Fables of Nationalism

Published here: The recent hullabaloo over the Delhi Commonwealth Games has been followed with much interest in Pakistan. Many have gloated over the inability of the creaky Indian state machinery to deliver in time and address the issues of quality that became apparent with the collapse of an overhead bridge. South Asia now lives in the new information age where despite the distortions created by the mainstream media, it is difficult to hide state failures

Each story of corruption in Delhi has been greeted with a strange familiarity here. Essentially, all narratives of shining and marching India aside, the two nations remain hostage to a postcolonial state and embedded corruption. To cite Pankaj Mishra who wrote a rather scathing piece on the Games’ saga (New York Times, Oct 2, 2010):
“Two weeks ago, a huge footbridge connected to the main stadium collapsed. The federation that runs the games has called the athletes’ housing “uninhabitable.” The organizers have had to hire an army of vicious langur monkeys to keep wild animals from infesting the venues. Pictures of crumbling arenas and filthy toilets are circulating more widely than the beautiful landscapes of the government’s “Incredible India” tourism campaign.”

These issues of self-image and imagined greatness are shared woes of new nation states – India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – as they all suffer from this grandiose complex, of military and economic might over others. This is what makes such narratives so troublesome for they distort the essentials of freedom, Independence and the two Partitions of 1947 and 1971 which were all meant to lead to a poverty free and better environment for the ‘masses’. […]