A few hours before Independence day, watching Attenborough’s Gandhi, I am left with a few more observations and questions.

Gandhi united our country, north to south, east to west. He walked, people followed. Today, 62 years after Gandhi, we are falling apart. We have long forgotten that we are Indians first. We have made it very convenient to forget that. We believe it is all okay. We have let chalta hai rule us.

Before 15th August 1947 we were fighting against the British Empire. Today we have to fight not only religionism but regionism as well. The worst part is, most people do not even realise it. Do a check and you will find that somewehere in it all, we have to fight ourselves.

The leaders that we elect are not leaders, they are politicians. It is an irony that India’s last known leader never held an office.

I do not think that Gandhi was the only reason we got our independence. There were other factors too. But I admire Gandhi most because he stood up and unified the nation. Because he sparked a nation’s imagination. Because he believed that Gita or Quran, it is all okay as long as the path leads to God.

Believe it or not, The Mahatama was our last hero, our last leader.

My dream is this. I want to live in an India where her citizens think of themselves as Indians first. Where politicians are held accountable for the offices they hold. Where justice is not looked down upon. Where people are not scared to approach the court of law. Where chalta hai doesn’t work anymore.

I wonder what happened to that dream Nehru had, the one he proclaimed to the world exactly 62 years ago as the clock approached midnight, just as it is now, as I write this. The same dream in which he mentioned India’s tryst with destiny. Don’t you think we have all lost our ways?

May there be Glory for India and her citizens.

Happy Independence Day.

7 thoughts on “Independence

  1. Well, as much I admired reading your post this morning… Couldn’t help disagreeing about your statement “Believe it or not, The Mahatama was our last hero, our last leader.” though.

    It’s unfortunate that we do not (still) try to make an effort to recognise our present and keep haunting our past in search of solace.

    Before we try to define leadership and ‘national identity’, we should not for a moment forget that the interpretation of these very notions is heavily skewed and westernised.

    Why can’t there be many nations within a nation state? What stopped us from being totally annihilated by continuous assaults from alien civilizations(?) long before we were ‘India’?

    It wasn’t the superficial notion of one nation that bound us then and it won’t be today either.

    A J&K or an Assam would keep burning unless and until we recognise a great need of the hour to put so called human rights and national identity in deserved perspectives. Leadership isn’t only about compromises for the sake of it, it’s also about brutal decisiveness in face of an adament AND oblivious-to-the-realities tyrant. You want to fit any entity surrounding this nation, they’ll fit to the tee here I’d say.

    JLN was the one who started the process of transmogrifying the ‘leaders’ into ‘politicians’; and that process reached its fruition during IG’s reign. Having said that, I’m not denying the fact that he did quite a lot of good things, only that his image-centric side overrode the rational one most of the times. Blame it on education perhaps? :-)

    Whatever happened to Sardar Patel, Rajeev Motwani, JP, Anna Hazare, Baba Amte, Sachin Tendulkar, Vishwanathan Anand and a score of others?

    I’d say Sardar united India more than the folks you’ve mentioned in the post. Rajeev Motwani and Kurien (Amul) were leaders in their own right and they should inspire (if not already) the nation pretty effectively.

    JP, I do not need to say about him, only that he was working in post independence India and the oppressor was not an alien and he did pretty well to lead effectively.

    Hazare and Amte tried to address the prevailing issues and they were not an ounce less important that those being handled by the forefathers of independence.

    A very happy 62nd birthday to you India.

    To life!

  2. When in Ahmedabad, I met a number of young Indians who despite coming from Gandhi’s hometown, resented that all the glory of their nation and her independence has been attributed to this man. So many other gave their lives for the cause, they said, why do we only ever remember one man?

    Yet to me, the debate appears to be a fruitless endeavour. One leader or many, what good does this discussion bring, other than to further fractionalise?

    Happy Independence Day. Hope you had a nice break :)

  3. Vijayant a couple of points,
    I certainly did not mean to compare Sachin Tendulkar with MKG. SRT is a leader in his own right, has earned laurels for the country, will leave a void after he retires (I am myself thinking of stopping to watch cricket after him) but the kind of leader I am talking about is anything but in context of where you put SRT in.

    Amte and the likes, who knows them here in Karnataka? Who knows them in Kerala? What MKG did, as I said, was to make people stop up, pay attention and listen. Please understand that by unifying force I mean a case when every person associates some part of himself with the cause of the leader. That hasn’t happened in a long, long while.

    Nehru, Patel, well, they were followers of MKG and I put them in the same light as him. Nehru was adamant that India be a 1) Democracy and 2) Secular nation. I think those are his greatest achievements for India, of which, the benefits we have reaped POST independence and continue to reap till today.But he has been unreasonable too and one of those instances I have pointed out in my thoroughly researched article here.

