Unity Against the Test of Time
Times have changed, but have we?
What does unity mean? For me, an Indian living in Hong Kong, it means that we stay true to one another, stay glued to one another despite all the differences, come to the aid of one another, educate one another and go together, hand in hand as one nation. Despite our colour, race, religious belief, background and status, we all share the same Earth, which we inhabit and call as home. There is something about my homeland, India that attracts me towards it no matter how many miles I live away from it. Maybe, the essence of familiarity is what draws me to it. The feeling of acceptance and belonging is beyond unimaginable in our motherland. Because, we are not foreign to them as much as we are here in this foreign land of Hong Kong.
But this small community that we have formed here in Hong Kong has always been together. This city is a melting pot of all cultures. Would I have ever been that united with our neighbours, if I had stayed back in India, is something I think about quite often.
A nation’s unity is its strength. And at times when the nation is forced into chaos and tension, and their strength is tested, unity is what brings us and keeps us together. Hong Kong recently underwent a serious climate of political unrest which shook our roots and beliefs. The unity between people from different sectors is tainted and strained. The trust in the government and officials has been very low. Misunderstandings trickling down from top to bottom, everything has toppled down. Amidst all this turmoil, the unity shone through. A promise made was kept to make sure there was no stain that was left behind, in a place of worship that was promised to be protected. This place has never failed to amaze us all with its resilience, tolerance and acceptance. Hong Kong and India were both British colonies. They both had to struggle for their freedom and existence. Hong Kong, I would say is a microcosm of India.
India, is colourful, especially with its various cultures and traditions. No one village is the same. There is so much variance and difference within a single state, let alone, from state to state. It is welcoming and most importantly, this place lets you live. We’ve come so far from independence in 1947. But in the journey towards independence, have we become less dependent on one another and in turn, less united?
Corrupted politicians, lack of education, lack of awareness, lack of security. These are some of the main reasons hindering our development and growth. How much have we progressed from a nation that was under the British rule? To this day, I see women trembling when mentioning visiting India. “Is it safe?” they ask. I stay quiet, dumbfounded. How do I explain to them that it is not as scary as they assume it is? Or have we actually come to a point where there is no turning back regarding women’s safety and empowerment. Are we safe enough for women to roam around the streets at no particular timing without any worry? Be united, but not in a way where you gang up to snatch a woman’s dignity and honour.
If we had a chance to bump into Sardar Vallalabhbhai Patel - the first Deputy Prime Minister of India, this time and day, what would we say about our nation’s unity? Would we be proud?
Restating the words of our, “Iron Man of India”, “Manpower without unity is not a strength unless it is harmonised and united properly, then it becomes a spiritual power.” Unity is something that transcends generations. Something, which I think is vital and lays the foundation of a strong and healthy society. As beneath all these layers of coloured skin and flesh, is a soul that is demanding to be heard, a heart that still beats and a mind that is boundless. Afterall, beyond all our boundaries, we are still unified as the same race - the human race. The most intelligent species on earth, yet we still insist upon making so many blunders that divide us in a way that is beyond irreconcilable. Without the support of one another, nothing can be achieved.
Well, if I had the chance to meet our former Indian home minister now, I’d say we are pretty united - at times of crisis.
Recently, the news of Sujith Wilson, a 2 year old boy who fought for his life, 88 feet beneath the ground, shook the nation. The nation did come together to his aid. Ministers, government officials, health practitioners, construction workers and Indians from across the world only uttered the names of this toddler for five days straight. It broke my heart to simply have seen the photo of this young boy being stuck in that poorly maintained borewell. Watching his parents cry in agony and hearing his elder brother say, “I always fought with him, I never played happily with him.” “We bought matching clothes for Diwali, please bring him back.” “Hook me and let me in, I will save my brother!”, was nothing less than heart-wrenching. I understood how helpless we are as humans. Despite all the manpower, we failed to save a single life. For a country which flew rockets outside of space, we couldn’t go beneath the ground. We can’t completely put the blame on the government or people in a higher position. It was the combined negligence of people from all the sectors. Be it the parents, educators, or the government officials. They lacked unity. There were laws that were enforced and implemented for the digging of borewells, but it didn’t reach the ears of people from less privileged homes.
