Friday, August 15, 2008

Happy Birthday, India

Today, 15 August, is India's 61st independence day. An ancient land but a young political entity. Is this one any different from any of the earlier ones? Not really...except that this is the first since I started my blog! I thought I should commemorate this fact in some way, like placing a flag or a marker as one passes. So here is that marker. As it happens, last evening, we went to see a two act one man play 'Mahadevbhai' by Ramu Ramanathan, acted out as a monologue by Jaimini Pathak. Mahadev Desai was Gandhiji's secretary but he was also much more than that. He was the Mahatma's friend, his translator, his diarist, his Boswell. It is to Mahadevbhai that we owe a debt for the detailed descriptions he left behind of the days of Gandhiji's life and hence of the nitty-gritty of the freedom struggle. The play bases itself loosely on Mahadev Desai's diary to take us through the crucial years of the freedom struggle, ending on 15 August 1942, the day Mahadev Desai died with Gandhi next to him. Many of the famous names of the freedom struggle -- Patel, Nehru, Bose, Tagore flit in and out of the diary and hence of the play, giving us a glimpse of the march to Dandi, the irony of the meeting on communal harmony in Godra, the Champaran and Bardoli Satyagraha and even many apparently ordinary day to day events in the life of the Mahatma. As we remember some of those men and women who gave us our freedom, one can do no better, to commemorate 15th of August, than to quote some of the lesser known passages of Nehru's Tryst with Destiny speech, whose first few sentences are mechanically taught to most school children in this country. However, that speech has some resounding cadences which have an echo even in today's India. The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us, but as long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over.... The future beckons to us. Whither do we go and what shall be our endeavour? To bring freedom and opportunity to the common man, to the peasants and workers of India; to fight and end poverty and ignorance and disease; to build up a prosperous, democratic and progressive nation, and to create social, economic and political institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman. We have hard work ahead. There is no resting for any one of us till we redeem our pledge in full... All of us, to whatever religion we may belong, are equally the children of India with equal rights, privileges and obligations. We cannot encourage communalism or narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thought or in action.

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