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Krithika Karthikeyan, IIK Young Reporter
Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The day was 26 th January. The entire country was in a state of joy. Why, it was Republic Day, wasn’t it? The country ought to be. Of course, by the country, I mean everybody in the country except me. I am one of those people who ask the commoners why the day these boring rules came to power should be celebrated. And then there are these geeks in school, who flinch every time I do something, “Under the Indian Constitution Article, you should be sentenced in the court!” “Which article? Article 15?” I ask. “Yeah, I wanted to go to that movie but then it became house full dude!” I say. That’s me. A person who couldn’t care less about what is going on in the country, much less about the day rules came into existence.

At a point of time, when I couldn’t take the Republic Day Fever anymore, I scurried out of the house to clear my head (and to remove the image of the Tiranga which I had seen about a 120 times since morning). I grabbed my coat and went to the beach.
A good book and the sound of the crashing waves always puts me into the ‘normal’ mode again. It just calms me down and gets my head back in the game, which also makes me think maybe I’m a cross-breed of Athena and Poseidon, for some reason.

I reached the beach and got my book out of my knapsack. I sat down and began reading. I kept reading, until this random man came and sat down beside me. For a moment, I was too freaked out to even remember that this guy looked familiar. “Don’t be scared” he said, when he saw my face so startled. “I’m not a kidnapper or anything. Would totally break the rules, and I don’t want to do that today! I don’t want to be a disgrace to my own memory” he said. Then I remembered who he was. And, if I was scared when this man sat down beside me, it would be nothing compared to what I was feeling now.

