What would RTH do?

That is the question.

If I were in a highschool yearbook, they would vote me most likely to die of a lynch mob. That does not prevent me from opening my mouth and serving a warm hearty cup of STFU to people who deserve it. My dark scathing humor will leave no matter of existence untouched. My innocence will touch your soul.

Welcome to a warped world turned inside out and upside down. All sorts of discretion advised.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Separate But Equal

If Rosa Parks was Indian, she wouldn’t have had a problem with being seated at the back of the bus. In fact she would be delighted over the reserved black quota seating in public transit. She would have supported the segregation of the bus into several reserved quotas for ethnic minorities. "Why not have a special black bus or a black compartment in the subway?" she might have even asked. 

You see, us Indians aren’t a big fan of integration. Our motto as Indians is “separate but equal”. Segregation is such a beautiful system. We are all special and unique. Segregation is the only way that lets us show how special we really are. The whole civil rights movement baffles us. This rush to integrate and blend just seems absurd. If black people had separate schools, special reserved seats and even their own toilets – why didn’t they just enjoy being special. In India, Brown would be fighting to create a whole special school for his daughter. Each day we Indians wake up and think “How can we segregate ourselves even further?”.

Last week the government of India approved the new state of Telangana. After years of separatist movement and strife, the slicing and dicing was finally approved. This move would divide the state of Andhra Pradesh into two parts: Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. In 2000 there were three new states carved out of similar separatist movements – Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Chattisgarh. Several other simmering separatist movements have started bubbling more profusely in light of Telangana. The most vociferous of them all being Bodoloand (carved out of Assam), Gorkhaland (for the hilly regions inhabited by Gorkhas) and Vidarbha (carved out of Eastern Maharashtra). Other rising movements include separation for Saurashtra (a part of Gujarat), Konkan (the western Konkani speaking region), Ladakh (the Buddhist region of Jammu and Kashmir), Delhi (statehood for the capitol region) and so on and so forth. There was a Khalistan movement to create Sikh nation which died down in the nineties, but could loom again. And then of course there is the hilariously fringe movement of separating Bombay as a Union Territory, one that I strongly subscribe to, but more on that later.

Just like civil rights and integration baffles Indians, India’s resistance to integration and obsession with "separate but equal" segregation can be equally baffling to most people. As an immigrant to the United States, integration is important to me. The civil rights movement is something I am truly grateful for. I have deep respect for Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and even Malcolm X for all the effort they put forth to integrate races, cultures and ethnicities in America. Most immigrants and multicultural Americans see the value in integration. We strive to be a true melting pot, where we are together and equal. So it is a surreal tragicomic experience for me when I see folks in my homeland all lined up butcher knives ready to carve our country into bite sized morsels.

Let us put things in perspective. In many aspects the United States is an anomaly amidst the nations of the world. It is this anomaly that makes us a unique and great nation. Almost all other countries in the world have a deep rooted history and long standing ethnic, linguistic and cultural lineage. Ours is a nation of immigrants. We have a history and culture, but it isn't something that is deep rooted for centuries.

Way back in the day, during the era of colonization, the earliest Americans came from all across Europe seeking more freedom and a better life. The common thread for immigrants flocking to inhabit this new land was not a language, culture, race or ethnicity of any kind. Their binding factor was simply the love for freedom and a better life. Without integration the country wouldn’t exists. People from disparate backgrounds had to come together to make the country work. Integration is what made the United States of America.

It was not a perfect fairy tale journey. There were always many groups that had to fight for integration and equality. Every ethnic community has gone through their trial by fire to integrate – the Irish Catholics, the Chinese railroad workers, the escaping Jews and in our today’s times – the Hispanic immigrant. The African American struggle for integration is the longest saga that began during the civil war and still continues today with stories like Trayvon Martin shaking the foundations of our democracy. However, we all would collectively agree, integration is essential and vital for our success as a nation. There can be no true freedom or opportunity without integration. So indeed, the vociferous calls for segregation in India seem absurd and self defeating.

