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Updated: November 4, 2012 00:23 IST

Come what may, Mera Bharat Mahan

Sivamani Vasudevan
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I met my morning-walk park friend, an elderly retired professor, after a gap of almost four months and I found him extremely jubilant with childlike enthusiasm. Normally a sober, suave, silent and serious person, his energetic demeanour intrigued me. I never saw him so publicly cheerful and so crudely joyous. After exchanging pleasantries, I asked him mischievously whether his recent U.S. visit had worked something extraordinary on his nerves. He sighed, “Yes. I am glad I am back from that horrible place.”

I was flabbergasted. What? A place considered above the heavens for most high-end literate Indians has turned so condemnable? Could it be due to the recent anti-Indian, job-outsourcing rhetoric loudmouthed by every presidential aspirant, I wondered. Or, could my dear friend have had any bitter experience with stringent airport frisking and questioning? I asked him whether he was serious about what he meant.

The septuagenarian retorted that he was doubly sure of what he said. “What an inhospitable place! No soul to talk to. No one to open up to. No socialising. No festivity to cheer. No cheerful faces to turn to. No greetings to exchange. It is silent everywhere like a graveyard. Who needs a disciplined concrete jungle, artificially landscaped waterbodies, smileless spic and span gardens, excessively etiquetted people with borrowed mannerisms on the road moving like machined souls, synthetic illuminations and too monotonously moving vehicular traffic?

Even babies conduct themselves as though pre-programmed, he lamented. “How long would you squat before a lifeless TV and surf a thousand channels doling out inorganic soaps? There is no life in that damn place.”

I was stunned, shocked and stupefied beyond description at his uncharitable tirade. How come such an affluent paradise on earth had driven my benign friend to the extremity of acute repulsion! He went on: “Look at any place in India. It is vibrant, moving, agile, smart and happening.” He thundered: “Could you find a moment of dullness in our land? The garbage, the stink, the civic problems, the horrendous traffic, the ubiquitous corruption, the unruly crowd and the merciless weather notwithstanding, India is a heaven.”

“The U.S. is no match to my beloved country. People are living here, I tell you. There, they live synthetically. A row of silhouetted dwellings, painted structures, spruced up boulevards, trimmed roads and lifeless malls do not make a living complete. There should be life in people.”

He continued in the same vein: “Take India. It is a contagiously socialised set-up. People here are sensitive to everything around. There they are sensitised to live a life of chip-regulated, dreary robots. They may have wealth. They are no competition to our well-lubricated social set-up, though a few pockets in our land are impoverished, no doubt. Heére we breathe novelty and richness of our cultureinto life. There they move about as though it is an unpardonable sin to look at each other into the eyes.

“They are keyed in to live a chosen mould of plastic life. Here it oozes with human spirit all around. Their emotions are chequered and seldom high-voltage. Our sentiments are touching and penetrating. Their feelings are codified. Our passions are deep and genuine. My motherland is the greatest of all places on this planet,” he ruled. His non-stop encomium on life and things in India was compelling. I introspected on whether I was guilty of not appreciating the inherent virtues of my land.

I did not leave my friend at that. I told him that he might not have been to the great Niagara Falls, Disneyland and Hollywood. “Yes. They are marvels. But look at those who come to enjoy the wonders. They revel in narrow groups and small units. There is no thrill of maximising the pleasure of meeting a literal sea of men at such lovely places. They conduct themselves in isolation and to the exclusion of each other around. There is an unpronounced seriousness in them. They tend to glorify exclusive privacy. A place like that in India would throw up unprecedented camaraderie among visitors.

“Our trees, meadows streams and hills echo poetry. There they reverberate officiousness. Our birds sing lullabies. I did not find the same melody there. There is five-star culture everywhere, distant from the pristine earthly flavour of our land. They are conditioned. We are simpletons. We don’t put on airs. They have too much of professionalism, robbing themselves of the very charm of a carefree life. Our festivals, heritage and our spirituality have no equals and parallels there, you note,” he roared.

