Friday, 15 August 2008

Happy Birthday India!

“At the stroke of mid-night, when the world sleeps, India will wake to life and freedom.” These historic words spoken by Pt. Nehru on the mid-night of August 14-15, 1947, are perhaps one of the most recognized ones by a multitude of Indians, here and all over the world; Fascinating, I must confess, and brimming with hope and passion as well.
They did teach us our history well – cramming up dates and quotes and events, but what they forgot was to instill the basic civic sense and sensibility. They gave us the ideals, but what they forgot was the importance of practicality and action.
Did India ever really “wake up”? Was the world really sleeping? On that historic moment the world was watching India and a multitude of Indians were awake – awake with fear of blood- thirsty mobs on a rampage, awake from the fear of uncertainty of their lives. India “awoke” witnessing its partition, riots, rape, plunder and murder on a large scale.
Even today, 61 years after our proclaimed “Independence”, we are still fettered with chronic problems and obsolete ideologies. Much is said about “India Shining” in terms of its outstanding performance on various fronts, growing foreign reserves, high rate of investments etc but the bleak truth remains that we have the largest number of poor, are still grappling with saving the girl child, illiteracy, internal riots, terrorism problems and separatist movements – to name a few.
What is most appalling is that despite being the largest democracy in the world, we seem to be the most ineffective in dealing with our problems. Our parliament maybe the political shrine of the country but the conduct of our so called “elected leaders” have continuously degenerated it to a political zoo where one can see a new “tamasha” being enacted everyday; and just when you thought that the political hullabaloo had reached it’s nadir our “representatives” come up with an even baser tamasha. Sometimes I feel, we can file for a Guinness world record in political tamasha, and I am quite confidant that our politicians will definitely keep breaking their own records; the recent “cash-for-vote” scam and the Amarnath Yatra land fiasco being a case in point.
The cash for vote auctioned of the democracy as a hapless and a helpless nation watched; each seat had a tag attached to it – corruption was elevated to the status of lifestyle. The Amarnath Yatra land transfer exposed the narrow-mindedness of our “leaders”. The issue stemmed from demands to create temporary structures for pilgrims travelling to the Amarnath Shrine. This minor issue was snowballed into a huge and bloody controversy by narrow-minded politicians of Jammu and Kashmir; While Ms. Mufti and Mr. Lone made statements that they do not mind treating the pilgrims as their “guests”, Mr. Omar Abdullah went ahead and declared “hum jaan de denge par zameen nahi denge” (we will give our lives but not our lands). Someone please tell these politicians that (a) Jammu & Kashmir is one state (b) this state is very much a part of India (c) and Indian National is not a guest in his/her own country.What really appalls me is that these politicians do not mind staking the life of thousands of people for their personal ambitions!
As citizens, it seems we have grown numb. Most of us are so engrossed in our own lives that we hardly stop to think about anyone else. The general mantra seems to be “hota hai, chalta hai”. We crib, we complain, we debate on what should be but none of us seems to be bothered. Also, we have yet to overcome our prejudices of cast, creed, colour, sex and religion. We all know our rights but we also need to be aware of our duties towards our nation as a citizen. We celebrate our success but we must not forget our problems and our goal to overcome them.
India has been let down by both her leaders and her people, and we cannot shrug of this responsibility or pass on the blame; We need to re-envision our destiny and fix a new “tryst” with it.
As India enters her 61st year, here’s wishing her a brighter future, one where inspiration is accompanied by strong and sustained action, courageous and exemplary leadership and more informed, pro-active, and sensitive people.
I do hope when my India awakes, it does so, not in the darkness but in the bright dawn, as Tagore rightly said, “where the mind is without fear, and the head is held high, where knowledge is free and the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls; where words come out from the depth of truth; where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection. Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit; where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action”
And I wait patiently for my India to awake. Happy Birthday! O graceful Lady.