To millions of people around the world, India is an enigma, born out of paradox.
India is perceived as a land of plenty, rich in natural and human resources, a country of entrepreneurs who are on the forefront of takeover bids of multinationals, a nation that has contributed to the progress of science and technology in the US and Europe and a society of people who have demonstrated the ability to preserve and promote democracy through their 68 years of political independence.
India is also perceived as a nation at crossroads, facing the challenge of lifting the lot of its millions of people living below the poverty line, raising levels of literacy, fulfilling its responsibility of finding jobs for the unemployed, improving its appalling state of infrastructure and ordering progress and prosperity to its billion plus people.
Self-styled patriots here and everywhere else would scoff at us and project the ‘Shining India’ and say how multinationals are rushing to establish their presence in the world’s largest democracy and how India leads the world.
But no nation can improve unless its people, no less journalists and analysts, subject themselves to an honest introspection. In such a mood, we would discern the difference between what has been achieved and what could have been achieved; and the level of performance against the potential.
Don’t get us wrong. We are not judgmental or cynics who decry reality. True, there is poverty, disorderliness, illiteracy and all the ailments of a society in every country of the world, including the US and even the oil-rich Arab countries. We believe India can reach greater heights of prosperity if its people would be self-critical and seek solutions to a myriad of problems that confront the nation today.
Its intelligentsia should become more proactive and lend their calibre to cleanse the polity and society of corruption that is eating into the vitals of political and other institutions, participate in lifting literacy standards and foster progress.
I remember the comments of the late V K Krishna Menon, one of the greatest sons of India, responding to my question during an interview in the 1960s: “India is not a poor country; it is a country of the poor.”
He of course meant there was a need to change in public perception of social and community responsibility and raise standards in all walks of life.
But none of the above would set aside the immense progress that India has made since it became an independence country on August 15, 1947 and a Republic less than three years later (on January 26) in 1950.
Marching towards its chosen destiny, India disparately needs its sons and daughters to promote the ideals of their forefathers, freedom fighters and leaders to make it even a greater nation.
The country needs men and women who would not just do lip service but contribute towards its continued progress and prosperity.
Hours before the dawn of independence, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (later to become the first Prime Minister of independent India) made his famous ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech at the Constituent Assembly of India in New Delhi.
“Long years ago, we made a tryst with destiny and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.
“A moment comes, which comes but 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.
“It is fitting that at this solemn moment, we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and to the still larger cause of humanity.”
India’s tryst with destiny has inspired the world.
It should inspire the Diaspora as well.
Happy Independence Day!
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru speaking as India became free on August 15, 1947
(Picture Courtesy: Indian Express)