With apologies to the great poet-laureate, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, a prayer for my country in 2018.
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high.
Where every citizen is blessed with equal rights and opportunities, not an India which is divided and discriminates on religion, region, caste, class, gender and income.
Where we keep religion out of politics and politics out of religion.
where we cast our vote but don’t vote our caste.. where vote banks and reservations are replaced by an enlightened inclusive, politics that truly respects our diversity..
Where we celebrate Diwali, Eid, Christmas, Nanak Jayanti with equal fervour.. where a bhajan and a carol, a qawali and gurbani are sung with gusto.. where our unique and plural folk traditions are a badge of pride, where from Imphal to Idukki, the state reaches out to the remotest corners of a vast land..
Where a Muslim does not have to prove his patriotism every time there is a terror attack in Kashmir or when a Hafiz Saeed spews venom against India.
Where a Dalit is not shunned in a college hostel or a temple or a village well because of caste prejudice.. where dignity of labour is respected, where no occupation is treated as ‘polluting’..
Where an Adivasi’s rights are protected, where a farmer’s land can’t be acquired without consent and a just price, where a labourer is assured a minimum wage..
Where individual freedoms guaranteed under the constitution extend to food, housing and marriage.. where there are no ‘fatwas’ or diktats, but where a Hindu can reject eating beef, a Muslim can stay away from pork but neither will impose food restrictions on the other..
Where killing in the name of the cow just as killing innocents in the name of religion must be seen as acts of terror that lead to speedy convictions..
Where a Hindu Muslim marriage is not seen as ‘love jehad’ but as an inter community marriage based on personal choice..
Where the right to free speech is fought for vigorously but where hate speech and incitement to violence is punished.. where the mob cannot decide which film to censor or which book is to be banned.. where cultural freedoms are preserved..
Where a woman feels safe on the streets at midnight and can share public spaces with men without being sexually harassed..
Where the girl child is treasured and given equal space in our hearts and minds..
Where the freedoms of our young are not curbed by a self anointed moral police.. where being gay is not a crime but a matter of choice..
Where not every trader and businessman is seen as a ‘tax chor’ just like not every politician is a thief ..
Where a street vendor does not have to bribe the beat constable simply to earn his right to a livelihood, where the small and micro enterprise is not harassed by a return to an inspector raj..
Where the poor don’t have to shiver in a ramshackle night shelter while the rich live in the warmth of their 23 storey centrally heated homes..
Where private entrepreneurship is encouraged not stifled, where job creation becomes a national mission..
Where a VVIP can’t walk through security without being checked even as the Aam aadmi spends a lifetime in queues..
Where an Aadhar card provides better delivery of public services but doesn’t make an individual’s private information available to the state from life to death..
Where we don’t fight over temples and mosques but fight instead for better hospitals, schools and civic amenities..
Where access to quality education and health becomes the primary goal of the state, not the business of running airlines or hotels..
Where the public monies are spent on schools, playgrounds and hospitals, not on statues and decorating political party offices or on remembering birth anniversaries of our netas…
Where the rule of law is not simply a meaningless piece of paper to be thrown away at convenience but where scamsters are caught and the weak protected, where archaic laws are removed and the judicial system reformed..
Where a restaurant owner doesn’t get a licence without adhering to fire safety norms and we boycott those who do..
Where municipal authorities are held accountable when the drainage system collapses in the monsoon and no citizen dies after falling into an open manhole
Where my children don’t have to wear masks in the winter to keep their lungs protected from air pollution..
Where the Reserve Bank remains a trustee for our hard earned money and doesn’t extinguish it overnight through unilateral political firmans, where digital India is to be welcomed but not all cash can be criminalised..
Where leadership of a political party is earned based on hard work not ordained based on lineage, where democratic impulses must replace dynastical traditions..
Where Swach Bharat is not just a artful slogan or a well choreographed photo op but is a workable goal of providing sanitation to all.. where cleanliness begins at home and in the neighbourhood..
Where the fight against corruption doesn’t stop at the gates of the well connected and powerful.. where one man’s bank loan default doesn’t become the next man’s loan restructuring..
Where I can invite a Pakistani friend home to dinner without being dubbed anti national.. where no Kashmir solution can be arrived at through the gun, where there must be zero tolerance for mindless violence..
Where judges provide justice and teachers an education, doctors don’t cheat patients, builders don’t dupe home owners and contractors build pucca roads..
Where traffic rules are followed, where public transport is improved, where railway bridges don’t collapse, where urban infrastructure is truly ‘smart’..
Where user friendly technology becomes an aid to all and not a privilege for a few, where our engineers are encouraged to innovate not imitate..
Where the farmers get remunerative prices for their produce without being held hostage to the middleman or monsoon pressures, where the agrarian economy is reformed and raising rural incomes prioritised..
Where kisans, doctors, scientists and soldiers are respected and honoured just as much as corporate leaders are feted and film stars and cricketers celebrated..
Where knowledge banks are valued more than bank balances, where intellectuals are not targeted, history books not rewritten, Nehru not pitted against a Patel or Bose, where ideological differences don’t set us up as ‘them’ versus ‘us’ enemies..
Where page three maybe about the rich and glamorous Indian but page one should be about the deserving, if at times anonymous, real Indian heroes..
Where there is less abuse on social media and more reason, less monologue and more ‘samvad’..
Where journalists cover farmer suicides and agrarian distress with the same intensity as they do a cricketer’s wedding to a film star..
Where we don’t just tell generation next what is wrong but also inspire them with what is right about India..
Where we all ask what can we do for India instead of ruing what India has failed to do for us..
Where our politicians realise they are meant to serve not rule us, where a people-centric leadership realises that humility matters more than egotism, where netas learn to accept mistakes, where parliament puts national interests above competitive politics, where institutions matter more than individuals..
Where true patriotism isn’t about standing up in a cinema theatre during the singing of the national anthem but standing up for what is right and just..
Where being Indian is not about left versus right or centre or Hindutva versus secularism but about putting citizenship first, a civic nationalism that binds us all as Indians with equal rights and duties… where the ultimate holy book is our multi faith constitution..
Into that ‘new’ India and heaven of freedom let my great country awake..
Happy New Year!!