The Times of India
15 August 2007
It's a wonderful feeling being 60 and going strong. Good to find that the whole world looks at us with admiration. Certainly Bharat that is India has once again become a land of hope and immense possibilities. In spite of inefficient governance, a blinkered polity that doesn't own India and a hundred other reasons to complain, we have risen like the phoenix showing our civilisational strength and a will to prove the Geeta's message -- that wherever there is dharma (righteousness), there is victory -- true. The only thing we have lost is respect for the politician and trust in the government's efficacy. The story of India's progress is a saga of peoples' power and a will to move ahead despite netas and all other odds.
August 15 also happens to be Sri Aurobindo's birthday, the great revolutionary seer who foretold India's destiny thus, "India of the ages is not dead nor has she spoken her last creative word; she lives and has still something to do for herself and the human people. And that which must seek now to awake is not an anglicized oriental people, docile pupil of the West and doomed to repeat the cycle of the Occident's success and failure, but still the ancient immemorable Shakti recovering her deepest self, lifting her head higher towards the supreme source of light and strength and turning to discover the complete meaning and a vaster form of her Dharma."
A long range traveller never gets into small squabbles on the way; like Arjuna's concentration on the eye of the fish, a nation too does well if her targets are ambitious, high and instruments trustworthy. Just ignore the dwarfs in our Parliament and parties, the wind of change is blowing, bypassing them and in Indian interest. The strides that our people have made in medical sciences, technology, bio- sciences, engineering, global industrial empires, energy and defence are unbelievable, even though we would have liked a bit more here and there.
No other nation has ever been tormented so much and or so long as ours, yet, no other nation can claim to have preserved her inner core's sanctity and the fire like we have.
We fought wars and won. We shattered the Islamist barbaric arrogance on December 16, 1971. Cared for the West's arrogant sanctions neither in the Pokharan of 1974 nor in that of 1998. Our girls and boys studied in village schools and built up empires of knowledge and acumen around the globe.
True, we lost a major part of Kashmir; saw half-a-million Hindus turning refugees in their own motherland, a bloody Jihad and a bloodier Left extremism. We saw illiterate and semi-literate deciding the fate of the nation through sackfuls of hot money, but Parliament's unanimous resolve to take back lost territories is alive still and we have witnessed many political crooks behind bars and others waiting for their moment of truth. The new trends in media invited the wrath of the traditionalists, like the metric system was frowned upon by anna-pai-seer generation, but it has set the tone for the youngest nation on this planet and the new vibrations of Gen X can also be seen finding solace in Sanskrit, Yoga and Sanatan Dharma with a pride that was hard to find since the days of Raj Raj Chola or Shivaji.
Nowhere in the world would you find a mosque, a Jain temple, a Shiva temple, a church and a Gurudwara all within 500 yards from where the Prime Minister addresses the nation - the ramparts of the Red Fort overlooking all these major places of faith in one row. Our pride in being a Hindu majority nation is best expressed through a space and a respect for all -- unlike what we see in Islamic nations or in a Communist regime.
We were partitioned in 1947 to gain a truncated Independence, yet look at the land parted for being a different religionist. That was further divided into two, none has a stable democratic polity; revenge, killings, intolerance, a medieval mentality and military interventions mark their map and while one is known as an NGO country, the other as Washington's extended state.
We are unique in every sense of the term. We negotiated a nuke deal so hardy, it won admiration from "the arch foes" too and one of them quipped if anything is criticised by Pakistan, China and the Communists, be sure that it serves best our national interest. Still, we must keep our options open. Like blind faith, sometimes 'anti-anything that Communists say' can also be wrong like their blind anti-Americanism. Our security concerns alone should guide us to judge the soundness of any deal.
This is the only nation on this earth where there is an unbelievable continuity of traditions, daily household rituals and languages for the last five thousand years and more while other civilisations have become bound in books and libraries.
One thousand years we spent in fighting, to keep our soul and body intact, to keep the saffron flag flying high in various areas and we did it valiantly. Pioneers in science, technology, medicine and architecture, our saffron fragrance has permeated the entire east Asia, China, going beyond Korea up to the Mayans and Mesopotamians.
