Bal Thackeray recently made a statement about Sachin Tendulkar "You became run out in the pitch of Marathi minds" as Sachin had said that he was "an India first and a Marathi after".
Cut to many years ago at a Diwali party in Singapore (my very early years in the country), a British man was talking to a group of Indians about the festival and its significance. He also mentioned that Diwali was probably the biggest Indian festival. It was a rhetoric question- not a question at all- but it got a varied range of responses. “Actually it’s a Hindu festival, we Parsis don’t celebrate it”. “In East India where I come from, Durga Puja is much bigger”. SERIOUSLY!!!
Foreigners have difficulty grasping the concept of India and we choose to complicate it further by referring to ourselves as Gujuratis, Sindhis, Parsis, Christians, Bengalis…Who outside India gives a flying F%^$!
And frankly why should people in India care too? Your motherland rules and everything else come after. We are Indians FIRST! Why is that so difficult to comprehend?!
Secondly your origins should be attributed to your city- the city you grew up in, where you studied, which gave you your childhood school memories (and best friends for life), your “first time” teen years and perhaps even your career and life partner. It does not matter which religion you are, which caste you belong to, the city you grew you up in makes up a big part of who you are. You could be a Kashmiri who has been bought up in Gujarat or a Gujrati who has lived all his life in Chennai.
Then in the scheme of things enters your religion- practicing or not practicing- your religion is a key aspect of your values and beliefs system. I may go to the temple or gurudwara once a month and on special occasions (Diwali, birthdays), but that does not make me an less religious than a Muslim who prays 5 times a day and a Christian who goes for Sunday mass every week.
And FINALLY, LAST, ALL THE WAY DOWN, RIGHT AT THE BOTTOM (you get the drift) is your caste- Maloo, Bengali, Tulu, Sindhi, Punju, etc etc etc. It’s the least important part of who you are and should be.
We keep falling in the trap laid by the British Raj that was conceived to rule over us- “Divide and Rule”. It kept them in power for very many years.
Let’s break from those shackles. Isn’t it time enough?
So I am an Indian first, a Bombayite (or Mumbaikar with due respect to Balasaheb) next, a Hindu after and Sindhi last. What about you?