criticalvoices

On issues that matter …

India Was One May 30, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Srirekha @ 7:47 pm
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Almost a decade ago, as a newly-minted Community Reporter in New York City, I was on my first assignment to cover an event organized by a reputed community organization. Of the 200-odd members of the audience – mostly middle-aged and older men – many had been settled in the US for over 25 years and were naturalized Americans.

Whatever the event, I was shocked and strangely embarrassed when at the end of the program, they arose in unison to shout: ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’. Privately, many of them were severely critical and even condescending of everything about India, but standing collectively, they almost by default were proud persons of Indian origin.

Thinking about it even today, I think the oft-repeated cliché is the most apt to describe this tendency of Indians, that you can take an Indian out of India but not India out of an Indian.

Reading through this new book ‘India Was One (Ek Tha Bharat)’, sent to me by the author who chooses to remain anonymous – preferring to call himself “an Indian” – that’s what I was reminded of, for here is a writer, no literary genius by any measure, but one that oozes sentiment and emotion for a country that he left a long time ago, but still calls home.

For most part, the book reads like a guide book for non-Indian beginners in India and fresh-off-the-boat Indians in America. Although well intentioned, you do wonder who the author’s targeted audience is.

Nevertheless, ‘India Was One’ seems to come from an immense yearning for the relatively simpler society of his youth and frustration over the deep politically-driven fissures in today’s India that the author fears might one day result in yet another Partition.

 

So, it would seem that the writer found a simple story based loosely on personal experiences – down to his obsession for cricket – to weave around the idea of a possible north-south division of India.

The story begins in a college canteen in Mumbai where boy meets girl, they fall in love, friends support, parents approve, they marry, move to the US and – with impossibly uncomplicated ease – are settling in towards a ‘happily ever after’ life, when they hear (on CNN) to their shock and dismay that India is divided.

Fearing for the safety of their respective families back home, they decide to go back, only, they can’t go back together to the same city, because now the hero who is a “South Indian” has to go to one India and his wife who is a “North Indian” has to go to the other India.

The writer here lets his imagination run loose as to the possible scenarios of a horizontally divided India where in the absence of any “government” the army takes over.

While one wouldn’t bother with self-published books such as this one, I must admit I was touched by the utterly simplistic narrative – both in style and content. It comes straight from the heart and the message is not camouflaged in a verbal cloak

The book reflects the innate emotions of every Indian who has left India to settle abroad – that sense of longing for their families, friends and all things mundane that was part of the everyday life in India; a sense of distance which keeps them from reaching out in time in times of trouble; and a sense of fear in the knowledge of the socio-political and geographical threats the country faces from within and in its immediate neighborhood spurred perhaps by a guilt that they may have abandoned their country when it needed them the most.

Suffice it to say that the book ends with a quintessential Bollywood-style twist while I leave you to spare a thought on the potential havoc that parochial and narrow self-serving agendas can wreak on the fragile multi-religious, multi-lingual, multi-caste and multi-regional India

{India Was One, available on Amazon.com $16.95 and in other e-book formats}
SRIREKHA CHAKRAVARTY

 

 

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