An NRI Independence Day Wish

Three years ago, on August 15th, 2015, me and my best friend took off on our girls trip to Ladakh from Delhi. After an unforgettable scenic flight journey over the mountains, our pilot carefully maneuvered the flight to land at the high altitude Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport airport in Leh a little before the flag hoisting for Independence Day.  That morning remains etched in our memories as one of our best Independence Day memories.

Surrounded by the mighty Himalayas, AR Rahman’s “Vande Mataram” being played through speakers and the army marching in unison to salute a national flag fluttering in the wind against a clear blue sky interspersed with fluffy white clouds we watched the national flag being unfurled after a series of Independence day ceremonies – It was an epic moment – the kind that gives goosebumps even when you think about it years later.

Independence day in Leh ladakh rimpochee airport

Ladakh instills in you the kind of patriotism that lives on – it is an exemplary example to show you that the religion, politics and state borders don’t really matter. There are soldiers up there who fight battles to keep the country safe in the world’s most difficult battle zones combating enemies and inclement weather alike to allow us to sleep comfortably in the safety of our houses. Ladakh teaches you that your country is worth fighting for.

7 months later, I relocated to Michigan like every Indian with the American Dream. Three years later, I am still trying to understand what the fuss is all about. The currency exchange rates from USD to INR is probably the only reality. Everything else comes with a compromise. The immigration woes of Indians in America is no longer a secret. Not a day goes by where we are not reminded of our “immigrant” status. And some day should I choose to forget it, one look at the FOX/CNN news screens in the fitness center or my twitter feed is sufficient to remind me that I do not belong here. Heck, even my work permit card carries something that is called “Alien Registration Number” – the irony of it!

I have come across tons of people here who probably never traveled anywhere beyond their city boundaries in India, but boast about the places they have been to in other countries. When someone tells me that Switzerland is the world’s most beautiful place, I take a perfect aim at their inflated ego and ask them if they have seen the Pangong- Tso on a clear blue day, or if they have slept gazing at the milky way on our Himalayan mountains. If nothing, if they have at least watched the monsoons descend down the western ghats turning everything it touches into a shade of lush green. Our country has limitless travel opportunities. I have never seen that kind of diversity anywhere I have traveled to all my life. But that’s the thing with us – the grass is always greener on the other side.

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”M.K.Gandhi

And as for celebrating the linguistic diversity that our country has, all of us have that one friend or relative who train their children to not talk in their mother tongue to prevent the influence of the accent in their English. What we forget is that Indians have effectively in the past and present used English for linguistic connect without losing on the primary language that we use at home. A blind imitation of the west under the misconception that English is that one magical key that can open the door of opportunities has been a misguided approach by most people in urban India.

What we fail to understand while we live in India is the value of being in our own country, the freedom and independence we have as citizens of the country. We toss that piece of paper carelessly on the road and complain about the country not being clean. We talk about less rains, excessive heat and increasing pollution when most of us have never planted a tree in our whole life. We complain about politics and corruption when the bulk us do not exercise the right to vote. The change needs to begin with us, in us.

We need to take pride in knowing our own languages and culture before we embrace something that is foreign. Identifying with self, is the beginning to progress.

We may have our own issues – pollution, population and chaos. But we are a colorful, vibrant, growing country. We may not be there yet, but we will eventually get there. But for that, we need our generation and the next to love our country as it deserves.

So this Independence day, take some time to tell your children the importance of this day with the same enthusiasm you tell them about the glories of the West. Tell them why this day is special and why their independence is most valued and respected in their home country. Tell them why they need to be proud about being Indian first.

After all, there is no place like home.

Happy Independence Day to all our readers from Team KindleandKompass!

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