by Promod Puri
I often feel we Indians abroad get more from India than Indians living in India.
In this draw, we, as a community of Indians abroad, get involved in it and revel in the sentimental bond more profoundly and reverentially.
Nevertheless, in our conscious minds, we reside more in the land we left behind than in the transformed India of today.
The aura and ambience of the native home, with all its cultural, linguistic and religious diversities, inhabit significantly and earnestly in the Indian diaspora all over the world.
It is a celebration of India that covers most aspects of the nation in its multi-racial, multi-linguistic and multi-religious complexion, where birds of different feathers flock together.
The celebration in our adopted countries is in our festivals and religious parades, our entertainment and recreation, our social and religious gatherings, our rituals, customs and traditions, our readings and knowledge about India, and engaging in its literature, arts and music.
It is also an obsession with things that are desi by nature.
The excitement of desi by nature reflects in our traditional dresses and dances, bhangra, garba and most other folk performances.
Indian cuisine occupies a prominent spot on the list that itself breaks down to Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali, Tamil, Rajasthani, Kashmiri, etc., covering every region and sub-region of India.
And this is where we get more of India; for example, we enjoy its diverse food in a big cosmopolitan city anywhere in the world. Here one can also get anything Indian from any part of the country that perhaps people in India don’t get. It’s like a one-stop India shopping centre abroad.
Whereas we Indians abroad receive and devour everything Indian from goods to yoga and meditation, from its spiritual values to music and arts, our contribution to India is also significant in enriching its literary and cultural scene. Poets and writers of Indian origin settled in foreign soils have become part of the Indian literate landscape.
Nostalgia dominates in the India of our image that we have weaved.
The country of our origin presents a different outlook now than the one we left a few or many years ago. But our preference lies in perceiving India at the time our ancestors or we left the motherland. That intactness can be of a few years, decades or hundreds of years, as with most Indians who settled in the Far East, Africa, West Indies and Pacific Islands countries like Fiji.
According to Wikipedia, the Indian diaspora population is over 31 million worldwide.
With that large population and increasing daily, India abroad itself constitutes a ‘nation’ that seeks its attachment and identity with India.
But these sentiments face erosion by the sectarian and communalized environment pushed by the ruling political leadership and Hindutva’s spread of hatred and fanaticism. That dampens the inspiration Indians overseas got from their ancestral land.
India may be abandoning its secular path, but we Indians abroad keep following the democratic and secular traditions we inherited. Our integrity lies in equality, respect, and no caste discrimination.
In this debate, do we still have to visit India as it now looks damaged by religious intolerance and divisions? The nation strays towards a dangerous path, pursuing a new identity based on one race, one culture, and one religion, which is the opposite of the diverse and egalitarian India we created abroad.
In that sense, the value of India, our motherland, is debased to a tourist destination, meeting our relatives and friends or just for nostalgia to roaming the streets where we grew up and stopping over for some street food.
A very poetic description of how it feels for Indians abroad to see the changes taking place in India. I don’t share your experience, but I understand it better for having read this post. I too, though I’m not Indian, have watched with sadness as news articles describe a growing movement towards Hindu nationalism and intolerance for other religions. This seems to me to be the result of foreign influence, as Hindu culture has been so tolerant and accommodating for thousands of years. Hindu culture has survived through the centuries because of this flexibility. I fear for India, for though it’s not my home, the spiritual riches it has bestowed on the world have enriched me also. Like you, I do not wish to see it go in the direction it’s heading. Thank you for sharing your experience.
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Thanks for your very thoughtful comments. India of yesterday is not the India of today. Majoritarianism grips the country. That culture of tolerance is receding.
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