It was Republic Day yesterday. My heart swells with pride and my eyes well with tears when I hear a crowd singing "Jana Gana Mana". Whistling Vande Mataram gives me the same peace as prayer. I've expressed often how much I like being in my country, with my people, my languages, my music and food. My stay abroad reminded me how much I need them in my life. There'd be talk in the ether, never in my immediate surroundings, how foreigners shouldn't come to our great nation, in the US. We all, my colleagues and friends of any background, thought of people as ignorant and closed minded. And yet, I didn't know I had a bit of Xenophobia in me.
The other day, about a month go, in IIT Kanpur, some friends and I were lounging over coffee. There was a caucasian gentleman at a table nearby. I was telling some story about accents... or the tightness of families... or something else, I can't remember. I described someone of English descent as Firangi. A friend of mine said I shouldn't use that word because we had one in our vicinity. I, with a touch of irritation, blurted "Ye mera Desh hai!!". People laughed and we moved on. But the incident stuck in my mind.
I am revulsed by people telling immigrants to stay out of the west. I hung my head in shame when Nigerians were assaulted by a mob in the echoes of "Bharat Mata ki Jai!!" in New Delhi not too long ago. Shiv Sainiks, who won't let fellow Indians exercise their constitutional right to free movement within the country have earned tremendous disdain by many. I judge people who talk like that as 'them'. They don't represent me and I do not stand for such ideology.
And yet... I said it. In the context of being disrespectful to a fellow human, I said "Ye Mera Desh Hai!" as if I have the right to disrespect a human being from some other country. The tragedy is that this sentiment appeals to from a vast majority of locals in most places in the world. In the moment, I felt in my motherland, I have the right to do what I want. It is the greatness of this nation that I can freely tote that thought. But then again, it's thoughts of contempt for humans that ruin even the greatest of nations. I do not want to be part of the dregs of human kind that don not respect all people equally.
Let's hope this thought gets assimilated in me for good.