KR Ravi | Apr 18, 2009
There is a joke going around on the web. An American went visiting India. On his return, his NRI friend asks him how he found the Indians.The American replies laconically that everywhere he went he met Tamilians, Punjabis, Sindhis. Telugus, Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Sikhs etc. “I did not meet any Indians,” he said.
There is no doubt food for thought in this statement about the way we have divided ourselves on the basis of religion, community, linguistic group, region etc. But I have another viewpoint. An Indian’s sense of identity is like an onion with many layers. He has multiple identities.
Thus when there was a discussion on minorities in India, Infosys Chief Mentor, Narayamoorthy said that he was a minority too. As a Kannadiga he was a minority in India; as a literate man he was a minority in a country of illiterates; as an I.T man he was a minority among professionals; as a man who spoke proper English he was a linguistic minority.
He did not add that as a rich man he was a minority in a land of poverty – and as an honest man he was in a minority in public life!
Commenting on the problems faced by minorities, Dr Asghar Ali Engineer, Muslim scholar, engineer and rights activist, remarked that poverty, discrimination and unemployment were faced by people of all communities, not just Muslims .
That to my mind was constructive engagement with a problem.
Another instance of an enlightened approach to such issues can be cited in sports.
I refer to the selection of the Indian cricket team. Years ago when the team was announced there were scathing remarks from experts -in India everybody is an expert in cricket. The allegation was that players from one particular state were favoured. Sandip Patil, former Test player remarked that he did not care if all the players were selected from one state – as long as we won the matches.
That sums up what our attitude ought to be.
It has often happened that way even if we did not notice it.
After the cricket selection controversy abated the team went on to win the series. The people who leveled the allegation of regional favouritism – the experts – were the first to say that this was the ‘best Indian test side in a decade’!
As for the visiting American his forefathers might have found another type of Indian closer home who might have shown total ignorance of India – the Native American Indian.
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