I added that he might not have tasted the spicy, night life of that dreamland. He instantly responded, “Yes. I had witnessed that sensuous liberty. It is spurning, I say, it is gawky, crude, short of exhibition of a beastly passion and devoid of civility. Living by flesh is no living. One should live by one’s soul. Too much of nectar is poison. A man does not live by bread alone,” he sermoned.

As it was getting hot with the morning sun arriving pronouncedly, I reminded him that it was time to part. Just then, a young lad rode his bicycle past us splashing on us the rainwater collected — during the previous night’s shower — in a puddle. My friend exclaimed, “Look. This is missing there, the very spark of mischief of life.” I was shocked at the man’s metamorphosis on return from his debut foreign trip. I remembered a naughty couplet coined by a participant in a kavi sammelan telecast a few months ago, “Promise you may, a hundred moons and heaven. Come what may, Mera Bharat Mahan.”

(The writer’s email is

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From Redmond home,I see India 'Always a brewing pot beset with perennial problems'. If ameliorated and gotten rid of dirt and filth, indiscipline of all sorts, corruption & nepotism, poverty and illiteracy go off the scene automatically, merit gains glory, India can do better. We have no other go but to improve our values before we (em)bark upon anything. Envy,the root cause of Mahabharat must be given up. Start with Love all!,everything will be okay.

from:  Vyas K Susarla
Posted on: Nov 5, 2012 at 16:55 IST

It may be true that as long as one is in the WORKING AGE , he or she may prefer the orderly western societies where Individual freedom , materialism , privacy and Physical pleasures are treasured more than human values , family relationships and spiritual experiences. But as one gets older and goes out of work, wisdom dawns that unabashed pursuit of materialistic values without strong spiritual roots has not really prepared one to face the pain and boredom of OLD AGE with no extended FAMILY to provide solace nor a caring tradition or society to fall back .No society is perfect , but at least there is some hope (may be utopian) for Indian Society to remove the ills plaguing it without sacrificing its CORE character , traditions , heritage and SOUL and yet attain wealth , prosperity and happiness .

from:  Palvannan
Posted on: Nov 5, 2012 at 16:27 IST

Interesting topic - not easy to understand India. I think author is not trying to compare India and West. But simply stating, life is more lively in India than elsewhere, we being Indians. Good life means having diverse experiences. So wide that it gives fulfillment before breathing our last. We all know Life is the greatest teacher. No theory, only Practical.
Some or most NRIs visiting India would feel heavy in their heart when holidays come an end and they have to go back. A few days, they will wonder after reaching their foreign land, what am I doing here? What for?
Once a taxi driver in USA asked me, Sir, as you have travelled all over the world, which one is your favourite place. My honest answer was - my favourite place is wherever I am for that moment. All places are equal with plus and minus depending on our perspective. Birds of same feather flock with each other.

from:  Hariharan
Posted on: Nov 5, 2012 at 15:32 IST

Please stop writing articles like these. I feel that my life is ruined
because of articles like this. i had developed an aversion to
studying/working in other countries because of hearing/reading stories
like this. So, i chose to remain in this "Gundu chatti" inspite of
having the ability to survive in alien conditions, and as a consequence,
lost invaluable exposure. We have to admit that opportunities are
limited here when compared to the US. it is not anti-national to go out
of the country for a livelihood.

from:  balaji
Posted on: Nov 5, 2012 at 15:11 IST

The author is quoting the essential idea behind "Janani Janma-bhoomi-scha Swargadapi Gariyasi"-Shri Ram. We are used to what we have been brought up with. My cousins living in the US will not be able to come back to India and be comfortable in the same way as I cannot live abroad and be comfortable.

