The current issue of Business India (dated August 22) is an "I-Day Special". The cover story is "Proud to be Indian", and the tag line is "Indians today are comfortable being Indians, no matter where in the world they are."
(For at least the next few days, you can see the cover I'm talking about here.)
Something about that tag line gets me.
Here's the thing. I lived outside India for over ten years, through the '80s. I lived outside India again for three months in 2001. I travelled on my own outside India for over three months in 1991. I've travelled for shorter spells in various different parts of the globe. I've lived in India pretty much the rest of my young life, and travelled to various different parts of this country too.
Never once in all that stay and travel was I uncomfortable being Indian (whatever that means, anyway). Honestly, the thought didn't even occur to me.
This is hardly just me. I have innumerable Indian friends and relatives whose stories of stay and travel are broadly similar. I have never heard one of them say "You know what? I'm uncomfortable being Indian."
Over two years ago, I found Shobhaa De had said something on these lines to Tehelka: "Our self worth was in the doldrums, we used to shuffle around the world feeling ashamed of being Indians, holding out our begging bowls. The most radical change in India is our self-perception ... Today there is a new assertiveness. It's given us a spine."
I had much the same reaction then. In a column I wrote for the Hindustan Times, I asked (rhetorically, of course): "Who is this 'we' that 'shuffled around the world feeling ashamed of being Indians'?"
Similarly, who are the Indians who lived their lives feeling uncomfortable with being Indian? Who makes up this stuff about Indians feeling comfortable being Indian "today", implying that we felt uncomfortable being Indian yesterday?
Whoever you are, if you felt ashamed and uncomfortable, if you shuffled around the world carrying begging bowls, fine. But please don't presume that I felt the same way. On that count, please never speak for me.