Sunday, March 18, 2012

Why did you leave your country?

Yes, it is my style to start with a rhetorical question as a lame attempt to capture the reader’s attention.  And once I have it, I try and keep it with a few tidbits about the land I come from; India.

Now, a careful reader can probably discern from the above statement that I am not currently in India.  I am one of those “go get education from US, get some experience and come back” people.  My going back to India part however, hasn’t yet materialized.  And honestly speaking I haven’t even started planning for it yet (despite telling my friends every day that I am not going to settle down in the US).  And as some wise woman has said “Failing to plan is planning to fail”.  The biggest issue I want to resolve before I head back is the following:

I don’t want a job.  I want to make a difference.

Heat, bad roads, bad traffic, lack of civic sense, electricity issues, lack of overall infrastructure, hygiene issues, ostentatiousness etc. etc.: these are just some of the several thousand hurdles people can present if you talk about going back to India.  However, none of those reasons are strong enough to overcome my middle-class upbringing in a small north Indian town.  I used to change three buses and spend close to 2 hours just to get to college.  Some of that may have been lost in the “naturally air-conditioned USA” but none of that has totally deserted my being.

What truly bothers me is the fear of staying mediocre always.  I am a mediocre guy.  And as I age, I am becoming mediocre by the day.  I would be extremely disappointed if I go back and start with a job similar to what I have here in the US (yes it has something to do with technology) even if it is well paid and all that.  And no, I am not from a royal family, nor do I have a teenager son who has shown a particular knack for making millions in IPL cricket.

The only way I think I can escape this vicious cycle is through reinventing myself.  I am hoping that a move across the continents is big enough to accompany radically different career paths.  The career I want to choose is politics.  Strange as it may sound, I want to do more than arm-chair commentary on the antics of Didi, Behenji and Rahul baba.
During my last visit to India a few months ago, I felt something I had never felt before: a strong interest in Indian politics and an urge to become a part of the mainstream politics in India.  I was never into such stuff growing up, but this time the tamasha around the election in Uttar Pradesh really got me hooked (or maybe it was just to avoid watching the Indian cricket team getting pasted in Australia).  During the day, I was following endless election coverage on all the 3 million TV channels and during the night I was scouting YouTube for pieces about Nehru, Patel, and Jinnah etc. 

While flying back from Delhi to London, an old British lady sat beside me.  Usually, I try to avoid any conversation during flights (I put on my headphones even if I am not listening to anything) because I want to avoid questions about “The Taj Mahal” and the “stray cows on the roads”.  But this time no sooner did the conversation start, than I was up and running about things like the impact of British rule on the subcontinent, the thought behind the initial socialist agenda after independence, the green revolution, the reasons for why India missed the industrial revolution and jumped onto become an information economy.  I then realized that I was talking really passionately.  A couple of folks from the seat in front of ours, also felt the need to contribute to this discussion.  For a change, I enjoyed the discourse.

As much as I despise some of our politicians, I have long maintained the belief that sitting in the parliament gives you a greater chance of affecting change in a country, than a NGO or civil activism ever will.  The mind is made up: politics it is.  In terms of ideologies also, I think I have pretty much decided which way I am going to lean (in order to stay neutral I am not going to mention a party here).  The next steps are to figure out the process to go about it.  How do I join the party? Who do I contact?  How can I help to begin with?  And ultimately, how do I define a path for myself while becoming a servant for the country.

Hopefully I will get there someday.

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