A recently published book The Pride of India (Samskrita Bharati) is a must read for anyone proud of being a citizen of this land. Contributed by some of the most eminent scholars in science, history, archaeology and ancient scriptures it tells point by point, word by word, our ancestors' great achievements in mathematics, metallurgy, life science, town planning, surgery, algebra, trigonometry, astronomy etc, winning laurels from scientists of AEC and IT wizards alike.
Our Tatas, Kumarmangalams, Azim Premjis, Mittals, Mahindras, Dhoots and Big B's legendary roles are writing another book of contemporary achievements for us. We make the best of films and the worst of them too, have the most exhilarating free space of creativity and though preachers on high-pedestals sometimes give the worst models of indiscipline too, yet the trains move with a better track record, highways are laid, most ambitious freight corridors are planned, bio products find a big market, experiments in retail set new trends, spiritual masters link nirvana for the soul with the nation's new rise, SEZs are becoming a reality and though Nandigrams remain a bad unacceptable patch, the farming sector will never be the same again in the next decade and farmers' suicides will be avenged by an agrarian facelift brewing underneath.
Not so bad for a nation which was never looked upon as a land of the capable by colonialist butchers and their cigar puffing bullies like Churchill, who predicted the most humiliating future for us.
In spite of a deep-rooted inferiority complex, a lack of solidarity --remember we provided men and facilities to the invaders and killed our own kith and kin at their orders to earn a few annas and lost our education system (before yielding to the British we were more literate and knowledgeable than the entire West was) -- we produced a Gandhi, the most admirable icon of peace and non-violence the world recognises and restored a pride in being an Indian.
Though we have our quota of problems and disagreements too - a leadership negotiating Kashmir's honour and damaging the Ramsethu, a state soft on terror, a prejudiced media, an academia in perpetual self denial and a people driven by caste and sectarian concerns -- yet if we have crossed the 60th milestone so successfully in spite of such odds, no power on earth can stop us from a total recovery and becoming the supreme centre of strength and achieving that ultimate might that provides succour to the noble and fills hearts of the wicked with fear.
The main focus has to be on attaining military supremacy. The world respects the powerful and a confident nation. Those who go begging for others' support get ridicule. We have learnt it the hard way. Friendly ties with China and East Asian countries, a working strategic partnership with the West and Russia, a strong will to take on terrorism are needed. A stable economy and well-oiled infrastructure, a service sector believing in excellence and enough technological and science colleges to empower the nation with capable minds and hands would fuel the growth engines further.
Hope for the best and be ready to face the worst. A Gilgit regained and a highway connecting Skardu to Kanyakumari, a channel from Chennai to Port Blair, a friendly Bangladesh providing a corridor to link Kolkata and Silchar via Sylhet, a Tawang to Thiruvananthapuram and Itanagar to Okha expressway, a ban on extremist organisations espousing the cause of ideologically "friendly" foreign powers but hurting their own Swades , a ruthless tit-for-tat policy against cowardly violence of the Islamists, North East insurgents and the Maoists, a time-bound programme to ensure the safe and honourable return of Kashmiri Hindus back home, getting away with the two flags and separate constitutional provisions for J&K, a uniformly applicable code of law and identifying ourselves as Indians first and Indians last in a perfect Chak De India spirit -- if these and some more are the dreams, we can hope to materialise them too. A big shabash to Shahrukh for giving us such a wholesome inspirational entertainment on the 60th Independence Day.
And there across the border, nobody had imagined that a Pakistani would make a film like Khuda Kay Liye, a strong dig at Islamist extremism, yet it happened and has done well. If people and leaders of the social sector can change and brave the wicked there, we too can move forward in the direction of social harmony and empowering the disadvantaged, eliminating extreme ideologies through a collective effort. In fact it has to happen as the quintessential Indianness, the Hindu ethos, abhors obscurantism and intolerance fundamentally.
The Taslima-tormenters represent a defeated Mafiosi of the Jihadi variety reviving the ugly memories of the Rajakar days and the foreign element in our midst, which may create a bubble but remains unsustainable in the long run.
This is the time when we must shun all hatred for the ideologically different people; let Bharat be our god, our ultimate symbol of faith and a reference point of united colours of our existence, let us recognise contributions of all belonging to different hues, with a resolve to work together for a greater tomorrow. Because the nation belongs to us all -- every shade and colour and voice within the constitutional framework.