from:  Vijayaraghavan
Posted on: Nov 5, 2012 at 11:41 IST

Being Indian by race, we can easily relate to each other. We can talk mind to mind and heart to heart.
We also relocated from Singapore to Chennai after living there for 15 years. Our children, 14 and 10 years, though born here, grew up fully there. It took a while for all of us to (re)adapt here. But we too discuss at home there is no DULL moment here. The ENERGY field here is higher frequency. It has got a transformatory power. Life is vibrant. Time passes easily. we do not need to push TIME. Once you step out of home, there is drama everywhere - comedy, action - scenes of all genres. Real mishra lokha - mixed world - heaven and hell - both we can experience here. Hellish experience prepares us for evolution. Heavenly experience is the reward. As one wise person said, "You cannot change India. India will change You"
Children also benefit - they get used to day to day challenges - powercuts, traffic, polution, crowd, long queues, jumping long queues-survival of the fittest.

from:  Hariharan
Posted on: Nov 5, 2012 at 10:11 IST

Nice article. Every elderly person feels this but youngsters are still
fond of travelling outside country.
They will also find "Mera Bharath Mahan" only after experiencing the
outside world.

from:  Sumana kurudi
Posted on: Nov 5, 2012 at 08:35 IST

No way, I don't belittle the patriotic feelings or the feelings of the motherland where one grows up, but beyond that any comparison is not wise. Pardon my quote, that seems the only apt thing as a response (please look at the intent and the meaning), 'the smell of camphor is not for everyone'.

from:  Balaji Venkataraman
Posted on: Nov 5, 2012 at 02:43 IST

The author of this article clearly carries an ethnocentric bias. To derive and present the picture that one society is better than other, tantamounts to challenging the intelligence of the reader.

To present it wholly- no society is good or bad, it is our judgements which makes us perceive them so. The argument that the American way of life is dehumanised is flawed. Their pattern of relationships is different from Indian way, so that is why the professor(real or hypothetical) is unable to understand the interactions. Similarly it may not be easy to understand the Indian way of living from a western viewpoint.

The author should clearly take into account his own bias before passing judgements on any culture.

from:  utkarsh
Posted on: Nov 5, 2012 at 00:39 IST

The professor must try living in Germany for some time...

from:  Krishna
Posted on: Nov 4, 2012 at 17:31 IST

For just 150 years of western researched scientific knowledge that we call'modernity',we Indians are willing to sacrifice or forget our 10000years of ancient knowledge & wisdom.
With all our accumulated scientific knowledge, we are still not wise enough to grasp or value the wisdom contained in the ancient scriptures written 1000's of years before scientific developments.Ancient texts of wisdom like the VEDAS;the MANU -SAMHITA;the AYURVEDA;the Indian ASTROLOGY & ASTRONOMY etc ,based on which life in India flourished in terms of health & wealth,until the 17th Century advent of the British,is not acknowledged or cared for any more,forget being taught.Actually based on our ancient wisdom,we should be teaching the rest of humanity"how to live"in this globalized world.Instead we are aping what the west has to offer-modernity & materialism.If we could start teaching & living the ancient but real Indian lifestyle, we would have no problems today and truly we would be 'Mera Bharat Mahaan'!

Posted on: Nov 4, 2012 at 16:46 IST

One doth protest too much! The theory behind these views and articles
is, we have to put another one down to show how great we are!! Oh,
America is SO bad, and we are SO good, supposedly despite all the
issues that dog us. I don't blame the poor senior citizen. He probably
goes stays with his son or daughter in a million dollar home. They go
to work, he sits at home and watches TV. Has nowhere to go, and
nothing to do. And he thinks that is America. I have lived half my
life in India and half in America. I am back in India now. I have seen
the greatness in both the lands. Certainly, there are great things
about America (not just in our land). By failing to acknowledge that,
and continually crowing about our 'great motherland', and shoving all
our shortcomings under the carpet, we are not doing ourselves any
favours. We don't see the need to improve, because 'we are like this
only' and mera bharat mahan. Always.

from:  lrao
Posted on: Nov 4, 2012 at 13:56 IST

Is this an article - I understand Hindu has a touch with intellectuals trying impose their understanding in such a convulsed manner that even dumbos do not get convinced - but this is height.

