Melbourne, Australia, August 15, 2019
Happy Independence Day, India!
The pride I feel in my heart to call myself an Indian is truly unmatched.
After spending so much of my adolescence wishing I was anything but, my personal journey of growth and learning about my family history, the history of the Nation and its own birth in the midst of a revolution have made me realise how much of a privilege it is to hail from such a rich country.
The vibrancy of life, music, culture that courses through the many veins of the country is truly like no other.
A unique embrace
I have forged my own identity as a Person of Indian Origin.
Despite not knowing a language and only visiting a handful of times, every time I am lucky to land on her shores, there is a particular calm that envelopes my soul, as if to say I am truly home.
No matter how long it has been, no matter what emotional baggage I arrive with, mother India wraps me up in her unique embrace, and ensures I spend my precious time with her coming home to myself too.
And so it doesn’t matter that I sound like a foreigner. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know a language or that I pronounce things wrong. I am as Indian as any Non-Resident Indian (NRI)
and I am no longer going to shy away and remain silent when rigid ideals and conceptions of identity are forced upon me. As you are, so am I.
Pride in Progress
Although we still have a way to go in achieving peace and equality for all Indians, regardless of caste, religion, sexual and gender identity, I am proud of the progress we have made in the past 73 years. After being desecrated by the British for 200 years, we have become the world’s largest democracy, become a major player in the global stage and have outperformed our rivals wildest expectations.
From tracks of memory
Amongst a current time of turmoil and angst, I recall something I wrote while onboard the Shatabdi train from Delhi to Bhopal:
“Amongst all the chaos crowding the platforms at the stations rolling past, there too exists so much beauty, so much life. To the untrained eye, it just appears to be disorganised chaos, dirty, unkempt and unrelenting. But, if you endeavour to see the beauty, Mother India will make sure you see it.
“On one of my first trips to India, I would have been preoccupied with my comparison between Railways in New Zealand, which now I know, is more like a redundant comparison between ripe Alfonso in the July heat, and Marmite.
“But now, after learning more about my history, my culture, my religion, I see the conspicuous beauty. I see old baujis sharing steaming chai in clay cups at the station, the small bookstores at the platform teeming with any kind of literature you could imagine.
“I breathe in the intoxicating scent of fresh flowers, cut in the early morning in time for prayers, mixing with the indescribable smell of Indian soil, with the cool morning air. I hear the sound of a lady’s payals, the stain of mehndi still lingering at her feet. Beauty will always be there for those who want to see it. Mother India will hand you the glasses.”
Happy 73rd Birthday India. I love you.
Veera Ramayah is a student at the University of Melbourne. She grew up in New Zealand and writes about her experiences as a student of History and Politics, and unlearning much of what she knew about her country of origin. Veera writes on various topics, including her experiences as an immigrant in her column in ‘Farrago,’ a magazine, a University Student Publication.