For A 68th Independence Anniversary
I borrow this title from Osho’s book India My Love – Fragments of a Golden Past (Hind Pocket Books 1996). India continues to fascinate since time immemorial. From the time that Megasthenes from Greece, Fa Yien, Hiuen Tsang, Yijing from China and Al Biruni, Al Masudi, Islamic savants travelled to India in search of knowledge.
From VS Naipaul’s A Wounded Civilization to a nuclear power and serious IT player, Indian civilization has navigated to the post-modern era and now moves into a futurist destiny. .Like its ancient sacred river Ganga, India is tantalising, mesmerising as well as alluring. Revered as Bharat Mata, Mother India by Indians including the 30 million strong diasporic peoples as well as innumerable non-Indians, she continues to cast a spell. Insaisissable as the French would put it. The ancient Indian sub-continent was identified as a region of historic trade and vast empires.
India’s image as an underdeveloped country, the land of Maharajas, snake-charmers and the rope-trick gradually has given way to that of a vital pulsating global player, with a major role in steering international policy, impacting the international polity and global markets.
British Raj and The Setting Sun
When Europe entered India, a new attitude developed. The British administrators saw a new conquest in India: the British Raj or simply the Raj. The British Empire acquired new prestige and the vastness of a sub-continent with – to them – its strange peoples and tongues. Britannia ruled India and the waves where the sun never set. To the ever-thirsty scholars of Europe like Max Muller, George Grierson, Romain Rolland, Alain Renou and Alain Danielou, Indology would take a new dimension. The study of India’s rich linguistics, ethnography, philosophy and sacred texts would lead to the discovery that Sanskrit is the mother of Indo-European languages. The sluice gates to a new culture of learning and knowledge would open wide to the West.
But the sun did set. The Indian Ocean waves bid good-bye to the British. When they felt they could no longer hold on to the huge sub-continent, its exchequer having been exhausted by World War II, Prime Minister Clement Atlee announced in February 1947 that the British Government would grant full self-governance to British India by June 1948. Agitations for Independence had for sure started way back with the first war of Independence of 1857 followed by the All India Congress with Mahatma Gandhi leading the Independence Movement, without forgetting the contribution of Subhas Chandra Bose. In fact, Independence came by 15 August 1947 with the tragic partitioning of India – a House Divided.
Tryst with Destiny
Thus the Constituent Assembly met for its fifth session at 11 pm on 14th August in the Constitution Hall in New Delhi. The session was chaired by Rajendra Prasad from Bihar, who would become the first President of the Republic of India on 26 January 1950. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister delivered his famous Tryst with Destiny speech proclaiming India’s Independence.
“Long years ago, we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge…At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom….” Nehru added that “a moment comes, which comes rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.”
For an anecdote of this historic episode it is said in ‘Freedom at Midnight by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins (Simon and Schuster: 1975) that at the stroke of midnight on 15 August 1947 when Louis Mountbatten, Viceroy who became the Governor General of the new Government, would ask for his list of Cabinet Ministers, in his haste Nehru would hand over to him a blank sheet of paper…. So elated he was at the historic tryst with India’s destiny.
Mark Twain: India-Cradle of the Human Race
If Mark Twain was intrigued by Mauritius’s dazzling pristine beauty in the 19th century, he was still more so by India’s fabled immensity and diversity. Mark Twain wrote in More Tramps Abroad in 1897: ”This is India! The land of dreams and romance… It was the land of fabulous wealth but also of fabulous poverty he wrote. He saw India as a ‘country of a hundred nations and a hundred tongues’… but also ‘a cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great grandmother of Tradition….’ He concluded that India ’is the one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the globe combined’.
India is a Metaphor
Why indeed has India through the ages from its hoary past continued to hold such a sway over the whole world? Osho, the great modern philosopher and Guru sums it thus in his book ‘India My Love – Fragments of a Golden Past’ – It is not just geography or history. It is not only a nation, a country, a mere piece of land, it is something more: it is a metaphor, poetry, something invisible but very tangible. It is vibrating with certain energy fields which no other country can claim. That indeed is the magnet that pulls the mighty and the less mighty to India’s bosom. There is always this binding undercurrent of one absorbing overpowering unified culture that produces the great civilizational ethos. India is a poem, an epic at that.’
India is certainly an eternal journey. It stretches from eternity to eternity. Today Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister carries on this same message that inflames the world’s imagination from USA to Japan, to China to Mongolia that ‘the destiny of India is the destiny of the whole of humanity’.
Shashi Tharoor’s Revelations
On 28th May 2015, the Oxford Union at the University of Oxford held a debate on the motion ‘This house believes Britain owes reparations to her former colonies’.
Indian politician and writer Shashi Tharoor, who was the Chief Guest at the commemoration of the 175th anniversary celebrations of the advent of Indian Girmitias to Mauritius was one of the proponents at the Oxford debate.
Shashi Tharoor said that at the beginning of the 18th century, India’s share of the world economy was 23rd %, larger than all of Europe put together. But by the time the British left India, its economy had dwindled to a mere 4% or lesser. Why? Many people argue that the British had contributed to India’s development. But according to Tharoor, India was in fact governed for the benefit of Britain. India was indeed the Sone ki Chidia, tantalizing by its fabulous wealth. For 200 years when Britain rose as the ruler of the waves, for whom the sun never set, this tremendous rise was financed by its depredations in India. India became Britain’s biggest cash cow, the biggest purchaser of British goods. He said: ‘We literally paid for our own oppression.’ Indian textiles were destroyed. The raw material cotton of India served to feed the newly developed manufacturing of textiles in Britain which was then sold back to India herself!
Asia’s Rising Super Power
But India being the great Eternal Mother with her ancient wisdom and philosophy has forgiven. The seventh largest country in the world, India with its 1.2 billion people today is the largest democracy on the planet. India’s economy is the world’s seventh largest with US $ 2.306 trillion as at April 2015 (International Monetary Fund’s report). It is the world’s third largest economy with US $ 7.996 trillions by Purchasing Power Parity (PPP).
India’s abundance and burgeoning middle class are an asset towards making her along with China one of Asia’s two superpowers. With the market-based economic reforms of 1991 brought by Manmohan Singh’s bold stand and clairvoyance, India is one of the world’s fastest growing major economies today.
The Indian Miracle
As far as innovation is concerned, India lies much ahead of several advanced economies. By 2030 the world would be watching the Indian miracle, for India holds the largest number of young people avid for the fulfillment of their dreams of a better world. The technology savvy entrepreneurs and fast globalized firms make of India the second most favourable outsourcing destination after the USA. India has one of the world’s most advanced sophisticated financial markets. It has the third largest standing army in the world, whose navy prowess at security manoeuvres in the Indian Ocean was displayed by INS Teg recently in our maritime waters. Unlocking India’s potential is the new script being written by India’s fifteenth Prime Minister. That is why the intrepid Narendra Modi continues to be wooed and respected in the world, bent as he is to take forward the aspirations and ambitions of India’s common man forward.
- Published in print edition on 14 August 2015