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Why an Indian sitting in America can still worry about the country

Posted by Yashika Totlani Khanna on 8:16 PM

After several discussions with friends about Indian General Elections 2014 and the rise of the ‘chosen one’, I obviously realized that people had their own strong views about governance. For the people who supported our next PM (which was a majority), I heard several arguments about why he was the man for the moment. While I gave a patient ear to all that they had to say, I wasn’t particularly convinced about a lot of other things that were being said. Being a journalist, I stuck to my stand of objectivity. But to my utter surprise (and not a pleasant one), some close friends came out and said that I shouldn’t be concerned about India while I enjoy my ‘comfortable’ stay in the US. This post is for those people who lost the debate the minute they brought up this argument.

I am an Indian citizen with an Indian passport. Till I renounce my citizenship and take an oath to be a US citizen (or any other citizen for that matter), no individual has any business telling me that I shouldn’t have opinions about India. Whether I live in the United States or Timbuktu, I will always have a stake in what’s going on in my country because it will always affect me directly. Whenever I decide to return to my country, and ‘my’ is the keyword here, I will have to face the political going-ons that would affect my life on a daily basis. Even if I live elsewhere, I have a sense of ownership over India. My family lives there. My life exists there. My bearings lie there. And I shall have as many opinions as I had back when I lived there about politics, leaders, elections… and whatever else happens under the big blue sky in India. Don’t tell me that it’s not my business. I give credence to your arguments for as long as you give me rational ones. The minute you say I can’t have opinions because I live abroad, you have crossed the line and stepped into my personal space. And you can then expect barbed attacks back about your pettiness.

I also worry about Indian politics because I am a journalist and that is my sphere of work. After spending years bringing election results and political doings to you on your television screens, I have developed a big appetite for governmental opinions. An even bigger appetite for showing the correct place to people who sound brainwashed by one political party and forget all objectivity and thrust their views down your throat – was an obvious aftereffect. You are the people who bring the country down. Your blind faith voted the UPA 2 to power five years ago. When you now scream allegiance to the BJP, I see you as a loser who knows nothing better than backing the winning horse. You have no sense of direction and no barometer to check the feasibility of your politician. You pick up one issue (economic growth this time) and chose to turn a blind-eye to everything else (including a politician’s past). You close your eyes to reason and give all types of arguments to glorify your point of view and vilify anything else that stands in your way. You try to look sorted, but you are not. Hence you raise your voice and find solace in being rude. You try to look selfless (‘my candidate will work to improve my country’s economy’) when actually you are very selfish (do right to equality and expression not matter in your books?). And when you run out of all your little arguments, you start attacking people’s personal space.

Third argument, my global image. Anywhere I go in the world, I am branded as an Indian. Which I am and which I am proud of. First, no politician will tell me that I should move to Pakistan because I care for a certain group of people (its called humanity). Secondly, no person should forget that whatever happens in India today will affect the way people perceive me (or you) living (or travelling) anywhere else in the world tomorrow. When the horrible attacks of 9/11 happened, the Muslims living in the US had done nothing to abet them. And yet, these were the same people who had to deal with stone-pelting on their houses, death threats to their children, sporadic arrests by the authorities for 'questioning' and 'random' checks at airports for all brown people (the malice still continues). So yes, I am concerned about what happens in my country. Because it affects me more personally more than it affects you. Because that becomes my identity the minute I step out of the country. I am seen as an Indian everywhere I go in world and so all matters Indian are very much my business.

And lastly, I shall not have my own countrymen treat me like an alien. It’s unacceptable. No one tells me where my heart lies. You only show age-old stereotypes by saying that I lead a ‘comfortable’ life here. You know nothing about my life, so save the branding. And maybe upgrade your world-views and step out of that narrow alley you call your mind. It’s not doing you any good and it certainly seems to have no grey matter in it.

So YES, I will continue to have as many views about Indian politics as I want. Close your eyes and ears if you don’t like them. Run away and never look back like an ostrich if it bothers you. But don’t try to smother my views on the pretext that I don’t physically live there. Because honestly, where I live is none of your business.  Maybe find more solid arguments for your debate next time and don’t harp on your own insecurities and stoop to the extent of making personal attacks.

1 Comments


A timely post in the context of the elections. We undermine our own argument by trying to discredit those who disagree with us. You called it a rant but raised important points of identity and belonging, things that cant be linked just to a passport. We must be open to external views and understand how others perceive us and our points. Disagreements will only bring out alternate opinions. Plus it is foolish to see them as threats and question the legitimacy of the speaker. Arguments should be facts and logic based. I do think we in India get hyper sensitive about how others see us and we have taken it to an extreme where any Indian outside the country is now deemed to be unworthy of speaking. A sad state of affairs. I only hope tolerance for alternate viewpoints increases.

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