The name “India” conjures up a cornucopia of images in the minds of Indians and Americans alike. And in recent years these images have likely changed dramatically for both groups. I pondered what images best represent modern India recently when I gave a presentation to theWorld Affairs Councils in Denver and Colorado Foothills. In preparation for the event, I chose some images that I thought represented the India they had known from the messaging in mainstream media – these included some almost humorous clichés such as call centers, snake charmers or now the Tata Nano. And to be sure, some of the clichés had some basis in fact: Yes, India does have call centers and you’ll see the occasional snake charmer on the street, but not nearly as many of those as Tata Nanos. But, if you look hard enough, you might find those things (or their equivalents) in any country.
Therefore, in my mind, they do not distinctly represent modern India. I went on to explain that while those images are true when describing India, so much more is also true. And I realized that what was missing from the images available was the inspiration that I had seen in each of my past several trips back to India. I figured, who best to capture that inspiration than the people on the ground in India. Let them show the world what about India inspires them. This, in turn, inspired me to launch the India Inspires Photo Contest.
In the time since I first came to the United States, India has grown in ways that were unfathomable in the time of Gandhi. And while one could interpret that to refer strictly to the economic sphere, I know from recent experience that the current vibe in India transcends economic data. India today is a land of opportunity –in the broadest and greatest sense of the word. I mean that the young demographic has seen horizons unknown by the generation before them. Advances in the fields ofself-governance, artistic expression, educational opportunity and exploration in the fields of science have launched a new era of thought.
So, to those of you who have been to India, or currently live there, I would encourage you to share your vision of what inspires you. And the next time any of us are discussing modern India, we will have an entirely new collection of images to call to mind…or perhaps to inspire us in the way that modern India inspires me.