My Archives 2: What keeps India kicking!
This article is 2nd in the 'My Archives' series. I had written the follwing article for an elocution competition, back in 2007. Its a rather long one,and maybe a bit boring for many of you. But it remains one of my personal favourites among everything i've ever written.Hope you like it too.
60 yrs down the line: What keeps India kicking & lively?
The year was 1947. The place: the Indian subcontinent. Our nation was amidst one of history’s bloodiest exodus. Yes. We were a free nation at last. But nobody had ever imagined that the resulting celebrations would weep tears of blood and play trumpets of screams & cries. The situation had gone terribly out of control. Political heavyweights around the world predicted nothing short of an apocalypse for India. And yet, against all odds, we survived. Not just survived, but flourished. In a time frame that has been rarely surpassed in history, our nation, with all its snake charmers and cattle became the top contender for the podium of a world superpower.
It therefore becomes critical for us to analyze, what was the adhesive that held our massive nation together throughout the last 60 years? Why is it that against all odds, our nation held its own against the worst destiny could throw at us?
Ask these questions to a normal Indian and answer is obvious. The pride of being Indian; common, diverse and a rich cultural heritage, unity in diversity, tolerant mindset, so on and so forth. These are just some of the “answers” that have been imbibed in our minds through our educational system and polity. And given the size of our populace, it was necessary. But ask any thinking individual and you’ll know there is more to it then what meets the eye.
It takes more then pride in ones nation to become what we are today. Cultures were never common across India let alone the heritage. We remained united because that alone guaranteed our survival. It was more of an instinct then a virtue. And given the harshness with which we practiced our system of social hierarchy, we can be called anything but tolerant. Time and again, Indians have proved the unspeakable brutalities they are capable of. Surely, there must be some thing hidden deep within us that has so profoundly helped our resurrection from the post partition chaos. What are they? Lets start from ourselves.
What we Indians have is the zeal to succeed in the face of unimaginable odds. The desire to live a better tomorrow is congenital in all Indians. If yesterday did not culminate into a better life for me, tomorrow will. If I can’t do it, my son will. If the elder can’t, the younger will. This is the kind of hopefulness every Indian lives by. And this gives him a remarkable edge to overlook his present grim surroundings. People who get back home on roads flanked by open sewers in the slums of Dharavi, one day hope to walk the red carpet in Cannes. The ‘rags to riches’ stories of Dhirubai Ambani, Shah Rukh Khan and others are something everyone feels will be someday their own. The slums in India are amongst the worst places of survival for humans in this world. And yet you will find them bustling with perpetual vivacity of life. Without this inborn resilience, survival through the last decades was not possible. And until the conditions change for good, we may need this ability for a few years to come.
A word that has become ubiquitous in India today is ‘Superpower’. Living in a superpower is a dream that is not so far fetched for Indians today. But the question we may ask ourselves is- what is it that we got right in order to deserve this crown? Why is it that with so many countries vying for this top post, we achieved it with considerable ease? The answer lies in us, The Indians. Unlike other nations, we neither aspired to become a superpower for its patriotic aspects, nor for the power and respect it would bring to us. Indians knew fully well, the perks of living in a superpower. A superpower image projected at a global level would greatly improve their local standards of living. Resources would be at their disposal. Every Indian set his eyes on a better life and collectively for a nation; it meant a country stubborn on progress. In 1991, the American government refused to sell a supercomputer to India. In response Dr. Vijay Bhatkar and his team at C-DAC went on to build India’s first supercomputer PARAM. The next day, The New York Times headlines read “Angry India Does It”. This is the kind of aggressiveness that has kept our country kicking. And kicking hard.
True, we have the world’s largest slums and empty stomachs. But equally true is the fact that we have the world’s largest reservoirs of talented human resource, literate or otherwise. Penetration of corruption in our bureaucratic caverns is as much popular as the penetration of our democratic elections to the grass root levels. We may have one of the world’s lowest female to male ratio but that does not stop us from having a woman for a president. Such a dynamic equilibrium has kept our country from swinging into a state of perpetual doom.
Another factor that sets us apart from the rest is our firm belief in the values that are distinctly Indian. In no other country will you find conscience affecting actions so profoundly as in India. The unique social structure is seamlessly woven with far greater causes. Every plant, every animal, every element of nature finds a place of reverence in our country. Our festivals unassumingly coalesce our people. Our family system is still going strong and is massive contributor to our strength. Our ethics, our values and our code of conduct in life are appreciated throughout the world. For last 60 years, these were the values that stood behind the decision makers and the results are here for the world to see.
With the advent of liberalization in 1991, a new wave of entrepreneurs was unleashed in our country. Entrepreneurship is something we always had. This virtue was something that was subjugated in the socialist era. However, it didn’t die. A careful nurturing of this skill for last 17 years is now starting to bear fruit. Indian Industry is the buzzword everywhere. The Arcelor Mittal deal and Tata’s acquisition of Corus have shaken the roots of world economy. Today, Hindalco is the world’s largest sheet aluminum maker. The success stories of India now run into volumes. This newfound optimism can be seen in every media at home and abroad. No longer are NRI’s ashamed of their roots. In turn, the nation is proud of those who have carved out their niche in this world. It was this today that the people hoped for and worked towards for the last 6 decades.
People like Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, Raghunath Mashelkar and their likes have made our country a knowledge superpower. People like Vikram Sarabhai have driven the country’s stride into the technology front. Our artists and the film industry have popularized our culture the world over. The India Phenomenon has swept the world.
Exciting as they were, last 60 yrs were by no means easy. The country has seen 3 major wars, countless separatist movement, a few riots and a stint of dictatorship. The earth continues to smolder in the valleys of Kashmir and terror attacks have repeatedly scarred our land. And yet we continue to stand and meet our crisis in the face. Perhaps, our greatest asset is our people. We have shown great courage when our country needed us. Every blow dealt on our people has been retorted by strong urge to get over it and move on. We have made sure that life triumphed over death, good over evil, humanity above everything else.
To quote our former president Dr. Abdul Kalam, “A developed India by 2020 or even earlier is not a dream nor mere vision in the minds of many Indians. It’s a mission we can all take up, and succeed.” The dream might be realized earlier then we think. Friends, let us make sure that for the next centuries our country keeps kicking, and lively.