and jewelry, textiles and other items of handicraft which are unparalleled anywhere in the world. This reminds me of how I Wore an orange and black kurti with detailed Kantha kadhai on it, in Berlin, Germany and the tour guide took a moment to admire it. He later complimented me on how bunt (colourful) it was and how it had brightened his day! To this day, six years later, I feel so proud of it.


My identity as an Indian has helped me realize, firsthand, a lot of lessons that are mostly confined to moral education classes at school- standing up for what is right, defending the underdogs, helping the needy, striving for success in a clean and not cut-throat way, building solid friendships and nurturing relationships, treating the whole world as my family- Vasudhev Kutumbkam. If all this could be practiced everywhere in the world, I am certain that boundaries, both geo-political and psychological, would diminish, indeed making the whole world one single family of human beings, united in everything we do and all that we are.