The Indian Passport: More than a Document

As I walked to the park for my morning run today I crossed the Civic Centre parking area. They had a sign which said “Citizenship Parking”.  It meant that many who have applied for British Citizenship will be taking their Oath and pledging their allegiance to their new Country and her Queen. Hence the need for extra parking space today. I saw many Indians walking in, dressed in their best. And all I felt was deep sadness, a sense of loss and failure.

Indian PassportI have always been Patriotic. I almost did not marry the love of my life because he was planning to move to the US. I was one of the biggest reasons why he chose to stay with an Indian Company at a time when it was a piece of cake for anyone in IT to move to the US. Happily enough as destiny would have it, we have travelled far and wide with that Indian Company and on our Indian Passports.

A few years back, a younger, more hot headed me could not understand why people chose to give up their Indian Passports. It made me angry and resentful. I wanted to shout (ridiculously enough) Bharat Mata ki Jai and Vande Matram in their faces. I wore my Indian Citizenship as a bright red cape around my shoulders, if not a halo on my head. In my mind those who chose to give up their Indian Citizenship, were abandoning their Country of birth. I saw it as an easy way out. Cowardice. Escapism. Lack of Integrity.

Life and time have enabled me to see their point of view too. And that was the start of sadness and a sense of failure.

I have seen a small town, high school graduate, a widow with a one year old child,  move to the US and live a life of dignity and relative comfort. Her daughter, going to the same school as other more affluent children and exposed to almost similar opportunities. I shudder to think how different it could have been for them in India.

I know a Mother whose child has special needs. And yet here, the child has access to the best services and most importantly equal opportunities. Why will she go back to a Country where meeting the most basic needs of her child like access to schools, public places will be a huge challenge for her?

Another friend works hard to meet ends meet. She is a single parent with a job which does not pay much. Yet her child attends the same school as my children. The differences in our incomes has not prevented her child from getting quality education. Going back would mean sending the child to a Government run school. The state of our government run, subsidized schools leaves much to be desired.

Different people, different reasons. I try to and understand their reasons. Sometimes its about money and opportunities, and more often its about lifestyle and easy access to basic services. Albeit some reasons of ‘practicality’ and ‘convenience’, I will never understand. Since to me, my passport is more than a document.

The anger has gone, leaving behind a sense of shame and failure. I feel, I failed all these people who do not want to live in my country anymore.
Me and my Nation have also failed those, who live in my country, but still hang onto their Foreign Passports like a security blanket. My Nation has failed to win their trust.

I wonder how we reached a point, where we congratulate others on acquiring a new Citizenship status and actually celebrate it.
I secretly hope for the day when my children who are naturalized American Citizens, having been born there, as adults will choose Indian Passports over their American ones for a love of the country.

India_loveFood, water, security, health,education and equal opportunity is what every man wants. I do not blame all those who give up their Indian passports. If man is in a fight or flight mode he can never develop. And every man has a right to live and in a place of his choice.

Having said this I will not lessen the work and sacrifices of all those who have done so much for India. Those friends, relatives and acquaintances who work in different sectors, working hard to make a difference. They had a choice and they chose to do this. I live in awe of them.

I cannot undermine individual responsibility for the state of my Nation. One of my nightmares is being driven to a situation, where I am forced to seek refuge or citizenship in a country other than my country of birth. I see enough people at work who have been driven out of their lands, uprooted, lost and yearning to return. I am grateful for the the choice and the freedom to live in my homeland. And even more grateful to  the people who make this a possibility.

I hold onto my Indian Passport proudly. I am still not in a place where I take it lightly. My identity and my passport has given me much. I am proud of it. My Nation is my Mother…chaotic but mine.

My Passport has given me strength to face racist barbs head on. I will not cower because I begged you to take me in. I belong to India and I am here only for a reason. It gives me these words. A Voice. A Stand.

Durlabham Bahrate Janama…its a rare privilege to be born in India. I truly believe that. I am grateful for being born in my country and into my Philosophy. But I wait and work towards a day when the Indian Passport will be cherished and sought after.

So I maybe happy for people and my many friends because they are getting what they wanted, but I do not have the heart to congratulate them on this day.

Published in the third Edition of Magazine

About Manu Khajuria

Graduated from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University and completed my Masters from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. I have traveled extensively and proud of my Indian and Dogra roots. I consider Vedic Philosophy and Faith my rock and guiding force.I presently live in London.

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