My concluding essay in the course “Engaging India” offered by The Australian National University.
What useful insights have you gained from the multi-disciplinary approach taken by lecturers to explore the complex dimensions of contemporary India? Explain what they are and how they have influenced your thinking?
I loved the multi-disciplinary approach as it epitomises India most appropriately. Like I mentioned in one of the discussions, India is very different from any other country. The diversity that is India, which comes with its enormous population, makes it a very complex puzzle. While India still thrives around its ancient thought process and believes in all the folklores, India is also a modern country which aims at becoming the low-cost satellite launchers for the world. Any Indian child aspiring to become a Scientist does not forget to lick one spoon of curd before starting for writing any examination. Though Zamindari system has been abolished long ago in India, Indians continue to create Kings and Queens and worship them.
Average Indians do not understand and never get to know the policies formulated by the elite for running the country. There are enormous number of illiterate and uneducated people in India. However, even the educated do not have the needed background to understand Government policies. The Average Indian just reacts to news spread by the media. If the media says this is bad for you, people get down to the street and burn busses and cars. India is an emotional country, rather than being a rational country. It was good learning about some of the thought processes of the Indian politicians through this course. While it is easy to criticise the politicians, it also needs learning the nature of the people they govern.
In my experience, very few Indians are actually living life to the full; they are merely surviving – whether they are rich or they are poor. With most developmental programs coming from outside India, India is gradually adapting to everything foreign. But like Swami Vivekananda said, in spite of all incursions, there is some resilience in India, which keeps her core values intact.
Has participation in the discussion forums enriched your understanding of India? Provide examples of any shifts or changes?
The discussions threw up 2 aspects to me.
- The amount of interest the rest of the world has about India is enormous. While this can be viewed with enthusiasm, we also need some caution. The caution is needed as India is a country prone to invasions since Alexander The Great first invaded India. Every invader has tried to mould India in his/her way. Now that we have had more than 60 years of independence, we must take the right measures to keep our sovereignty and individualism. Indians, by nature, treat all guests as God. Indians will continue doing so as it is in their blood. However, the guest should not pitch tents in our houses.
- There are lots of differences within the Indians of different regions. This is sad after so many years of independence. People like being called Punjabis or Tamilians more than Indians (Quoting from discussions). For me, it is disheartening that India could not find a binding force for all its people. But then I am wrong as we have survived as a country for more than 60 years with just a few splinters of separatist movements.
What have you have learned about yourself from doing this course?
I reconfirmed that I am very average Indian. I have most of the average Indian traits. I have less knowledge. I hardly understand what our policy makers decide. However, I make my choices and cast my vote. I have huge dreams. However, I hardly know how to realise them. I love to debate and win irrespective of whether I am talking sense or not.