Then again, like the United States, India is also an anomaly. We Indians may delude ourselves claiming a rich culture and heritage with a deep rooted history. But the fact is throughout history, India has never been one unified nation. We are a land of scattered, disparate kingdoms. No sane man would have dreamed of modern India’s existence. It was only on that fateful day, August 15th 1947 when Indian began to exist. The Indian subcontinent stretches from Afghanistan to Myanmar. Prior to the British Empire this region was always divided into several kingdoms, some antagonistic to each other. While empires like the Mughals came close to ruling the entire region, no one ever had absolute control. Even Aurangzeb who had the largest geographic region in his reign relied heavily on the allegiance of minor kingdoms rather than having his own kingdom per se.

When the Indian freedom movement gained maximum momentum, almost all the princely states and kingdoms of yore had long fallen or dwindling. Some had further fragmented into shadow puppets of the British Empire. The economic oppression and imperialism of the British Empire forced this fragmented bunch of multiple ethnicities, cultures, religions, languages and roots to band together in order to overthrow the British. So pressing was the common cause to gain freedom from the British Empire, that no one though forward 10, 20, 30 years ahead of time. After we overthrow the British – what now? Now that most of our kings and queens are gone, what now? How do we recreate kingdoms and glories of years past? How do we organize and govern ourselves? Are we to be one sovereign nation or a union of several sovereign nations?

And for modern independent India, these questions have bitch slapped her in the face. The first bitch slap, was partition. Although, we could call it more of a drop kick in the guts. Immediately after independence problems galore began festering. One of the immediate problem was the issue of multiple independent princely states that wanted to retain their independence instead of join the Indian union. While the smaller ones were easily assimilated, larger states like Hyderabad, Junagarh and Kashmir posed bigger problems. Even today Kashmir still is a big problem that is still bitch slapping both India and Pakistan. Other than princely states there were still parts of the country still colonized by the French, Portuguese and Dutch.

Another issue was the matter of language. Each region in India has its own language, some splintered into further into dialect and sub dialect regions. Hindi being the most commonly spoken language across the largest geographical area was a favorite to become the official language. However, Hindi was alien to the south Indian states. They resisted Hindi and wanted a more neutral common language - English. So India became a country with two official languages and twenty five states roughly drawn out based on language barriers. But then a plethora of fringe languages and dialects like Tulu, Bhojpuri, Marwari etc. didn't even get their own state lines. Sardar Vallabhai Patel the home minister played the mighty iron-smith forging and hammering the disparate princely states and regions into unified India.

Thusly, India a country that wouldn't have existed came into existence. A hodge podge of different people forged together not by feverish patriotism, common history & culture or common love for freedom (our common ties evaporated with the retreat of the British), but by the practical smithing of a modern nation. Splintered loyalties and language were just the preliminary of India's bitch slap problems. The tacky glue of new found nationhood uneasily held together many disparate groups all "separate but equal". There were the divisions of religion - Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist, Jain, Tribal and more. There were the divisions of race the European descended Aryans in the North, the indigenous Dravidians in the South and the ever so forgotten Mongloid descendants in the North East. There was the caste system that fragmented every seemingly cohesive ethnic groups into more itty bitty pieces. Not to mention the wide yawning gap between the majority rural farming population and the colonial educated rising administrative class.

Thorny "separate but equal" demands have always plagued India. Despite being a so called secular country there are separate marriage and adoption laws for each major religion. Laws of meat consumption are also often implemented based on religion. To appease the uneasily integrated splinter groups and promote well being of the underprivileged the government of India introduced reservations for minorities. Reservation became the war cry of all Indians. Every group began to demand their own "separate but equal" quotas. And before we knew it Rosa Parks was rabidly fighting for her reserved back seat.