The nation was united when spreading the news or creating hashtags on social media, of this boy asking people to pray for him until he was found dead, five days later. The nation was united after this mishap occurred. Where was all this before it happened? Why did we fail to unite all the sectors and all our stakeholders before something of this sort happened? As much as we deny it, we still live in a hierarchical society where the decisions are taken by the ones on the top, which affects those who follow in the line. It all boils down to whether we are empathetic enough to think about how our actions will affect others. But everything is about financial growth and blooming. Though such progress is tangible and more practical to think about, it has to be built on the foundation of unity and togetherness. An idea needs the right people to take effect. Whether the death of Sujith could have been prevented still remains a mystery. But his death taught us all the importance of technological growth but mainly, togetherness. While everyone was busy pointing fingers on whose mistake it was, we failed to come up with a practical solution to save him. He didn’t leave without emphasising on tolerance and acceptance.
We were united. When the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) had failed on its mission of Chandrayaan-2, we supported them. We sent appreciation and words of encouragement through social media and formed hashtags. When news of rape and honour killings stormed and flooded news platforms, we did support them by expressing our sadness again through social media.
Times are changing, but are we?
One of the major things that divide us India, is religion. Muslims on one side, Hindus on the other. Christians, Sikhs to name a few. We always manage to dig in and find things that divide us within our religions and fight against disbelievers.
A very commendable sight was witnessed by the world when water drowned the city of Chennai in 2015. When things were getting tough, the unity between people from different religious rose. People in the mosques provided food and shelter. And the same was done by other religious places of worship. If we always focused on what brings us together rather than what divides us, our relationships could furbish themselves and flourish into better things.
If we put more focus on these things, I believe our nation’s unity can achieve greater heights:
Eradication of corruption. With a less corrupt government, there will be more transparency between the people and officials. A nation’s unity should be built off of the unity between its government and its people. Though this may be achieved only in the long term, there is no harm in taking baby steps towards it.
Do not forgo your right to vote. Choose the right candidate wisely. Choose those leaders who set people together, not against each other, so that the consequences would not turn bad.
Eliminate or reduce misunderstanding with more transparency between the government and the public
Increase awareness and educate people from all sectors and areas regarding policies that have been enforced which may be vital for their protection and security.
Reinforce the obligations of leaders regarding the unity of our country.
Connect Indians who live away from home with those current citizens of India for a wider perspective on global development.
Understand one another. Reinforce tolerance and empathy. Understand religious diversity and provide practical solutions for transgressional issues.
Learn to embrace one another’s culture. To enjoy the fruits it benefits us with and to learn and understand their shortcomings.
Share knowledge and wisdom, instead of spreading hate. Have conferences on how unity can be achieved.
Provide students with opportunities where they can interact with people from different races, sectors, class and occupations.
These are some of the solutions that can promote national unity in our home. Maybe, with these solutions, we would move towards forming a truly “incredible” India.
We often overlook the effect unity has on humanity. Both its presence and its absence changes lives, irrespective of where or for whom. Unity is strength and it does not come easy. To attain perfect harmony is not easy nor can it be perfected by one person alone. It takes one entire nation to work very hard towards achieving it. It may take years, maybe even generations to find what we are looking for. But, maybe if we lay a strong foundation today, it will be easier for the upcoming generations to raise its pillars towards a more harmonious, unified and peaceful society.
Though this article was initially intended for an Indian audience, I believe all these ideas and solutions apply to countries all over the globe. A strong unified nation is one which celebrates brotherhood and togetherness. A nation which is rich in manpower, could only progress with unity. This will be a stepping stone, the first step towards a more unified and powerful nation. Though it is only at times of crises, we value and cherish this togetherness. Which is, I think it is very necessary and that is the beauty of human relationships, we cannot see others suffer and let them be as they are. Plus, it is necessary that politicians understand that whatever they say, trying to divide and put people against each other, they all have consequences. To think humanely, and to set their sights to see in the long term, should be their goal. It is our responsibility to choose the right ones.
Time will change. When will we?