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Tryst With Destiny

Its August 15, the Indian independence day. For the last few years I have written about things to celebrate about India and that make it unique. But today my heart is heavy and those posts from the past years feel like a cruel joke.

For the past five years BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his followers in the government and outside have made it their life mission to dismantle Jawarhlal Nehru’s legacy. But without Nehru there is no modern India. Dismantling his legacy is dismantling the Indian experiment. If India defied expectations and survived as a democracy and as one country it was in no small measure due to the work of the leaders that fought for its independence and then wrote constitution that enshrined within it the ideals of freedom, equality and liberty. And among those giants, Nehru stands tall.

His vision for India is in peril. He has fallen out of fashion in today’s Sangh dominated India.  On this day of all days I want to remember his words, the words he uttered as India gained it is freedom after a long struggle on 15 August 1947

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 her people, and to the still larger cause of humanity.

At the dawn of history India started on her unending quest, and trackless centuries which are filled with her striving and the grandeur of her successes and her failures. Through good and ill fortunes alike, she has never lost sight of that quest or forgotten the ideals which gave her strength. We end today a period of ill fortune and India discovers herself again.

 

The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity, to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us. Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?

Freedom and power bring responsibility. That responsibility rests upon this assembly, a sovereign body representing the sovereign people of India. Before the birth of freedom we have endured all the pains of labor, and our hearts are heavy with the memory of this sorrow. Some of those pains continue even now. Nevertheless, the past is over, and it is the future that beckons to us now.

That future is not one of ease or resting but of incessant striving so that we might fulfill the pledges we have so often taken and the one we shall take today. The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity.

The ambition of the greatest man1 of our generation has been to wipe “every tear from every eye.”2 That may be beyond us, but so long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over.

And so we have to labor and to work, and work hard, to — to give reality to our dreams. Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world, for all the nations and peoples are too closely knit together today for any one of them to imagine that it can live apart.

Peace has been said to be indivisible; so is freedom; so is prosperity now; and so also is disaster in this one world that can no longer be split into isolated fragments.

To the people of India, whose representatives we are, we make appeal to join us with faith and confidence in this great adventure. This is no time for petty and destructive criticism, no time for ill will or blaming others. We have to build the noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell.

Au Revoir Ganpati

Girgaum-Chowpatty_5

Thousands of Mumbaikars bid farewell to Ganesha or Ganpati as he is more fondly known in Maharashtra, yesterday.  Its been a while since I was in Mumbai for  Ganpati Visarjan*, but the infectious enthusiasm of thousands chanting,

Ganpati Bappa Moraya,

Phudcha varshi lavkar ya

Rough translation from Marathi,  Dearest Ganpati, bye for now, but come again next year.

still rings in my ears, whenever I think of the last day of the Ganpati celebrations.

Ganpati ,  a rotund figure with  the head of an elephant and who rides a tiny mouse is the most beloved of the legions of Hindu gods.   Beneath his portly appearance is a sharp mind that can outwit even Shiva, one of the three that make up the Hindu trinity. 

 Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the leader of India’s freedom struggle before Gandhi, in a stroke of political genius, tapped into the popularity and affection people across caste and class lines felt for Ganpati and used the annual  celebration for grass roots organizing against the British rule.  After their bitter experience in the first war of Indian Independence in 1857, the British were vary of messing with religious rituals of their Indian subjects and gave the Ganesh festival a wide berth.   India won its freedom in 1947 but the  Ganesh festival in the public square still endures .

*Visarjan : Ritual immersion of the Ganesh idol in a body of water, in Mumbai that usually is the Arabian sea.