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Things We Would Like To Keep

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Roadside tea shopsChange is the way of life. As everything changes around us at the speed of light, and India becomes the new playing ground for Wal-Mart and Toyota, Reebok and Renault, lets pause a bit to think about things we wouldn’t want to change. In this 60 year old republic, here is my list of things I would like to keep – I urge you to add your own to this inventory.

  • Earthen diyas – painted or plain red, decorated, or adorned with parrots and Ganeshas – I would find a Diwali without mud diyas a frightening prospect, as if we are losing touch with ground realities!
  • Tea in glass tumblers at roadside shops – however obsessed we get with hygiene or the lack of it – I would still have faith in the disinfecting power of scalding hot tea, drunk in a barely rinsed glass tumbler. Also, I could not imagine an Indian railway station in the wee hours of the morning, without the cries of ‘Chai’ or ‘Kaapi’!
  • Bobbing our heads, joining our hands, or making a gesture to touch the feet of elders – I wouldn’t want such unwritten rules of courtesy towards senior citizens to be wiped out by any falsely egalitarian notions from the West.
  • Indian driving skills – kept in top condition by our ability to maneuver and negotiate around potholes, pedestrians with a suicidal bent, large and small animals and other such obstacles – I am sure this makes Indians the best qualified to drive interstellar rockets when space travel becomes more common.
  • Common sense maths – I am immensely proud of our people’s ability to calculate all the change due to you after a purchase – without any help from a calculator, and knowledge of maths that has nothing to do with literacy. Education is important, and should be used to hone these skills, not destroy them.
  • Festive visits to family – no matter how much I suffer because of the crowds in trains and planes during holidays and festive occasions, I am also very grateful – it shows how much importance people in our country still give to visiting ‘family’ (meaning in-laws, relatives, cousins, uncles) on special occasions.
  • The brown Indian street dog and the black city crow – our nearest reminders of survival in the meanest, toughest and most testing conditions.
  • Ordinary ‘disaster managers’ – those citizens who respond bravely in a crisis, whether it is a terrorist bomb explosion, flooded streets, a building collapse or a train accident. Without the sophisticated para-medic and rescue services that one sees in the video clips from more developed countries, we see Indian citizens daily chipping in to lift, support, help and rescue their fellow humans. In a thick traffic jam during peak hour, one or two will suddenly spring into action as traffic cops!
  • Matchmakers, friendly aunts, and all those who promote matrimony – no matter how much the shape of the family changes due to social and economic changes, I am still happy to live in a society where marriage is actively promoted as the bedrock of ‘settling down’ and having a happy family life.
  • Teachers and educators - some of whom have to walk miles to their school, or drive a cycle in pouring rain to reach a handful of rural students. I know that many of our university professors have Nobel prize-winning standard knowledge and ideas, but do not have the proper forums to display them. Till their students shine on the international arena…

Well, this is just my list. Why not put down some of the things you would like to preserve about this country we call our own? I look forward to your additions.

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