A couple of weeks ago I was in Taiwan. It was an official trip related to my philanthropic work in Rotary. During the trip I had the good fortune of addressing Rotarians in the Taiwanese capital of Taipei. The event went well and gathered significant interest from various donors. The hospitality extended to us by our hosts is something I will never forget. Their culture is very different from our’s, but we do have spiritual ties to the land in the form of Buddhism. After the event, my wife Paola and I were invited to a formal dinner with all the leading Rotarians from the club. The dinner was spread across multiple courses and comprised of cuisine from Taiwan, Japan, China and Thailand.
Each dish was different from the other and was very much enjoyable. Everyone at the table seemed to enjoy the dinner course after course, even though the dishes that were served were very different in taste, colour and aroma. The whole experience of having such a diverse dinner reminded me of our beloved motherland. Across tens and thousands of years, after seeing hundreds of kingdoms come and go, India continues to thrive as a global symbol of unity in diversity.
As Indians, it is important for us to remember and cherish this diversity every single day and every single moment. This diversity made us who we are and it may very well be also the chink in our armour. All of my friends are aware that my wife Paola is a staunch Catholic. We got married in a time when inter-religious marriages were never a mainstream thing and it is, even so, today in some parts of the country. We respected each other as a human being and a spiritual being, and hence decided to have a Hindu wedding alongside a Christian wedding ceremony. I guess the plan was to get the blessings of as many gods as possible.
Today, after spending more than 2 decades as a happily married couple, we firmly believe that religious or political differences shouldn’t be something that divides families or societies or countries. We celebrate Eid, Diwali and Christmas with the same enthusiasm. I have also been lucky to have four Rakhi sisters, out of which two are Muslims.
Now, let’s look at it this way, just because I am a Rajinikanth fan doesn’t mean that I will fight with each and every Shah Rukh Khan fan. Just because I like idli vada doesn’t mean that I will pick a fight with everyone who orders biryani. Likewise just because I have a certain political point of view or a certain spiritual perspective, doesn’t mean that I will alienate others from my life.
The biggest reason why we have galloped ahead as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world is because we encourage diversity in thought and action. Even our political system is a melting pot of economic perspectives ranging from the far right to the centrist to the far left. It is this diversity in economic thought that has helped us take millions of Indians out of abject poverty.
But it’s a bit ironic that we divide ourselves using things that were meant to unite us in the first place. All religions preach peace and coexistence. All of them ask us to unite under a higher power and coexist as one big happy family. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, or the world is one family, is a derivative of this thought process. A very profound quote from the Quran states “And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allah, and be not divided among yourselves, and remember Allah’s favour on you, for you were enemies one to another but He joined your hearts together, so that, by his grace, you became brothers.” It is in this spirit of unity that we as a country will realize our potential as a world power and moreover as a world leader. Let us join hands to build an India that leads not by military or economic might, but by setting an example of peaceful coexistence among hundreds of religions, thousands of languages, and billions of hearts.
Photo courtesy Anthony Doudt