‘Nation is an imagined community.’ A quote by Benedict Anderson. Genius man. I loved his concept. He believed that nation is a constructed community used to bring homogeneity amongst its uncontested heterogeneous populace. Its a rock solid argument. He even said that the printing press plays a huge role in keeping up the shenanigans of “national identity”.
I have read his argument, and condensed, paraphrased versions of his argument, countless times. Not just because I was fascinated. I mean, of course, there was that too. But mostly, I read his argument to USE his argument, to win arguments in general. So when I climb up that politico-philosophical horse, no one can win against me.
But lately, I have realized something. It bothers me when my country talks of division. I recently read an article in NYTimes about North and South India, and the author went on and on about how India survives as a nation habitually, by being a nation.
Logically, it makes sense. I am not blind to the discrepancies that exist between the North and the South. However, I want to point out that if being a nation is what has kept India as one nation, then therein lies our commonality. Surely, all of India believes that all of it is one nation, which is why it continues to exist being one. Isn’t that much of similarity enough?
Personally, I realize now, that a sense of community is extremely important to me. But, I am not some idealistic buffoon who does not know that South India has issues, concerns and problems that are extremely different from the problems of the North. If one uses this argument of difference, I can also point out that my issues, concerns and problems are very different from that of my mother’s. I know that logically, its a stupid argument to make. But I can’t help it. Maybe I watch ‘Community’ way too much. But why focus on differences? Why not commonalities? Of course, as an ardent admirer of literature, I understand that one needs to critique everything. I do. Honest. However, I like to believe that India can survive as one despite the fact that a nation is an imagined community, and India is way too heterogeneous.
I am a North Indian of Maharashtrian, Bengali, Rajasthani and Uttar Pradeshi descent. I have lived in South Indian city of Bangalore for the past 7 years. My South Indian friends call me Bhojpuri. North Indian ones call me Madrasi. I cannot point it out to them enough number of times that both are wrong terms. ‘Madras’ is Chennai now. and Bhojpuri is a language spoken by people of Bihar. Just yesterday, I realized I don’t want to point it out either. It doesn’t matter, you see. I am totally comfortable being neither here nor there – my heterogeneity is overlooked by people around me, who struggle to give me a homogenous identity. I am the perfect example of an imagined community.
I don’t mind being one.
Happy Independence Day, India.