Though I have been living out of India for five years now but it still feels awkward to be referred to as an expat.
There’s something that you get choked on the moment you step out of the airport (and no I am not referring to the pollution in the air ) but the warmth of friends and family members who come to receive you.
It is this warmth in people, relations and in hearts that makes my country and its people ever so special and if you are in India you don’t have to be an Indian to experience that, you can feel it around you in friendly smiles, warm gestures, the willingness to help and in the candid demeanor of the Indian people who make you forget your shyness and you start believing in some foolish way that you belong to this country and it belongs to you.
A lot of my European friends ask me, what it is like to live in India. This article is especially for them, because there is a lot more to India than corruption, over population, poverty , hunger and crime …..there is a lot more than meets the eye and certainly a lot more than that is shown in all the rueful documentaries made about India. Here’s my vote to the Friendliest country in the world and here are my reasons to support my claim.
There are many instances where I was reminded of what strong cultural and moral values my country has given me….. respect for elders to name one. I still remember shopping over the weekend in Stockholm and boarding the metro while going back home when I boarded a compartment that looked quite loaded to its capacity ( a rare sight with the meager population in Sweden).
Just then an elderly lady got in, she looked around and found the seats for senior citizens already taken so she groped a support handle to hold herself. She looked old and frail and could hardly stand without support. There was a group of teenagers near to where she was standing. I was standing myself or I would have definitely gotten up but I was certain that one of the kids would get up and offer their seat to her but to my surprise they didn’t, neither did anyone else.
After that, similar incidents happened many times. I couldn’t imagine such a scene in India since I know the amount of respect we are taught to give not just to elders in our family but even the ones we meet outside our home. There is no denying the fact that the kind of facilities and support the government here provides to the senior members of its society is unmatchable anywhere else in the world but then so is the love and respect that the elders get in India.
It may sound like a trivial thing to mention but I have a cousin who lives in Canada, I still remember the first trip when she came to visit us. After a hearty meal, all of us kids went to the local grocery store “uncle” to get our favorite goodies. The shopkeeper ofcourse knew us and our parents and the general practise was that when we kids used to buy something from the store ,he would just add it to our list and our parents would pay in bulk later at the end of the month . My cousin got so excited about the concept, she couldn’t stop talking about how she bought stuff for free(it was as good as free for her if you don’t have to pay now!) .
I thought she was a little crazy to be excited about such a small thing but after coming to Sweden I understand her joy. I myself have been going to the same grocery store here for years now here and yes the guy running the store does know me and all the other residents who shop there daily but if I have even a single coin less than what I need to pay, I have to leave something , I just cannot come back to pay later….there is no such provision. I still remember, running an account with a small neighborhood grocery store in my society in Delhi. I would buy my essentials and pay in bulk later, sometimes after a week and sometimes even after a month but the shopkeeper didn’t mind. Makes me feel as if in India you just don’t make acquaintances, you make relationships.
Be it a question about the scores of the latest cricket match, mutual belittling of the political system, sharing the newspaper , asking time, discussing weather, or just plain asking for directions….talking to strangers comes easy in India, there is no hesitation, no formalities and as cliché as it may sound it does feel like we are all a family.
On this Independence day, I just want to remind my fellow Indians to be proud of our roots, our values and culture and never feel we are lesser than anyone. We may not be the strongest economies in the world, not even have the most luxurious lifestyle but we have something the whole world can be envious for , our million dollar smiles, hearts of gold , valuable heritage and a rich culture to be proud of today and each day and that’s how it is like to live in India!