November 03, 2008

The Struggle for Democracy

Democratic country, my ass. We are a floundering-in-shit, confused and greedy nation. I know so many Indians who go abroad, saying they can't stand it any longer. As a friend put it, "If life is easier elsewhere, and you have you to work less to have a better existence, then why not?" I only had scorn for people like that. They were traitors. Traitors to the place they were born in, traitors to their childhood memories, traitors to the land that taught them all they knew. Worthless people who were not aware of their identity. I was wrong. Now I'm tired and worn-out. I am not proud of my country. Not anymore. Go I tell, as I see them off at the airports. Do well. Be amazing. I turn my back on the dizzying lights and walk into darkness again. The cries of the roadside beggars are magnetic.

India is made up of mostly villages. We have made progress, we are told excitedly. We are going to the moon. We have Louis Vuitton and Gucci outlets. We have so many multi-national companies working here that we have lost count. We have it made. True, if you consider a handful of metros. Bombay, Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai. Tiny oases in the ocean of ignorance. Think about it. In any good-sized town in India, count the number of girls who wear jeans. The percentage will hardly be about 2 or 3. And they are either the town sluts or "rich family girls". The average Indian woman, then, wears only ethnic clothing, namely salwars or saris. Happy that we follow traditions? Very. Democracy for women? No. But how? A closer look at the situation will give you an answer. Walk into a crowded marketplace in any part of India wearing tight-fitting clothes and see the reaction. The men stare. They will turn from their positions to gape, catching your eyes, then ogling at your breasts. If you stop to talk, they converse with them too. Some young men, barely boys, will walk past and accidently rub against you. I feel violated but so helpless. It's an attempt at submission. Wear these clothes, and we WILL intimidate you. Go back to your traditional garb. Then you will earn respect, then you will be Indian. What happened to freedom to wear what you want? What happened to progressiveness and tolerance? Isn't that a key element of democracy? We have failed so miserably then.

We all know about dowry. The money and gifts the bride has to bring the groom on the day they get married. What surprises me is how casual people are about it. It is a great and mighty bridge, this horrible custom of ours. Everyone believes in it, the old, the young, the rich, the educated. Even all our metro people. There are laws against its practice, but oh how united we are when it comes to the wrong things. Dowry IS wrong. Period. It's actually illegal and you know that. There are several cases registered every week for dowry harrassment deaths. Untold accounts of unhappy women being tortured for more money by her husband or his parents, often resulting in years of quiet unhappiness. Even if there is no torture, there is silent, communal pressure. I personally know so many girls whose dads live abroad, alone, away from family, just to make enough money so their daughters have good marriages. It's about prestige too, you know. The hypocrisy forms an exclusive circle. It happens around me, in the very medical fraternity I live with. Look at these physicians. Men of learning, men who read intellectual novels, hold intense debate on philosophical things. Men of morals, men held in high respect in the community. They take dowry. Hell, they take the MOST dowry because they are doctors, the healers of suffering, the highest in the job chain. And the women. How hard they fought to get to where they are. They have degrees in medicine, in forensics, in surgery. She holds a scalpel like a sword. She paints like Raphael. She undertakes cuttting-edge research on obscure subjects. She is brilliant. But she gives dowry. She says, how else will I get a good husband? Our democracy is full of farts. Big, smelly ones.

We give bribes to get certificates. We give bribes to put our kids in the best schools. We give bribes to put them in medical colleges. We give bribes to get exam papers in advance. We give bribes to get bribes. We give and give and give, corrupting our land a little more with each outstretched hand. The wealthy get away with it and the poor drown in the dry bitterness of it all. Our educations are a lie. Our very knowledge is stolen and deceitful. What right do we have to tell the children to live right, when corruption runs through our veins? What right do you we have to walk upright and say I'm better than him, knowing that you're just richer and that the whole thing is wrong, wrong wrong? Look at our fellowmen. We love evil. We relish money more than justice, food more than honor, esteem more than courage. Our battle is stale. Our ideology, mainly grand words. We are not fooling anyone.

Yet there are strong people. A single man of integrity who will make up for a hundred lost souls. We are slowly moving forward. I will stay. I will put up a fight. I realize that not all can endure, not all can rise to the call. But I will struggle because I can. I will try to have integrity. I will hope that my neighbors are good men. I hope I'll never give dowry. I hope I'll teach my kids to respect women and understand true freedom. And I pray for my country. That more people will realize what it means to be part of the Democratic Republic of our beautiful India. That they will work for the nation we can be, without looking for momentary reward or cheap pleasure. Some day, I want to say, we did our part. I want to be proud of my country again.


aura said...

its too long to read again but i suppose its good...its one of those :-p

Anonymous said...

Yes darling,I agree :)

Maria said...

I never knew Indians thought like that

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