Today is our 66th Independence day and that set me off thinking about what it has meant to me.
“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.”
~ Jawaharlal Nehru. Just before India attained independence from Britain on August 15, 1947.
I was all of four years old when that momentous event took place. Unlike my parents, I was therefore not much aware of quite what that waking to life and freedom meant. I have lived all these 69 years and therefore claim that I have had a life, but have I had the freedom that Nehru offered? And what has happened to the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity?
If I were to dwell on the pledge of dedication that those worthies took and which their followers, particularly Nehru’s descendants carried out, I will lead my readers and myself to insanity. I shall therefore refrain and discuss what Freedom has meant for me.
Freedom contains two elements. One, freedom from and two, freedom to. In the current situtation in India, I would rate those as follows.
Freedom from: Hunger, thirst, insecurity, disease, ignorance, coercion, hatred, bigotry, persecution etc.
Freedom to: Live a life of dignity; love, laugh and cry at need; pursue dreams and chase rainbows; produce offspring and provide them with a stable and secure future.
On all these parameters, India has failed to offer freedom to a majority of its people, thanks to inept and mercenary leadership ably supported by a self serving bureaucracy. True, the middle and upper economic classes have done well for themselves, but they still constitute a low minority of the population. In fact they abet the leadership by participating in the mercenary activities of the establishment. And since by a series of accidents and incidents I got thrown into that middle class, I too have had enough freedom from and to most things on that list.
Sir Winston Churchill said 68 years ago about India and today, wherever he is he must be grinning at the accuracy of his forecast.
“Power will go to the hands of rascals, rogues, freebooters; all Indian leaders will be of low caliber and men of straw. They will have sweet tongues and silly hearts. They will fight amongst themselves for power and India will be lost in political squabbles. A day would come when even air and water would be taxed in India .”
Although Sir Winston may be laughing, I doubt very much that things would have been different had India not got independence. All that would have happened is that the middle and upper economic classes would have remained at lower economic levels. While in my own little way I do contribute to giving a better future for a few future Indians, I am not in a position to do much more. I do know some who are and are doing things and I support them. Mind you, these are strictly out of the establishment initiatives and that says something about the situation in India today.