India is a land of paradox! We have people belonging to a multitude of faiths who profess and practice their different religions as differently as they see fit. And, of course, to add to that…we have a whole pantheon of Gods and deities, spread across these multi-faceted faiths. Not to mention, we speak more than a 1000 different languages (in fact, the 1961 census of India had listed 1,652 languages to be precise).
In fact, we have the greatest linguistic diversity than any other country in the world (source: BBC). The reason it is an important point to ponder, is because most of the India as we know today has been drawn and re-drawn, simply on the basis of the languages spoken in a particular region [sadly, we still continue to draw fresh lines on our map, every now and then…forever demanding for more). In fact, language is one of the main reasons why India is called a sub-continent (that is, a whole continent inside a single country). But this diversity comes with its own set of problems…but first let us address the elephant in the room.
In fact, not just in terms of language and faith, we all differ from each other even when it comes to our colour and complexion. And all you need to do is to simply take a virtual tour across the length and breadth of India…where we see a whole rainbow of colours! People who are the fairest of them all…people who are as dark as the the darkest night…people who glow as bright as wheat. In other words, the colour palette of our people ranges from across an entire spectrum, ranging from a complexion that is as pale as snow and as dark as a raven.
I know what you’re thinking…why am I even talking of colour and race (especially at the risk of “sounding racist”)? The truth is, whether we talk about it or not, we are all different from one another. Unfortunately, when that happens, it is difficult to relate to each other and we start existing in ghettos and silos. This is why, we see the intense regionalism in the country. In fact, to be completely honest with you, I hated it every time my non-Hindi-speaking friends started conversing in their own regional languages (aka the “mother-tongue”) the minute they met one another. They seldom cared that their friends in the group neither spoke nor understood the language.
In fact, sadly…but as was expected…none of those people remained our friends for long. They choose to hang out with people who hailed from their own regions, followed their own customs and shared the same regional identity. I have always wondered (as I wonder even now)…is my identity solely my state?!? Actually, don’t even bother answering that question, for it is solely rhetorical! Truth is…I am a Bohemian! I am an Indian! I don’t have a regional identity!!!