    But maybe I should think a little more on this

    Indians are great followers. MKG was a good leader. He stood up. And that is what differentiates, what you call, “so many other lives” from Gandhi. Whatever happened after Gandhi’s resistance moment in South Africa was a following.

  4. Aditya you raise an excellent point in my opinion. Again, as an outsider it is hard for me to address this question without bringing an “American Bias”. Anyways, I definitely agree with you. Even in the US it isn’t enough to be indian anymore. Everyone is split into various groups Punjabi, UP, Gujurati etc.

  5. Aditya, I’d use some lines from my mail here and then may be the things get clearer as to what I mean by saying that the leaderships of two eras can not and should not be compared in order to get a fair perspective. Jaswant Singh saying today that Jinnah was as responsible for the partition of India as was Nehru and Gandhi doesn’t make him a hero, it sparks a debate (which unfortunately is not happening in the India of today and that, is the major difference between the PRE and POST independence India.)

    Regarding the results of the Nehruvian quasi Socialism, I beg to differ here, we never know whether we would have been better or worse off had someone else been at the helm of affairs (read Jinnah or Sardar.) :-)

    Now for the snippet from my mail to you…

    Leadership for me is not about just leading a people to do something that transcends general history books, I hope you concur with me. It’s a phenomenon in abstraction, a Usain Bolt today must have inspired a generation somewhere, and must have definitely gone unnoticed in another geography. So which leadership are we talking about here?

    May be you are right to an extent about Amte, I’d contest the case of Sardar Patel and Bhagat Singh though… PV Narasimha Rao is well known throughout India, now, will you go and use his name 100% to convey something through your blog with the same conviction? I infer a ‘No’ as an answer. I am making precisely the same point.

    >> Please understand that by unifying force I mean a case when >> every person associates some part of himself with the cause >> of the leader. That hasn’t happened in a long, long while.

    Coming to the above point, do you really think United Province of pre-independence India was as alienated to Bombay State as the Uttar Pradesh of today is to Maharashtra? Do you think Kannada Rakshana Vedike would have enjoyed the reign of today then? If the answer to the above questions is yes, then well, I resign to the fate AND I daresay even Gandhi wouldn’t have been able to do anything with all his gentle might. Compartmentalization of a different kind you see!

    The problems of that day and the enemy of that day cannot be compared with those of today. Think of it this way, two villages at war over petty encroachments by each other, suddenly an attack from the city; they unite against it… attack from another state, entire state starts burning effigies. Attack from Pakistan, entire nation starts lighting candles and marching.

    You are trying to compare the scales of problems of environment degradation with that of communal strife (when no language-based states were there), and hence are able to arrive at such a comparison. No doubt, these are really big problems but these should be evaluated on the basis of surrounding environment and the tools at hand to solve it.

    What Nehru did was indeed big (I won’t call him stupid yet), only that his ideas (rather definitions) were not totally in-line with the future of this country which is still trying to gain footing in the league of truly respectable nations (now, I’d certainly blame him for it.)

    My point is — leaders are there even today, the definitions and the ambit might have changed over time, but they sure are there. The problems though, are not as well defined and neither is the adversary.

  6. I watched the movie “Gandhi” for the first time when I was about 12 yrs old. Since then, I always had a desire to live his life and to understand him. How can a man, one single man, create a revolution? A few years back, I bought his autobiography and some of his other works.

    Almost every single soul in the country back then was feeling threatened, scared, oppressed; and had no where to go; tired of praying to the Gods for 200+ years and having received no respite… First and major fuelling factor to his rise.

    Abroad in a foreign country, on a hostile land, out of their comfort zone, the people coming from same culture tend to bond pretty strong. Haven’t we noticed it around us? SA was also another British Colony, and it was the culture and the national brotherhood and his knowledge of law that brought him to the Indians in SA. What he achieved in SA did carry a lot of tale all across the globe! How can the politicians in Congress having strived for years and having gained nothing, not try and en-cash an opportunity so painful in the eyes of England? Second fuelling factor to his rise.

    A country where caste and creed used to speak louder than humanity; the political leaders (read the leaders in the so called parliament during British Rule) back then used it, or shall I say, misused it to their benefit. However, one fact that did make them all come together was that of “Freedom”! Third fuelling factor to his rise.

    And the final strike of match that lit the glorious flame of revolution was his arrival in the Indian political scene from South Africa.

    He did try to make a difference in other’s life. But then again, he had his share of faults under his belly.

    We forget what he stood for, but we also have forgotten that there was another wave of revolution which was catching up, apart from the one led by MKG. Bhagat singh and Chandra Shekhar Azad. And hadn’t it been for MKG, and the Congress, and the Muslim League, which did feel threatened from this another wave of revolution, we would possibly have snatched our “freedom” from the British sooner or later.

    Hmmmm… How about we talk about this over a cuppa or a pint of beer maybe?

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