The rains that poured across Tamil Nadu and especially in Chennai brought unprecedented hardship to the city. However, as the skies opened up, the deluge caused another opening which was that of people’s hearts.
Following the news on TV from Jeddah, reading the tweets and checking Facebook, I could not help but notice how this calamity also brought with it cohesion. It created a people’s movement. The floods created a race for survival as rising water levels submerged cars and trucks and reached first-floor apartments.
But the deluge and the battering winds did not dampen the spirit of the people. They stretched out their hands and banded together to face this natural onslaught. Temples, mosques and churches welcomed people of all faiths. Houses, offices and any safe place of refuge received with open hearts and arms those escaping the raging waters. People shared their limited resources with strangers. No names were asked; whether you were a Ram, Rahman, Joseph or Singh you were accepted.
This is the beauty of India, a vast country of various languages and ethnic groups. In times of adversity, the Indianness comes out. And perhaps this adversity can lead to further unity and be a showcase and a mirror to other parts of India where the harbingers of hate and division are stoking flames that could engulf the country in a situation that may, God forbid, cause irreparable damage to this beautiful mosaic.
India belongs to all. No one has a monopoly as the Indian Constitution clearly states. The beauty of India lies in its secularism. However, for friends of India, it has been painful to observe events and utterances by some self-styled “leaders” who are beating the drums of communalism and superiority. They talk about patriotism as they burn and loot. They chant this mantra as they lynch innocents. They forget that as Samuel Johnson said: “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”.
And that is what they are. Any Indian, of any faith, who works against the overall interest of a progressive India is a traitor to the ideals of Gandhi and is making a mockery of all the people who lost their lives in the struggle for freedom.
As Chennai has shown, unity, compassion and empathy are the need of the hour. The real challenges of India are poverty, disease, corruption and the deteriorating environment. That is what the focus should be on.
Overcoming these challenges can only be done when everyone feels that they are part of this great nation, forged together as a unit and proud of the heritage of centuries.