Friday, August 17, 2007
Independent India - Three Score Years
The pics taken within a span of a few minutes on the morning of August 15th.
August 15th marked the 60th year of India's Independence. The print and visual media, beginning with Time (which featured India on its cover page) considered this of monumental importance to be celebrated unlike an annual birthday. Completing 60 years in an individual's life has religious significance among Hindus. In Kerala, it is called 'shashtibdapoorthi'. When one reaches 60, the major portion of one's years on earth have passed and it is time to look back.
In a nation-state's life, 60 years is not a significant passage of time. For India, one of the world's two longest surviving civilisations with recorded history going back to 5000 years, it is only a miniscule amount of time for major transformations to appear. The Hindus are a civilisation with yugas and kalpas referring to millions of years around which human and divine destiny unfurls.
The articles, endless tele- discussions, speeches, all seen in plenty this season played on the same set of tunes which one has oft heard. India was portrayed as an emerging power, charting out its righful place on the world stage. Few mentioned that the secret of India's strength and resilence, which enabled it to survive for 5000 years when other civlisations which began along with it or after it were reduced to dust, lay in its diversity. In no other land can you find such magnificent diversity exisiting with so much harmony and with little of civilisational angst. A diversity which ranges from clothes to food to languages to rituals....the list is endless. Globalisation and Capitalism endanger our diversity and replaces it with homogenity, even when they claim to defend democracy and freedom of choice.
The civilisational crisis facing India is the destruction of its diversity. The forces unleashed by capitalism and globalisation can never co-exist with diversity and need homogenity and uniformity for their growth. In various ways, Indian's have begun to respond to this crisis. How we resolve it will be interesting.
To conclude in a personal note, on August 15th, I hoisted the national flag (see pic) in the gardens of the historic Saraswati Vilas Palace in Trivandrum where a play school, kindergarten and primary school function. The little children sang patriotic songs and we distributed sweets to mark the gaiety of the ocassion. Speeches were dispensed with.
But when I emerged out of the Palace on to the road, this sight of an haggard old man fast asleep on the pavement, all his wordly belongings filled in two sacks, touched me. What does 60 years of Independence and India's emergence as a global power mean for him? Dear reader, can you tell me, please!