India at 70

India at 70

India celebrates Azadi 70. Seven decades in the life of a nation may not tell you the whole story but certainly indicates the contours of its progress so that we can learn to move ahead.

India celebrates Azadi 70. Seven decades in the life of a nation may not tell you the whole story but certainly indicates the contours of its progress so that we can learn to move ahead. The country began its journey with the regrettable partition. The period of violence and distress had an agonising impact on Indian society and polity. But, the nation resurrected itself from the tragedy to preserve the idea of India. Still, the challenge to its plurality and diversity remains grim. The nation should be determined to preserve true character of India.

The nation still grapples with the great Indian paradox. Achievements galore. Deficiencies still glare at us. The tale of two nations perplexes. As the legendary writer Mahasweta Devi so movingly describes, “…a bullock cart is India just as much as is the latest Toyota or Mercedes. Illiteracy haunts us, yet the same India produces men and women at the forefront of medicine, science and technology. Eight-year-old children toil mercilessly, facing unimaginable working conditions and abuse as child labourers.

That is India. On the other hand, there is another lot of eight-year-olds who spend their time in air-conditioned classrooms and call their mothers at lunch-break using their personal mobile phones. That too is India.” The successful corporate CEOs take pride in earning whopping salaries even as minimum wages are not implemented across several sectors. The bright and the brilliant Indian sets Silicon Valley on fire. But India continues to disappoint in educational outcome due to appallingly low levels of learning.

The winds of cultural change sweeps Indians off their feet, thus the ‘khadi sari is India just as the mini skirt and the backless choli is.’ The dominant cultures marginalise the subaltern. The conspicuous consumption of the microscopic opulent is disturbing. Much more convulsing is to see how millions toil in the harsh economic landscape for surviving day to day. Some are possessed beyond acceptable. Many remain dispossessed that is egregious.

Independent India is a confluence of castes and computers. The wonderful skyscraper and a dilapidated school building converge at the road. Billions of tonnes of food rot in ostentatious parties even as conditions of semi starvation and hidden hunger pester. Science and superstition coexist. Floods and drought are twins. Development and deprivation share the story. Exciting growth rates cheer, the abominably low levels of human development shocks us. Democratic India inspires. Yet, its deficit haunts.

The story of Indian independence is a tapestry of bouquets and brickbats. To quote Mahasweta Devi again, India that is so chaotic. So calm. So flexible. So rigid. So rich. So poor. So understanding. So easy to be misunderstood. After all, there are many Indias. Simultaneous. Even parallel. At 70, let’s feel proud of our grandeur. Let’s introspect on our non-success. Nothing happens unless we know how to chew the cud.

As we ruminate, Gurudev’s verses reverberate, “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high, where knowledge is free…where tireless striving stretches its arms toward 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…”

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