The person (real or made up) is simply afraid to say the truth that he felt inferior in another place and would like the security of his cocoon.

And yes privacy is a virtue - we Indian are singularly bereft of it

god bless and this gentleman

Galib rightly said - Humain malum hain jannat ki hakikat lekin
dil ko khush rakhne ke liye khyal acha hai

from:  Rams
Posted on: Nov 4, 2012 at 13:35 IST

Indeed it is high time we should understand that we live where we share
our feelings. Though we live in colonies but still share a common
culture and celebrate together.
We tend to be pompous of our sophistication by getting western matching
their lifestyles. But that live style is not ours and is leading to
creation of a gap that is irreversible.

from:  Pritesh Kumar Lal
Posted on: Nov 4, 2012 at 13:06 IST

Dear Sir,

I agree that "No land is like Motherland" , Our's is a nation rich in culture,heritage and most of all people from different walks of life.Yes we have live everywhere and there is liveliness everywhere , but at the same time we are hallow as well,i say this because harldy people help each other in time of distress and our prepardness for disaster right from the lower rung to the upper echoleons are zero.We dont value life, because of the corruption we are stuck at every level,even on death bed , money alone will get you a decent burial, we are people stcuk in past and refuse to come to the present. If we realise that and make ourlselves heplful to each other regardless of the caste, creed and money power ...we can truly become a beloved nation"

from:  Raaj
Posted on: Nov 4, 2012 at 12:41 IST

I agree with Ec Krishna.No matter how much amount of filth and rubbish we dump in the public,and no matter how bad our road systems are,we still are like the toad in the well and say mera bharat mahaan.
The moment one arrives in India all our faculties need to be wide open otherwise the very clothes on our may get looted.
And what about the great gulf between rich and poor?

from:  smendonca
Posted on: Nov 4, 2012 at 12:00 IST

Can the old man qualify his statements with 'in his personal opinion' or something like that. The people in US or "human beings" too and have chosen a way of life that might not appeal to the old man and frankly they are not asking him to endorse or requesting his opinion. Its good that he likes here but this boastful, medieval mentality of us vs them or statements that kind of show them as different set of human beings is deplorable. Looks like the old man just aged without realising what sensibilities and differences are. Just sad

from:  Jramhyd
Posted on: Nov 4, 2012 at 11:57 IST

the professor's experiences are not has been told by many in different words and instances.however in six months time when the next visa comes there is the same rush for a taste of that heavenly bliss.
why else is there such a craze for going to that land which is said to beckon a happily ever after problem free existence?

from:  revathi
Posted on: Nov 4, 2012 at 10:53 IST

You can judge a society by how it treats women and also those who are not born with privileges. By this standard, Indian society has long way to go. But Western society has ensured independence, safety and an honourable life for everyone.
We Indians know this, and that's why we keep putting down Western culture. We are afraid someone will notice that we are still illtreating the poor, the lower castes and our women. It is a defence mechanism. What is the point of boasting about a rich heritage when we can't even keep our temples clean?

from:  Ec Krishnaa
Posted on: Nov 4, 2012 at 09:33 IST

I fully agree and endorse every word of the Professor! Am now 71 and for the past one decade, I had been a regular visitor to the USA during the summer months: May to October. I do enjoy my stay here with the grandkids. But, like the Professor, I too feel as if I miss something in the US. I miss my good old friends, my regular visits to the Temples, many of the weddings of the close relatives, festivals like Deepavali etc., I really did enjoy reading the last para of this article: "Living by flesh is no living. One should live by one's soul"
I wish I meet the professor in person, if he is in Chennai.
Am now in Chicago and will leave for Chennai in the next couple of days to reach my heaven "Chennai"!

from:  K. Sankaranarayanan
Posted on: Nov 4, 2012 at 03:39 IST
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