INDIANS are going places. They seem to be everywhere, as if they have grown wheels on their feet, and cannot be stopped. In the last five years, I have seen them everywhere – from Grand Canyon in Nevada, US, to Mount Fuji in Japan; from Hyde Park in London to the Grand Canel in Venice; from the Pyramids in Cairo to Eiffel Tower in Paris; and on almost every airline from British Airways to Garuda Airlines in Indonesia.
Nothing seems to stop them. “The earth is full of Indians,” writes Salman Rushdie, “We get everywhere.” There are Indian novelists in New York and Indian economists in Cambridge, England. There are Indian engineers in Sydney, Australia and Indian software workers in San Francisco, US. There are Indian coffee shops in London and Indian motels in and around Chicago. There are Indian banks in Moscow and Indian hair cutting saloons in Leicester, England. You can get around the world and do your business, without meeting a single non-Indian. And all you need is a smile and a couple of words in Hindi.
I always speak Hindi when I am outside India. I don’t have to know any other language, for Hindi is now a universal language, almost like English, provided you stick to Indians. I once spent a fortnight in England, most of it in London, and never stepped into a place not run by Indians. I travelled by an Indian airline, was picked up by an Indian taxi driver in London, stayed into a hotel run by an Indian family, ate Indian meals in Indian restaurants, cashed my cheques in banks with Indian staff, and travelled on the underground on tickets bought from Indians sitting behind tiny windows at stations. My Hindi is not as good as it should be but it made no difference. Everybody understood me and they went out of their way to help, because I was, like them, an Indian.
Many Indians who live outside India have not seen India, have never smelt an Indian flower, never been to an Indian bazaar, never been inside an Indian coffee shop, never visited a beach in Goa, or a temple in Gujarat, never stood outside the Indian Parliament in Delhi, never visited Ayodhya, never walked down Chowringhee Lane in Kolkota or the Marina in Chennai, never seen a man, as wiry as a monkey, climb a coconut tree and pick coconuts, or visited an old synagogue in Cochin. Yet when you meet him at a bus stand in London or in a McDonald’s in New York, he talks to you as if he has been there and seen and felt all these things, because, no matter where he was born and where he lives, he is at heart an Indian and always carries his own India with him, and so do we. We are Indians because we carry little Indias with us wherever we go, even if physically we may never have visited India and known its smells and its sounds first hand. And we don’t really have to, because we carry these smells and sounds within us, as a mother does its child, and vice-versa.
Indians went out of India because our forefathers wanted to escape the enemies who had occupied our land. For thousand years, they grabbed what they could and drove us out of our homesteads. Now, for the first time in a thousand years, this land is ours, and so is the sky and the rivers and the mountains, and the gods and the goddesses that have always blessed the land. And the Indians are going out in large numbers to announce to the world that this India is now ours and ours only, and is not British India, or Portuguese India, or Moghul India. It is, as it has always been, Hindu India, and only Hindu India.
There was a time when Indians went out for work – to labour in other people’s plantations and other people’s houses. We went to Africa and we went to the Caribbean, and we went to the Gulf and we went to Australia, always as labourers. We still go out for work and we still go out as labourers. But increasingly, we now go out as traders and bankers, as investors and shopkeepers, as teachers and doctors, as writers and journalists, as singers and film producers, with their heads held high, working in banks and stock exchanges, in chanceries and consulates, in top corporations handling billions of dollars, and, in the process, making billion of dollars for themselves.
Among the CEO’s of Fortune 500 corporations, are two mainland Chinese, two North American Chinese, and 13, yes thirteen, Indians. They run Pepsi and Motorola, They run Citigroup and Google, and they head Harvard Business School and Insead (a business school in Paris).
And they are all Hindus. Westerners are amazed that Indians should head so many of their corporations and they suspect there is something in their diet that makes them what they have become! Almost all of them are first-time emigrants. How have they become what they have become, and are challenging the Westerners on their own ground?
The Hindu mind is a fine instrument. The very fact that we have survived a thousand years of aliens is proof that we Hindus are something special. Remember, we have survived as Hindus, for we never concealed the fact that we were Hindus. Our temples were destroyed, our palaces were razed to the ground, our people were hijacked, and our lands taken over and handed over to foreigners. But for a thousand years, we continued to fight, small skirmishes to begin with, and then great wars until the earth was soaked in blood. At Panipat, near Delhi, over a hundred thousand soldiers and others perished in a single battle that lasted just a few hours. But the fight went on.
Now the Hindus are going out and running other people’s estates – the so-called multinationals. Personally. I don’t think much of this. Why should Indians put themselves on the back on running other people’s companies – banks, hotels, software and investment banks? This is what we did for the Moghuls and, later, for the East India Co and its successor, the British crown. And what did we get out of it? Nothing. It is ridiculous that people as talented as Hindus, – or Indians, if you like it that way – should be content behaving like Munshis, which is what they have become. We were Munshis under the Moghuls, we were Munshis under the British, now we are Munshis of multinationals.
I think can do much better than that, and I have no doubt we will. For that, we have to shed our inferiority complex – the complex all slaves suffer from. But we are not a subjugated race now, and we should take our destiny in our own hands and aim for the moon. This is what Shivaji did. And it is time we repaid our debt to our ancestors.