When I came into being, our beloved country was 38 yrs old, & in its infancy .. 34 yrs fast forward when I’ve already lived half of my life ( according to current life expectancy limits, though my mother thinks I’ll live for centuries), it is still a toddler. Yes, 72 yrs in the life of a nation is not too long, and in the prism of history for a country that has recorded chronicles of over 4000 yrs, it is on a relative scale, shorter than 15 minutes if all of it were to be squeezed in 24 hours. Given that, what we’ve achieved as a nation is nothing short of admirable .. we must stand in respect for all of us because each one of us has contributed in our own unique ways in making it, what it is today! (applause .. applause)
Much like our own life .. our country is also in every way imaginable our own making, completely!
For all that is right .. we can pat ourselves on the back and for everything that doesn’t feel quite the same .. we need to look ourselves in the eye and question why? Irrespective of our political affiliation, religious identity, regional recognition or personal belief systems .. we are just as much responsible.
The question that we need to really ask ourselves is what is India to us, today if being independent means anything .. what is it and what is that we’re willing to do to make it work; to our taste and liking. We will need to take a break from living between reportages and phases of festivities to create time and atmosphere needed to confront ourselves with this important question.
Our septuagenarian nation has come of age; in words of our Prime Minister, from fragile five we have undertaken the journey of becoming the 6th largest economy in the world. Such a progress couldn’t have been possible without hard work and selfless service of many unsung heroes. The tale of India is an unending series of untold stories of struggle, glory, pride, and devotion .. details that will never come to the fore but its cumulative impact is seen and felt by all. Both successes and failures are relative, and so is freedom!
Our great nation is free .. a lot more than many Arab and South African countries and a little less than the western world ; we aren’t any less sovereign than any recognised country of the world, the comparison that I bring here has got more to do with utility of day to day freedom and openness that we get to exercise. It is not always a bad thing to be wherever we are. Our transformation has been every bit so as much dramatic as it has been wholesome, from being an agrarian economy, we had our little affair with industrialization for a few decades and lately we have been making great strides in information technology and services with a very solid backing of start ups, mostly internet based and into consumer market. India in the last decade has created more billionaires than it has ever done in the past. However, what Dr. Tharoor once said in his famous speech in the UN is also true. He had said India is such a diverse country that for anything that you say about it .. opposite of it is also true.
As a country, we are also among nations with the highest concerns on infant mortality, malnutrition, poverty, lack of healthcare and sanitation, social inequality, economic disparity and gender bias. Latest world hunger index houses india’s name at a position that is nothing to be proud of; but then for an infant to have achieved what it has is not all that bad. When you have a landmass that is 7th and a population which is only 2nd to the most populous with a ton of diversities, to lead – it is not easy to bring uniformity and make sure that everything keeps progressing at the same rate. Some indicators will move ahead at a greater pace than the others and we have be to accepting of that. As long as nothing is being ignored willfully or mistakenly forgotten.
India is what Indians will make of it .. it is a choice that you and I make everyday .. when we think and also when we take actions.
Vast majority of leaders: political, bussiness and even spiritual (yes, Baba’s have a view too and why not?) since last general election have given the idea of “New India” a lot of time and mention in their public speeches. Because I’m a student of history it is my cardinal responsibility to bring facts to the fore. The term “idea of India” was coined by freedom fighter, writer, poet, statesman par excellence and India’s first prime Minister: Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru. In fact, the term “New India” is also his. He has written extensively about it in his correspondence with the great Mahatma, Sardar Patel and Rabindra Nath Tagore. Pandit Ji also wrote many letters to Englands’s contemporary leaders, on one occasion even to the queen, elucidating the Idea of India and also the new India! Little mention is given to him for having acted upon on his ideas ( IIT, IIM, ISRO etc) .. but we all understand why is that so, don’t we.
The architect(s) of modern India beyond doubt was Pt. Nehru’s himself, his cabinet, the constituent assembly and everyone else who took Bapu as their moral guardian and worked on his ideals and principles – to give our glorious past a way into the future and most of what we see today is an extension of that, actually a hell lot of it, 95%!
“The Idea of new India” is a valid, vital and also a powerful concept, anything and everything that is alive needs reproduction to remain in life ..it is true for a nation too. We do need to renew our commitment towards our motherland, every now and then to see which way are we going to steer this nation into. I’m not someone qualified or even capable of giving the idea of new India .. its complete contours, but because I’m as much an Indian and therefore, must have a view.
In the new India .. we must have these from the old India continue, is what I’d like to argue!
Regard: For our glorious past, we must make concerted & continuous effort to protect our history .. the generation ahead of us deserves to know the truth, whole of it. They need to know about Gandhi, Chandra Sekhar Azad as much as they should know about Mughals, & the Ashokas. History must not be allowed to be retold to make a political argument or emboss someone’s contribution beyond his deed or to silent the others. You may choose to not follow or like Nehru but you can’t take him out of the textbooks, that will be an injustice to the Idea of new India. Because we became a nation on the principles of truth and non violence. So we gotta tell the truth!
Respect : We have to respect everyone, even our opponents. Gandhi ji once said, the kind of freedom that disallows or disincentivizes my opponents from airing their difference with me when I’m in power .. such freedom is undesirable and I wouldn’t want it. ( these weren’t his exact words, I’m telling the story with my own expression but the meaning has been kept intact). So, we gotta respect difference of opinion even in the new shiny India. We do not have to agree with whatever we do not like or find not right .. but we must not gag others.
Responsibility: All of us have the responsibility to live up to the ideals on which India was formed. We became one on the guiding principles of plurality. “Progress can be peaceful” should be pursued as a core belief, it doesn’t have to be strenuous and fierce at all times. And to make it happen, we only have to accept that the dignity of humans is sacrosanct. Civility has been relevant in the old India and will be useful in the new India too, must be continued with. It is upon us to be welcoming of change, accepting of diversity that surrounds us in all directions. No nation can exist without conforming to a set of laws, therefore we must remain lawful, in all that we do, big and small.
Democracy is an entrant from the Modern India and it is an amazing thing ; we must take it forward to all shapes and corners of new India too.
With these thoughts .. I’d like to wish each one of you a very happy Independence Day.
I leave you with a video message from Indians who have to say what freedom means to them
See you in the next one!