I want to return home to India after watching Airlift

When strains of Vande Mataram reverberated in the theatre, I wanted to take the next flight home.

 |  4-minute read |   02-02-2016
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This year I will complete three years in the US. There is much to love about my new home. A nice suburban house with landscaped gardens, taps with running hot water all 24 hours, orderly traffic, trains on schedule, leafy roads, shopping aisles filled with delights, green bucks, fire engines that arrive on time, a well-stocked library and a landscape that changes with every season.

Yet this week, Raja Menon's Airlift made me miss the chaotic mad India. In the movie, when the Indian tricolour came up and the strains of Vande Mataram reverberated in the theatre, I wanted to be on the flight that took off for Sahar Airport (now known as Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport) in Mumbai. I wanted to go home.

Also read: Is Akshay Kumar the ultimate Indian hero?

Even though I love being in the US and learning about my new world, India is a constant ache in my heart. I am determined to move back to India in a few years and my friends believe I am merely posturing.

According to them, my responses will change when I become used to the lifestyle here; I will no longer want to be engaged with the Indian madness for extended periods of time.

I am not judgmental about why some Indians, or world citizens of Indian origin will never think of going back to settle in India or don't even want to acknowledge their Indian roots, but here are five Airlift reasons why, for me, saare jahan se achha Hindustan hamaara:

1. The government might have taken 12 days to get its act together for the Amman evacuation, but it was the spirit of Indians in Kuwait that helped them survive.

As a community, we come alive in times of crisis. When Mumbai struggled with floods in 2005, people opened up their homes to complete strangers to give them shelter; Sikhs and other communities set up free community kitchens to help those in distress. The city was that much more compassionate.

This is not unique to Mumbai, and the story is replicated in crisis after crisis across India.

2. Yes, the government is indifferent, and the bureaucrats are notorious for their red-tapism, yet there are those who are committed to their work.

When the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) inadvertently allotted me an apartment that already had a legal owner, it took my family 15 long years, with innumerable hours at their office and tons of meetings with the officials to finally get what was legally mine.

And finally, it was because one mid-level manager pushed for the resolution of my case - and no, he was not known to us and he took no bribe or compensation. It is people like him who ensure that the system has not broken down completely.

3. There is grave concern that India is getting intolerant. That Hindus are becoming belligerent, the call for a Hindu state is growing more shrill and India is no longer a safe place for minorities.

Airlift made me re-believe that Indian culture is effortlessly inclusive and immersive. The cast may have been carefully curated to show Sikh, Muslim, Christian and Parsi characters, and a host of people from different regions in India, yet it did not seem unreal because we have indeed grown up in inclusive groups.

We don't have campaigns like #SikhLivesMatter, #MuslimLivesMatter and so on - it is a given. So even if there is a section of Indians who want to realise the dream of a Hindu India, there is a larger population that is pushing back just as aggressively.

4. We always adjust - in the camp in Kuwait, and in the buses that take them to Jordan, Indians are packed like sardines, but there is a spirit of accommodating yet another person.

Indians do it all the time - in the Mumbai Local, Delhi Metro, in buses, on trains, on roads - just about anywhere. This behaviour may not conform to the Western concept of private space, but it is what makes us share our food and stories with complete strangers, and why we form close bonds of understanding.

5. Of course, there are irritating armchair critics who criticise everything and everyone; they do anything but help! There are those who want special favours, and who use money to get more privileges - they make life that much more masaledar.

Ah yes, there is much I dislike about India as well, but it is my family, my home, and the place I hope to be cremated in. Like the Kurkure ad's tagline says, "Tedha Hai Par Mera Hai!" 

Also read: I gave up my Green Card. But this India is giving me second thoughts


Preeti Singh Preeti Singh @preetisingh69

The writer is a journalist currently based in New York. Her features appear in a number of publications in India and the US.

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