To India, with love from your American sister

My dearest Indians,

I love you. You know I do. You are not just people in a distant land to me. For as physically distant as you are from me here in Korea, you are spiritually closer to me now than you ever have been before. You are my friends.

No. That’s not true.

You aren’t my friends.

You are more than friends. You are my family. Brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers to me.

All of you.

All 1.2 billion of you.

But, here’s the thing. You are tearing our family apart into small, small pieces. Shredding the very social fabric meant to tie you together. I can see it even from here. Feel it. With every tear in that fabric, you break my heart. Soon, there will be nothing left.

You see, to me, you aren’t Jat or Dalit; Hindu or Muslim; Punjabi or Gujarati; national or anti-national. I don’t see those differences. It was you who first taught me about those differences. You taught me words like Bong and Tam Bram. Words like gori and firingi. Words and differences I choose to ignore. I have friends and family who cross those lines, and the truth is that you do, too. You know you do. In your daily lives, you encounter many people from many faiths and communities. As you go about your business, your relationships are ruled by interactions with people from across the vast social fabric that is India. They are your brothers and sisters, too. And, India is your mother. Our mother.

“Our mother?” you ask. “What does an American know of Mother India?” Well, honestly, not much. I lived in India for three years, yet she still remains a mystery to me in many ways. But, this much I do know. In 1776, Americans threw off the yoke of British colonialism. You did the same in 1947. That much we have in common. But by 1861, less than 90 years post-Independence, Americans fought each other to the death over a single issue: slavery. An issue that turned brother against brother and ripped families to shreds. Now, here you are less than 70 years post Indian Independence, and a single issue threatens to do the same to you: caste.

Caste divides you; it does not unite you. Caste is the underlying issue that connects three recent events: Rohith Vemula’s suicide, the JNU protests, and now the Jat agitation.

Caste.

Caste is the fuse that threatens to blow the powder keg. The politicians have lit the fuse from one end, while the media have lit the other. In between, India’s social fabric is hanging by a thread. A single thread of saffron. I once wrote about those saffron threads:

“In my India, each person becomes a unique shade of saffron, blanketing the fields of Mother India. Each person is a thread woven into the India myth, the India story. Each story tells the same moral: If you love India, [she] loves you back.”

I know you all love her. Truly, you do. But that’s part of the problem, isn’t it? Many of you feel that your mother has been insulted, and you must defend her. I understand; I really do. But, the truth is that your mother can defend herself. Truly, she can. And, she would rather that you love each other, for you are all her children regardless of religion or community. Imagine the pain it causes a mother to see her children fight. Mother India is crying herself to sleep at night for the loss of her children—and the pain you are causing one another. Whether the physical pain of violence or the mental anguish of social media arguments that solve nothing. For no solutions are offered. And, that’s what you need. Solutions—not slogans.

I have often said that the true beauty of India isn’t in her monuments, but in her people. That the greatest natural resource at the government’s disposal is India’s people. That the #MakeInIndia program misses that point by focusing on a manufacturing-based economy rather than a knowledge-based one. And, you, the people of India, have the power—the knowledge needed—to douse the fuse that’s been lit. You have the knowledge to solve this problem. For that’s what caste is, a problem to be solved. A formula to be calculated.
Just like the formula Chetan Bhagat offered in his recent column:

D + M + H = India

For it’s in your unity that you derive your greatest strength. United, your sum is greater than your parts. I wish I had a simple solution for your problem; I really do. But, the truth is you must solve this problem yourselves. Reservation certainly isn’t it. But, the solution needs to be more than jugaad, more than a workaround. Whatever solution you implement will require you to look at each other with different eyes. Eyes more like mine. Eyes that don’t see the differences, but rather that see the one thing that unites you: your love for India, your mother. You must learn to see each other as Indians first, not as Jat or Dalit; Hindu or Muslim; BJP or Congress. Push all those differences aside and come together. For that is what makes Incredible India truly awesome.

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