The unique thing about living in India is that one learns to live under a plethora of diversities and yet, love it. Nowhere does one get the real taste of this unique feature than in Armed Forces.
Yes, I have been fortunate enough to be a part of an Armed Forces fraternity; Indian Air Force to be precise, for two decades. Close interaction with people from different parts of India is a daily affair as part of your work. Moreover, your frequent transfers throughout the length and breath of India gives you an in depth experience of the locality, that a casual visitor to that place may not get.
Hard work and celebration is a part and parcel of military life. In addition to official celebrations, we used to have a lot of informal celebrations organised by the members of different religious and cultural communities. Without any inhibitions every one participated in those informal celebrations. I have lost count of how many times I have been part of X’mas and Id celebrations. We respected each other’s religions and cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Yet, neither did we lose the pride in our own unique culture or religion, nor did it make us a chauvinist or a fanatic.
In a formal way or in an informal way, there was was zero discrimination based on caste or religion or ethnicity. It was secularism at its zenith. Whenever we met with someone, we just felt we are meeting with a fellow Indian. No judgement, prima facie or otherwise, was formed about an Individual because he belonged to a different religion, caste, ethnic group, or spoke a different mother tongue.
Of course, by and large, people in India live peacefully in spite of having so many groups with conflicting ideologies. At the same time, it cannot be ignored that vested interests incite fanatic and chauvinistic feelings in the common man who falls prey to such mass manipulation tactics. Quite often the leader who incites chauvinistic feelings based on native language or ‘the perceived legitimate rights of the son of the soil’ may have his own children studying in posh schools where learning of the local language and love for one’s native customs and culture are considered stuff for lesser mortals.
Yet the common man forgets this and is ready to take the gauntlet against those imaginary enemies who are out to pollute his culture. He himself maybe as much ignorant about his own culture as someone who stays in his state temporarily. His own children may be reluctant to talk in local language. He himself is not the least bit interested to learn anything about another culture. But, he expects that (and considers it an insult if they don’t) people who come to his state, whether voluntarily or as mandated by their job, must speak the local language, know every thing pertaining to the state and adapt themselves to the local customs.
A person who falls prey to such manipulative forces loses his perspective in distinguishing love for his own religion from fanaticism and love for his own ethnicity or language from chauvinism .
After leaving the Defense Services, due to professional requirements, I stayed in a city that prides itself of being a cosmopolitan city. I took an apartment. It was good to see that the apartment complex had residents from different states of India. There were a number of serving as well as retired Defense personnel and some hailed from my home state Odisha. It was also good to see that the residents celebrated many occasions like the New Year, Ganesh Puja, Diwali, Holi etc. together.
Another unique feature of India is its large number of religious and ethnic festivals spread throughout the year. A particular day or occasion may have many regional and local versions.
Fourteenth of April- the solar new year, is celebrated in different parts of India in different manners. It is known as Mahabishuba Sankranti and it goes by different names in different states. Like, somewhere it is Vishu, somewhere it is Poila Boishakha and so on. In my home state Odisha itself it has a number of local versions of celebration. In many parts of Odisha it is celebrated as Pana Sankranti because a special type of Pana (non-alcoholic sweet drink) is prepared on this occasion.
So, a few of us got together and decided to celebrate the Sankranti. We also decided that we would prepare and sponsor the special sweet drink so that people from other states get to have a taste of the same. We were enthusiastic about the celebrations. Many volunteers came forward offering help in organizing the events. I was asked to put out a message in our whatsapp group informing about the celebrations and inviting all to come and participate. I am reproducing my message word for word (sans place references):
"Hearty Greetings to all on the occasions of Mahabishuba Sankranti / Pana Sankranti /Odiya New Year / Ambedkar Jayanti/ Good Friday /Vishu / Baishakhi / Bihu / Lord Hanuman ji's Birthday (& any other festival if it is left out) At (apartment name) let us celebrate this occasion with songs and drinks. On this grand occasion, all are invited to an evening of devotional songs and music. Place: .......... . Time: 6:30 pm . Traditional Pana (non-alcoholic sweet drink) will be distributed as prasadam 8 p.m on wards on behalf of Utkal Samaj. All are coordially invited to participate with family and friends.
I was enthusiastic that people would be happy to read my message. I also expected that some would appreciate my sense of humour. Of course there was enthusiastic reception from the residents.
But the message did not go down well with a particular gentleman who demanded to know why I had forgotten to mention the name of his state which too celebrated the new year on this day.
I had given my greeting message after some research on the net. I double checked and found that neither Google nor Wikipedia knew that this state as a whole celebrated any kind of new year on this day. Nor, was there any mention of any unique specific name by which this festival was known through out the state. Of course, in some parts of the state, especially in temples it was celebrated as a general religious festival befitting the occasion of Mahabishubha Sankranti.
Secondly, supposing that there indeed was any kind of state specific festival associated with the date, the gentleman’s demand was akin to the demand of a child who goes on asking every stranger it meets, “uncle, why did not you wish me on my birthday?”. It was a childish demand based on his own ignorance mixed with chauvinism .
Thirdly, to make my message all inclusive and implying that due to my ignorance I might have, inadvertently, left out mentioning any peculiar name associated with the festival I had included the phrase “& any other festival if it is left out” in my greeting message.
Still then, to assuage his feeling of being slighted, to prevent the festive spirit from being spoiled and to avoid the issue being dragged further, I sent a message expressing my apology for my omission.
But, the gentleman was in no mood to reconcile. He continued with his rants, “Even though, you people stay in this state for so many years you do not learn about this state, blah blah blah……. “
One of my well wishers asked the gentleman to stop reading negative connotation from the message and appreciate the fact that someone is inviting every one to be part of a celebration. Of course, this only enraged the gentleman more and he continued with his offensive messages. So I sent a message again requesting every one not take anything seriously as my message was just an invitation for a celebration.
Thereafter, in spite of being prodded by my friends to give a fitting reply to his humiliating messages, I chose to remain silent and asked others just to ignore his rants.
My Defense upbringing had taught me to protect my fellow Indians even at the cost of my own life. At the same time, the Indian in me did not want to fight with a fellow Indian over a trivial issue even after being humiliated badly.
I hoped that our silence would ultimately make the gentleman silent, unless he was so ungracious as to find something wrong with our silence as well. But the gentleman was gracious enough to stop his rants finding no takers for his further provocations.
Lufthansa’s attempt to incorporate Indian culture, cuisine and hospitality into their airline’s services takes this ‘India First’ approach a step further. However, there is a catch.
So, watch the above video to know of their conspiracy theory. There are plenty of hints in the video. Then supplement it with detailed knowledge about their conspiracy to Indianise themselves at the following link: