Friday, May 09, 2014

What has size got to do with it?

I often joke around that I am an American who was accidentally born in India.  Such is the ease with which I live here.

I am certain that had I been born and raised here in the US, I would have been one heck of an Indophile.  India is simply way too fascinating, and I cannot imagine why millions do not have that level of an intense curiosity about India.

To a large extent, one (of many) of my disappointments with the people in the old country is that even they do not seem to have an intense curiosity about India.  The "mera Bharat mahan" (My India is great) is, more often than not, a superficial statement. A hollow sentiment. An empty rhetoric. Even worse than the jingoistic "USA! USA!" that is chanted here in my adopted country.

As much as I am innately curious and passionate about my family's stories, I am equally curious and passionate about all things about the old country itself.  As much as immigrating to the US did not mean a disassociation from the family and the stories, there is no disconnecting from the old country and its rich stories.  And, therefore, the shocking disappointment every time I find that there is not a great deal of genuine interest among most people in the old country about their own respective family stories nor about their own country.

One of the ways in which as a kid I came to understand the rich past of India's was through the stories, literally stories, that were presented in comic book format--the Panchatantra.  The stories appealed to the kid in me, but one did not have to be the proverbial brain surgeon to know that there was more to the stories--serious philosophical and moral undertones.  

The older I get, the more I find simple and powerful timeless messages in many of those verses from the old country.  Like this one:
हस्ति स्थूलतरः स चांकुशवशः किं हस्तिमात्रोंऽकुशः
दीपे प्रज्वलिते प्रणश्यति तमः किं दीपमात्रं तमः ।
वज्रेणापि हताः पतन्ति गिरयः किं वज्रमात्रो गिरिः
तेजो यस्य विराजते स बलवान् स्थूलेषु कः प्रत्ययः ॥
- पञ्चतंत्र - मित्रभेद

An elephant is very big. But is controlled by a very small hook. Are they both of the same size?
A small lamp destroys mighty darkness. Are they both of same size?
A diamond can bring down a mountain. Are they both of the same size?
He who has courage will become a winner. What has size got to with success?
- Panchatantra, Mitrabedha

I think that I am the luckiest guy on this planet to have been an American who was accidentally born in India, so that I could get to experience and understand the world the way I do.

2 comments:

Ramesh said...

I am not sure what you mean that there is not a great deal of genuine interest among most people in the old country about their own respective family stories nor about their own country. If you imply disinterest in history, that's a global problem. Everybody more or less is ignorant of his or her own history. Otherwise, I don't think the Indian interest in India itself is any different from any other place, complete with biases, prejudices, pink lenses, etc etc. In fact, perhaps a tad more because we suffer from acute navel gazing and are argumentative as well.

By the way, why do you consider yourself an American ? I thought you were truly a world citizen given your openness of mind.

Sriram Khé said...

I am so much used to you pulling my legs, I can't decide whether or not you are complimenting me about "a world citizen given your openness of mind" .... hehehe ;)

What are you talking about? Indians being argumentative? No they are not! hahaha ;)

I don't know if people from other cultures any less ignorant or more informed about their own respective stories. That is immaterial to me. As my grandmothers always told us kids, "you look at your own plate and eat" ... or the generally used "if others jump off the bridge, will you too?" Thus, I remarked only about the old country and its peoples, especially because of the phenomenally rich history that India has.

Posts popular the last 30 days