Monday, August 15, 2011
Tryst With Destiny
"Long years ago, we made a tryst with destiny. Now the time has come 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, 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."
This is an excerpt from the famous Independence Day speech made by our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru at midnight, on 14th August 1947. Today we celebrate sixty-five years of Independence. We are a young nation.
I am a post Independence child and did not experience life in the British Raj. There were many interesting stories our parents and grandparents told us about those days and about the turmoil of the partition, which created another nation called Pakistan. However, I remember that Goa, a small state on the coast of the Arabian Sea, remained under Portuguese rule until 1961. Portugal held a handful of enclaves on the Indian subcontinent - the districts of Goa, Daman and Diu (now in the state of Gujarat) and Dadra and Nagar Haveli - collectively known as the Estado da Índia. The armed action in December 1961, by the Indian government, ended in a decisive victory for India, ending 451 years of Portuguese colonial rule in Goa! I was a small child and could only understand bits and pieces of the conversation around the dining table. However, I knew there was a battle going on because talk revolved around the safety of my uncle who was in the thick of it.
I woke up to a grey, wet Independence Day this morning. It rains practically every year on the early morning celebrations at the Red Fort, from where the Prime Minister addresses the nation. People in raincoats gathered despite the inclement weather, holding a thatch of umbrellas aloft, against the steady ‘showers of blessing’! Closer home, in our society block of apartments, the rain had thrown all the outdoor preparations for today’s celebrations into disarray. The organisers, comprising mainly women whose children would be performing, did the best of talking, discussing, laughing and worrying they could do, then decided to delay all celebrations until the rain stopped. As I write, it’s 11.00 am and the rain has ceased, I guess things will start moving now.
Today many challenges arise for our young nation, both internal and external. I will not go into these but express my wish and pray for her, in the words of Rabindranath Tagore:
Where The Mind Is Without Fear
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
Happy Independence Day!