India, There’s A Lot to Give Thanks For


India, There’s A Lot to Give Thanks For

Illustration: Akshita Monga/Arré

During my teenage years, the only references I had to the great American tradition of Thanksgiving, were dedicated episodes on American sitcoms. F.R.I.E.N.D.S, Seinfeld, How I Met Your Mother, all had a special Thanksgiving episode. A common theme I noticed in this strange festival was a family gathered around the dinner table, eating a huge meal. It always made me wonder, what’s the big deal? Growing up in India, we don’t need an excuse for the entire family to get together for dinner. Our Thanksgiving should be celebrated on the day we manage to skip a family get-together.

But if Thanksgiving is indeed a day to give thanks for all that we have received, India would be at loss for where to begin. With everyone threatening to burn, maim, and kill each other over pretty much anything, there doesn’t seem to be much to be grateful for. But in the spirit of the day, let’s at least try.

We can begin by giving thanks for a country which is perhaps the only place in the world where more than 700 million people voted to elect a government. Ok, that’s probably an overestimation, and sometimes we do end up electing thugs and goons to power. But a functioning democracy is a learning curve. Just ask Pakistan.

We could perhaps give thanks for ISRO’s historic PSLV-C37 mission that launched 104 satellites belonging to six different countries on a single rocket. It was a moment when we finally put our ability to stuff large numbers of people and objects in public transport to incredible use. ISRO is now adapting to the fast-food world by aiming to build a rocket that can be made in three days. In India, we will soon be able to build a rocket faster than we get a passport.

We could (and should) give thanks for the Supreme Court of India that struck down triple talaq and bid goodbye to this regressive practice. Of course, triple talaq could be confusing, what with the new WhatsApp update, where you can delete your talaq messages immediately after sending them. But while the Supreme Court fiercely stood for women’s rights, members of the Karni Sena balanced it out, openly threatening Deepika Padukone with violence. That’s always the Indian story, two steps forward, one step back.

However, we’ve made a bit of a leap in at least talking about sexual harassment. Let’s give thanks to #MeToo that exposed sexual predators faster than scams during UPA II. While brave women called out creeps on the internet, Bollywood did what Bollywood does best during times of controversy: remain mum.

Every few months, we must pause and dwell on everything that makes India great. After all, we didn’t have to suffer any shocks this November 8.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim didn’t even need to wait for #MeToo. The one-man wonder triggered his downfall all by himself. It’s another credit he can take in his next film. While we must thank the victims who came forward and the stellar judges who helped put these fraudulent babas behind bars, their online acolytes is busy making hashtags trend every day to remind us of the noble deeds of their papajis. Maybe the next MSG movie can be about criminals who try and justify their evil acts by stating other good things they have done. I already have a Bollywood actor in mind.

Let’s also give thanks for the fact that India hosted the U-17 FIFA World Cup. It was a first for us. Sure, we had to ensure the taps had running water and we weren’t overpaying for basic equipment like toilet paper rolls, like the time Suresh Kalmadi was at the helm of the Commonwealth Games. But we did it. And we did it really well, with FIFA acknowledging that India was ready to host even bigger events. Okay, we got knocked out in the group stages, but India has a long way to go in football… and athletics… and Olympic sports. Actually most sports that aren’t cricket and kabaddi. Is burning of buses to protest anything going to become an Olympic event anytime soon? Gold guaranteed.

The gold better wait, but red-tape we got to get rid of. We finally made some progress with India’s “ease of doing business” ranking. Then came the Moody’s upgrade which was followed by Indians furiously Googling what it meant. Both pieces of news were preceded by the finance ministry’s version of Blue Whale Challenge aka demonetisation and the bleak implementation of GST. The demonetisation exercise not only taught us how to take a “NO” when you give someone a ₹2,000 note, but it also helped our fitness as we stood in queues for hours.

Thanksgiving should not just be an American tradition. Every few months, we must pause and dwell on everything that makes India great. After all, we didn’t have to suffer any shocks this November 8. That alone, is enough to be grateful for.