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Friday, February 8, 2008

Nation yet to regain its honour

9 Jan 2008, 1611 hrs IST

The whole nation stood as a rock and the media donned peoples' colour in slamming the unfair Aussies, thus recreating a solidarity we saw during Kargil when the Tricolour was unfurled atop the recaptured Batalik hills. Great news. Team India has won the media match and the emotional war against the rabidly racist west's prejudiced mindset - this time involving the best preserved game played by the former natives of the Queen's land - cricket. The source and the character of the game apart, it was a question of a fellow Indian being subjected to an unfair punishment by an umpire described as the one leading the pack of wild dogs by Australian commentators. This spirit underlines our identity as Indians defining our nationalism. But wasn't the glamour, the money involved and the suddenness of the decision more responsible for an eruption of this national euphoria? An elite class was hurt the most and it imposed its feelings through a media that reports about and caters to the rich and affluent classes. After all in an India where the majority lives in villages and indigenous games are more popular even now and the struggle to cross the poverty line is a matter of greater honour, how many Indians understand what cricket is all about and appreciate its nuances? Some time back it was Shilpa Shetty who represented the honour of the Tricolour when she was the target of racist abuse in Britain. But the controversy actually helped her get more assignments. So what exactly constitutes a point of honour that we should fight for with all our might in Shilpa and Bhajji's case? The same honourable minister who waxed eloquent on Bhajji's plight as BCCI president is responsible for importing wheat at an astronomical and scandalous price from foreign farmers but refuses the same price to Indian toilers, resulting in a number of suicides in India. The statistics released by the government show that "the number of suicides by farmers were 17,060 in2006 as against 17,131 in 2005. While Maharashtra topped the list of farmers' suicides with 4,453 cases, Andhra Pradesh came second with 2,607, followed by Karnataka (1,720), Chhattisgarh (1,483) and Madhya Pradesh (1,375). West Bengal (1,189) and Kerala (1,124) were placed sixth and seventh". Of the 17,060 farmers who committed suicide, 14,664 were men. I have never seen any channel or newspaper taking up the issue of farmers' suicides and their misery or for that matter any issue affecting rural India with the same verve and firmness as shown in Harbhajan Singh's case. In a nation where punishment to one sportsman becomes a matter of honour for a thousand million people, 17,060 farmers committing suicide does not become a matter of honour for any one. And these farmers commit suicide not because of any firang but solely because of faulty government policies and the government's single-minded focus on the rich and the corporate world. No one screams out in the press - it's a matter of shame. Until we create a situation where farmers are happy, we shall boycott dirty politicians' programmes. No one will ever say so because neither do the farmers have a voice in Parliament nor do they entertain the ruling elite as do the cricketing "heroes" and poster boys. So what makes a matter of honour and who decides it? More than twenty five thousand Reangs were forced to flee from Mizoram because they refused to convert. Finally, they had to take shelter in Tripura. No one reported this or held special discussions on this. Kashmiri Hindus have been living without hope and have been virtually de-listed from every forum deciding the fate of their homeland. The secular red haven of West Bengal has the most women (6.605) committing suicide, yet the debate is on the ideological confusion among senior communists. Our honourable Prime Minister is going to China next week with hopes of strengthening our friendship. But China is busy preparing to win more gold medals in the coming Beijing Olympics. In the 2004 Athens Olympics, China won 63 medals, including 32 golds and 17 silver. India finished 66th among 71 countries, with a lone bronze. A matter of honour and celebration of Indian might and talent? Why did the mothers of the valiant soldiers who sacrificed their lives defending Parliament feel so insulted that they returned the gallantry awards presented to their sons. Honour for whom? Lakhs of people gather in the capital to protest the destruction of the greatest heritage site mankind can proclaim - an Adam's bridge or Ram Setu - and it shakes up no one.
A matter of democratic honour? A nation which feels honoured to dishonour it own wealth of heritage and culture and treats its own people with contempt and eulogises colonial values can't gain respect even in a tiny banana republic. The entire world's wealth is like a useless sand dune if self pride and core values defining national continuity of civilization are missing. A Pravasi Bharatiya's inspiring story... And here is a true story of a great Pravasi Bharatiya, Bob Harilela, which should be gifted to everyone participating in the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in the capital. Bob told me this in his posh Mumbai flat, recounting the time when his mother sent him on a two month tour of India to familiarise him with his ancestral country. Bob came, toured Delhi, Jaipur and Mumbai, and returned disgusted. How was the tour Bob, his mother asked in their palatial home known as the Buckingham Palace of Hong Kong. Bob replied, "Mom, please never send me again to that country. I belong to China, that's my passport, What do I have to do with India? Its dirty, too crowded, people don't know English, please, I don't want..." Before he could finish, his mother said: "Ok Bob I shall do what you wish but for a second go to the other side of the wall and tell me what you see there." Bob was perplexed. He went to the other corner, saw his face in the huge wall mirror, and came back. "Mom, have you gone crazy?" he asked. His mother queried: "Bob, what did you see there?" He gave up and said: "It was me. I saw my image, don't you know." "I know Bob. Your face has Hindustan written in large which none can erase. Whatever your passport, or your nationality, you will always be known by you face, by your Indian origins. Remember this." That was the day Bob was turned towards his Punya Bhumi Bharat, and since then he comes India every year contributing to the growth and well being of its people in his own humble way. His house has a temple and every child is taught the Hindu values of love, compassion and universality. The moral of the story is that unless we make our home great and the grand Indian dream is realised and until we stand firmly on our feet with military might and prosperous society honouring her roots and heritage, the nation would not have regained the honour it deserves in real terms.

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