“Mr. Ambedkar?” I said in awe. The man laughed and nodded his head. “At least you know that much”
“But, well, you should be……..it can’t be…..” I stammered. My mind was running a million miles a minute.
“I’m supposed to be dead?” he laughed.
“Well, yes and no. I don’t want to be turned into the next headlines guy who faked his death, but then I didn’t. But this day, on the 26 th of January, is when I come out and be myself, when the entire nation celebrates what I, a Dalit, made” His tone made me think he’d prepared a speech to deliver.
“Aren’t you celebrating today?” he asked me. “I mean, like, drawing pictures of me or something?”
“No, Mr. Ambedkar, I’m really bad at drawing” I said.
“Well then, thank God you didn’t draw. The children draw my pictures, and I come out looking like that cartoon character Chin Shan” he said.
“Shin Chan, Mr. Ambedkar” I corrected him.
“Oh sorry, my bad” he said, and noticed the book in my hand.
“Say, what are you reading?” he asked me.
“Because I’ve actually read a lot back in the day, and I still read today, even though I’ve started reading less”.
“Um……this is Percy Jackson, a book by Rick Riordan”
“Rick Riordan? An alien name, isn’t it? How come I have never heard of him before?” he asked himself.
“Maybe because he’s an American author?” I guessed. From what I heard, Mr. Ambedkar was really a ‘Be Indian, Buy Indian’ person.
“American author?!” Mr. Ambedkar broke out.
“But then his books are all based on mythology” I said.
“Ah, he’s a good guy then. Is Percy Jackson based on Indian mythology?” he asked. The way he said it sounded so naïve, I had to force myself to stop laughing.
“No sir, its Greek mythology”
“Aha! That’s why you have ACK!” he said. Reading my puzzled expression, he pinned it right that I didn’t know what ACK was. I nodded my head. He gave me a starter copy out of nowhere to begin reading. Seeing the title Indian Mythology, I think my face
might’ve gone a bit down in the dumps, because he was lecturing me again.
“Are you of Greek origin, Krithika?” he asked me.
“No sir, I just like-” “Researching about history?” he guessed. “Yes” I said. “OK then, Quiz Whiz, answer me this: Chanakya was the adviser of which king?”
After seeing my face clueless, he continued, “Bharathiyar is from which Indian state? Who was the first Indian to get a Nobel Prize?”
It seemed to me that Mr. Ambedkar was the quiz-master, and I was the person who’d studied nothing and came to attend a quiz. He forced a weak laugh and said, “If you don’t know anything about your own history, what’s the point of learning other histories?” I remained silent. He continued, “Why aren’t you proud to be an Indian, Krithika? What is wrong with this Janmabhoomi of ours?”
“Mr.Ambedkar, it’s just that……..” I sighed, and understood that he deserved the truth after I failed in his little test.
“Every day I see the news, or read the newspaper, it’s just more and more depressing news. More and more corruption. More and more reasons why you resent being a part of this country. I read Indian books, they don’t seem promising to me. I watch Hindi movies, they don’t get along with me. Maybe you could say I’ve got used to a foreign lifestyle, but that is because this country isn’t living up to my expectations. Every morning I wake up with the hope that India would have become a better place to live, the police might’ve solved the case hovering around the court for 7 years, or just something like that. But, a person like me whose hopes are laid high every day eventually understands that this country is not going to change. People still divide us on castes, they still go along with corruption, and we get stuck on the middle, wondering whether to feel
proud or not. Whatever we feel proud of, is a thing of the past. What the Indians did worth feeling proud was in the past. Not now, not anymore”
Mr. Ambedkar let that sink in. “So I take it that nobody in the country is following my Constitution?”
“Nah” I smiled, still pondering in deep thought.
He sat up straight. “Krithika, now I want you to listen to me, because what I say right now is maybe the answer to what you are looking for”
“Whatever you said was right. We are depressing. There is a lot of tax-breaking, corruption, bad things, none good. But, a young child like you has thought so much about the negatives of our country, have you ever thought about the positives?”
“Gora, a book by Rabindranath Tagore, shows the colors of the society back then. Amar Chitra Katha, a comic series by Uncle Pai, is no way less good than the Percy Jackson that you adore right now. All the great kings, queens, princes- everybody who
changed the course of history of our world, are from here. Now, we hover about knowing a lot about surgery, which is right now, mind you. Centuries ago, the legendary surgeon Sushruta wrote a book on all the principles that we call ‘modern’ today.
Emmeline Pankhrust might have fought for gender equality in London. Our queen, Jhansi ki Rani, didn’t even bother fighting for equality. She tied a baby boy to her and fought with swords and guns with the British. Tell me, are things any different now? The CEO of Google, such a high post, is handled by an Indian. Microsoft? Indian. The person who found out that plants have lives? Indian. Why, the Dalit untouchable who went on to frame the Constitution of such a respected country? Indian. Me. Because of your surroundings and your environment, you cannot blame your country. You cannot simply change your country like you change your pencils in school. It requires a lot of formalities, procedures, but most of all, it requires great will-power. To change the land you were born, the land which raised you to a land which doesn’t mean anything to you. Why, back when your parents attended school, the word ‘bullying’ wasn’t even used. What makes you think students bully and curse so much in today’s life? Foreign addiction. It’s a slow poison, but nobody understands this. ‘Oh my God, that country
is so this!’ and ‘Oh my God, this country is so that!’ Crazy, if you ask me. Instead of waiting for a change, Krithika, why don’t you make a change yourself? If you do, nobody in this country would feel the way you do anymore. The country would be
clean, green and completely amazing. You make the change, Krithika. After all, India can’t change itself, can it?”

I was filled with inspiration. I felt as if I had been cheated by myself. All these years, I’ve been treating my Janmabhoomi like a disease, but suddenly, I saw beyond the negatives, the blessing that it was. Mr. Ambedkar saw the change in me.
“Hope you’ll consider it” he said, and walked away.
“Sir?” I said, and he turned back. “Thank you” I said.
I saw the kind smile in his face.
“I can feel the change in you already, Krithika. You’ve changed the foreign designation ‘Mr.’ to Indian designation ‘Sir’
so soon?” he asked.
I smiled
“Grow up to be a promising citizen, not just a good citizen” he said.

So, it was true. The waves cleared my thoughts. But this time, in the form of a man who I thought was dead. Meeting Dr. B. R. Ambedkar was the last thing I expected to happen in my life. But it did, and my gut told me that it would change my life completely. I picked up my knapsack, kept my book inside, and prepared to go back. “Time to go home” I said to myself. “Hey” my mind voice said. “You’re already home” it said.
Oh yes.
I am in India, my home, my sweet home.
Jai Hind.

Krithika Karthikeyan
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