It is a foggy morning here in Gurgaon today. I am tempted to go out for a run, I like dissolving into the mist and then emerging out of nowhere, it instills in my mind a sense of mystery straight out of a Sherlock Homes book where the dark caped man always disappeared into the mist. Strangely, the dilemma in my mind also seems to disappear and then re-appear like the mystery man.
When I was planning to shift out of Mumbai this autumn, strangely I did not even flinch a muscle at my decision to quit the city I say I love the most. To others it came as a rude shock, but to me the city had shocked me in greater magnitude when one night, I was robbed and strangled on a busy street in the heart of the city and the police let me be by just asking me to be “careful”. Slowly, it became just another city and moving out a mechanical process. On professional front there seemed to be two options – Gurgaon and Middle East – both the profiles were lucrative, the jobs well-paying and the role with a high comfort and challenging atmosphere. I toyed with the idea and chose Gurgaon, after all isn’t that always what I have done in my life!!! I had already consciously opted out from international placements, decided to apply to the ONLY Ivy League B School, which had roots in India and yes categorically told Baba not to look for prospective grooms who expect me to relocate to some foreign land post marriage. I have loved this country with a vehemence that my family and friends have questioned many a times, yet I have not cared. Till today.
I remember watching “Swadesh” during my undergraduate days. Knowing my aversion for movies, I was surprised when my friends threw in the “must watch” tantrum for me. They were right, like always they knew what I would love. However, while they swooned over SRK, I was intrigued by the concept of “reverse brain drain”, believed that it was to happen and my generation would show the way. Till today.
I never had the “frog in the well approach” – my tumultuous teenage years had made me realize that life is too short to wait for things to happen and that my biggest asset was a democratic country that gave me the power to choose. Coming from a family where education came first, I learnt the difference between educated and literate minds early. Being the youngest representative at various world summits (including United Nations) I came understand the power the tri color bestowed me with and truly believed that the gift of nationality is the best one I have ever received in my life. My shiny blue passport stamped all across is indeed my biggest asset. So, when the Union Minister visited my alma mater this year and “asked country’s human resources to return after spending few years in other parts of the world to meet challenges of their own country”, I truly felt that he was talking my language. Till Today.
Yes till today, for it is today I no longer live in a democracy. I live in a chaos where all models exist just on paper. Where to a public policy researcher like me, the worst fears have come true – the policies I suggest decaying in big bound Government files, while the country goes to shambles. Today, the same me who once spent an entire evening at a police station fighting for her rights, is scared to even think of doing it again, for I have been clearly told to “fend” for myself. While my counterparts all across the world are making lavish plans of partying to ward off the Mayan curse and “trying to have the grandest affair”, I stand here telling myself that this New Year’s eve I shall “try not to get raped”.
I feel like a defeated guardian today, I have run out of defenses when my friends urge me to move out, come, and settle in the western world. It is not that I have not tried, just that I have been let down. I had immersed myself in grass root politics fighting for the implementation of 49O, the efforts made the PIL reach the Apex Court and then all was lost. The judiciary I am a part of, let me down.
I was one of the earliest members of IAC, and then slowly realized that it was nothing but “yet” another political party working for an agenda, which was no way close to, the core idea envisioned at the start of the campaign. The legislative that I yearned to be a part of, let me down.
In school I loved taking out the social studies text and re-reading the preamble of the Constitution – absorbing the power of words and telling myself that one day I shall make my country proud and be thankful for all the rights it has given me. This Dussherra, I was threatened death over a scary mail, mainly because I chose to write against (so called) Lord Ram. This November, I was told that it is safe to be a writer for a woman as then you can stay in home all day and not be subjected to abuse. This December, I was yet again asked “why can’t girls dress up conservatively and not instigate” – the core rights of secularism, equality, freedom of expression all seemed to float on paper, in reality the pillars on which the pride rested where shaken.
I don’t want to leave, I don’t want to come back after 20 years and demand packaged drinking water when all my life I have taken pride in my country’s roots agreeing with me and my body. I do not want my generation to leave, for somewhere I know we are the thinking generation that can make a difference. I do not mean to sideline modesty, when I say that I know my country needs people like me, it is just that I know and what I am today has been a conscious decision to be an asset to this country. Yet today, I am tempted to leave for strangely enough the country gives me no reason to stay.
I feel like the spouse in a dead relationship who waits each night for the return of the other one in the hope that he/she shall come home, repent the decision and promise to take steps to make everything all right. Gulzaar Saab might be sitting somewhere and humming “Rishtey kuch bas bandh kitabon mein hi acche lagte hain” as I write this.
I want to stay my dear country; I am my grandmother’s daughter who has always put the society first. Yet today, it seems you are in a self-destruction mode and I do not know if I would want to raise my child here and watch them feel the same frustration that I do – the inability to contribute despite having always taken the first step.
There is an incoming call on Skype which I need to attend. A person from Singapore, our profiles match. I find myself not wishing that he not be the man of the dreams instead as I leave to attend the call I send out a prayer to the unknown – “Give me a reason to stay!”
Wish there was a voice singing this Randy Rogers song back at me ….