My discovery of India
It seemed monstrous to me that a great country like India, with a rich and immemorial past, should be bound hand and foot to a far-away island which imposed its will upon her. It was still more monstrous that this forcible union had resulted in poverty and degradation beyond measure.
Rabindranath Tagore writes:
To know and understand India one has to travel far in time and space, to forget for a while her present condition with all its misery and narrowness and horror, and to have glimpses of what she was and what she did. To know my country, one has to travel to that age, when she realized her soul and thus transcended her physical boundaries, when she revealed her being in a radiant magnanimity which illumined the eastern horizon, making her recognized as their own by those in alien shores who were awakened into a surprise of life; and not now when she has withdrawn herself into a narrow barrier of obscurity, into a miserly pride of exclusiveness, into a poverty of mind that dumbly revolves around itself in an unmeaning repetition of a past that has lost its light and has no message for the pilgrims of the future.’
To my mind, India has seen and enjoyed the flowering of the world’s great traditions of philosophy, science, and art, and almost all its major religions. In other words, India is a home to all the world religions. She is a mosaic of diverse cultures, customs, creed, cuisine, color, costume, and language — and yet united, united by diversity. India had always been religious tolerant and embraced everyone including the Muslim and English invaders with courtesy and hospitality, which is a distinctive and a rare quality of accepting people from different grounds. The then people of India intermingled, inter-dined in gusto with all sects. India has enjoyed the international renown for educational universities such as Nalanda, Taxila, when Oxford and Cambridge were not even in the gleams of the founders’ eyes. These universities employed 2000 teachers and housed about 10,000 students with a library of a colossus status. There is something drone-like about the cliches about India; She has enjoyed, for long, until the beginning of 18th century, the title of world’s richest country. India is a geographical and economic entity, a cultural unity amidst diversity, a bundle of contradictions held together by strong but invisible threads. If India is such a rich and strong nation, how is it that then India became a concubine to British, to whom our forebears didn’t give much importance and snubbed it? It seems that the British succeeded in dominating India by a succession of fortuitous circumstances and lucky flukes. With remarkably little effort, considering the glittering prize, they won a great empire and enormous wealth, which helped to make them the leading power in the world. In other words, the fissiparous tendencies and sycophancy internally (this repeated in 1962 war between India & China, where India lost to China because of sycophancy in the govt.) made the British to appropriate the throne hands down. Today, one could easily say that London that is so vibrant was constructed from the money plundered and appropriated from the sweat of India’s brow.
Despite a plethora of invasions, overwhelmed again and again, her spirit was never conquered, and she remains unsubdued. About her there is the elusive quality of a legend of long ago; some enchantment seems to have held her mind. In Nehru’s words, “She is a myth and an idea, a dream and a vision, and yet very real and present and pervasive. There are terrifying glimpses of dark corridors which seem to lead back to the primeval night, but also there is the fullness and warmth of the day about her. Shameful and repellent she is occasionally, perverse and obstinate, sometimes even a little hysteric, this lady with a past. But she is very lovable, and none of her children can forget her wherever they go or whatever strange fate befalls them. For she is part of them in her greatness as well as her failings, and they are mirrored in those deep eyes of hers that have seen so much of life’s passion and joy and folly, and looked down into wisdom’s well. Each one of them is drawn to her, though perhaps each has a different reason for that attraction or can point to no reason at all, and each sees some different aspect of her many-sided personality.”
As the independent (not totally sure of this, though) India turns 71 today, unfortunately, I am more than convinced that democracy in India is only top-dressing; under its veneer lies bigotry, cynicism, cant, mediocre! However, I say with conviction that India will recover to its past glory, for she has seen such numerous instances in the past and is resilient and her spirit remains unsubdued!