I am a proud Indian.
I come from a family of patriots, a family of true patriots. My blood relatives have served, and continue to serve in the Indian Armed Forces. There is never a prouder moment for me than when I see the the tricolor flying high in a world event such as the Olympic games. I’m proud of our nation’s history and I am proud of its heroes. I take pride in thinking and believing that our nation is one rich with culture and one with a heritage unmatched throughout the globe. I take pride in the fact that young children are taught about morals and values at a young age and that we are taught about culture and respect for elders from the day we are born.
I think that’s what sets us apart from the rest of the world. We respect other people’s culture, we listen to the history of their country and even when they proclaim their nation as the greatest in the world, we smile and nod along with them. We’re not ones to start a tirade about how India is better, for we don’t need to. In our heart of hearts, there is only one greatest nation that the world has ever seen and that is ours. And because we truly believe so, we don’t need to force our opinions onto others and convince them of it. For they have not experienced an Indian life, an Indian upbringing and they have not heard stories about the hardships that our ancestors went through. They will never be able to relate to our stories and they will not understand that a truly great nation does not take pride in its technological advancement and scientific knowledge; it takes pride in its values.
After spending two years abroad, I’ve heard all that there is to hear about Indians. I’ve been told they’re messy, they’re cheap, they smell and that their cooking reeks. I’ve seen advertisements for apartments that clearly state “No Indians” and I’ve been refused entry to nightclubs and been looked down upon in upscale events simply because of the color of my skin. I’ve been physically attacked for being Indian by an ignorant drunk and I’ve felt unwanted on more than one occasion. I’ve wanted to lash out, to portray extreme rage that I often feel when faced with such circumstances, but the reasonable side in me always beckons me to overlook the ignorance and shortsightedness of others. Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned a world where people would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. These people have failed him, I should feel bad for them.
After having gone through all of that, I am still a proud Indian. It’s going to take more than the ignorant and the uneducated to get under my skin and question the belief I have in my culture and heritage. And then I woke this morning. My Facebook newsfeed was overflowing with information on a Delhi gang-rape, about a harmless young girl attacked in a moving bus who is currently in the Intensive Care Unit. Digging into news stories revealed that 572 rapes were reported in Delhi last year compared to 635 this year. And then I was informed that out of the 635, not one has got justice. Not one.
My heart broke. The first line of the Indian National Pledge states, “India is my country, all Indians are my brothers and sisters.” Is this how we treat our sisters? In a country with a widely celebrated festival called Raksha Bandhan which celebrates the relationship between a brother and a sister, one in which a brother vows to protect his sister, you’d expect things to be different, a whole lot different. Women are being treated as objects, they fear for their safety as soon as the sun has set and they constantly look over their shoulder. They live in fear in a nation that takes pride in its freedom.
I will not tolerate this. I can overlook being called cheap, I can neglect being called smelly and I can tolerate being called a curry-eater. I can discount an apartment listing that says “No Indians” and I am willing to take no notice of people who claim to hate Indians for their long-winded ignorant reasons. But being called a citizen of a country of rapists is something I will not tolerate.
Our values are greater than this and our upbringing has taught us different. Women in my nation deserve to travel freely without having to worry about their safety. The ambitious ones deserve to work into the long hours of the night and not worry about being mauled on the way home after a tiring day. Those who work out and strive to stay fit and look beautiful deserve to wear the clothes that compliment them and not worry about them being ripped off the moment they step out into the open. They deserve to be protected by their brothers when in need and they deserve to have crowds stand up for them instead of turning a blind eye.
For everyone waiting for a miracle, it’s not coming. Change is not easy and it’s not going to happen on its own. We all must play a part. For every Indian male reading this: Tomorrow, do a random act of kindness for an Indian woman who is a stranger to you. Stop your car to let her cross the road, help her with a heavy bag, pay for her lunch or just smile and open a door for her. While this might seem trivial to you, it will be your part in trying to make them believe that good men still exist. To make them believe that an Indian man still thinks of them as a sister, still respects her as a woman and still takes pride in her for having the strength to live in such trying times.
In fact, why do it tomorrow? Do it today. And why do it just today or tomorrow? Do it everyday.
India Against Corruption can wait, India Against Rape is the need of the hour.
I am a proud Indian. All Indians are my brothers and sisters.