It wasn't too long before the existing states splintered. Almost every state has a region with few and loose common ties to the home state. Almost every state has an ethnic minority, cultural group or racial heritage that feels ignored, sidelined and undermined. Add to it the corrupt political system and vote bank agendas, demands to split off always crop up. Rather than integrate and work things out as people with a common cause the "separate but equal" doctrine sounds a lot more pleasing.

And exactly how bad is the "separate but equal" doctrine. Well during the recent Uttarakhand floods, Narendra Modi the chief minister of Gujarat flew in helicopters to rescue ethnic Gujaratis only. Imagine the Governor of Kansas aiding only ethnic Kansans after hurricane Sandy? Which makes me wonder what is an ethnic Kansan or Nebraskan, we're so integrated that we can't even define state ethnicities. Or think of Shiv Sena's attempts to restrict non Maharashtrians from entering Bombay. Thats like saying the rest of America is not welcome in Manhattan.

But then India isn't the only nation that faces such splintering. Barring Khalistan, most movements just want "separate but equal" recognition. They don't want to spin off into a new nation. We need to look no further than our neighbors Pakistan and Bangladesh. Despite having the same Muslim majority and the same Islamic interests, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) split from Pakistan over geographic as well as linguistic differences.

This isn't just a subcontinental problem. The west faces it too. Ask Canada about the uneasy truce between United Canadia and Quebec. Canada has been withstanding a separate Quebec movement for debate. Even the tiny nation of Belgium draws battle lines between the French Speaking Wallons and the Dutch Speaking Flanders. Why they are so disparate, that the two regions have separate Top 40 music charts. The Queen's crown doesn't rest easy either. The United Kingdom is a country loosely tying together four distinct regions, that almost consider themselves sub countries - England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Irish Republican Army has long terrorized England, while Scottish Republicans have been peacefully demanding separation for decades. Even the Welsh consider themselves separate from the crown in England.

Ethnic differences don't just create separatist movements. They create bloody war and even genocide. In the 1990's the collapse of communism saw countries split and go to war. The Soviet Union fell and shattered into pieces. Some of those pieces lie uneasy with friction even today. Yugoslavia's war between the Serbs and Croats was even bloodier and prolonged. In tiny tiny Rwanda ethnic differences led to the most horrifying genocide since the holocaust. Who would have imagined that so much life could be slaughtered in such a tiny region.

All being said and done, despite India's flaws and misplaced faith in the "separate but equal" doctrine there is still a ray of hope to be optimistic about. Ours is an unlikely democracy. We are the world's largest democracy. The fact that over a billion people from such disparate roots and backgrounds can come together as a nation is nothing short of miraculous. We have outlasted the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia by years. While we fight and bicker amidst ourselves, we are far from collapsing as a nation. While we have had violent riots and mini-religious genocides, we are far from the holocaust or the Hutu-Tutsi conflict.

And for all our differences, we do have a lot in common that binds us together: Our insanely religious obsession and bleeding blue over cricket, our neurotic crazy love for the movies, that uncanny zeal to celebrate with extravagant colors and great food, and our common loathing of our useless and corrupt government systems. The key is that we learn from the past and look to the future. We don't want to keep splitting our states so small that we fail to have stability and even collapse as a nation.

There is a lot we can learn from the big bad big brother - United States. Of course Unlcle Sam is an arrogant bully who likes to push and shove around his younger siblings in the world. But he has some qualities that are truly marvelous. When you come to the USA you learn that regional prides like being a Sconnie or a Cornhusker or a Hoosier isn't about deep rooted ethnicity, a long tradition of history and culture passed on from centuries - but from something created in the melting pot of integration. I'm a Sconnie, the white folks are sconnies, the black folks are sconnies, the yellow folks are sconnies and all those kids from around the world starting school in fall will be sconnies.

If only coastal Andra and Telangana knew, they didn't have to divorce each other. They could have created a new identity together.