Today marks the 70th anniversary of independence for the people of the Republic of India from the British colonial rule.
After 70 long years, filled with famine, wars, drought, terrorism, communal riots, socialism, and forays into globalization, capitalism and budding nationalism, I take a look back at a time period from what was a major turning point in the history of humankind, where more than half a billion people on the Indian subcontinent breathed a combined sigh of relief and a sigh of fear - for the joy of independence they gained from the British empire was equally stitched with a fear of unknown - because for the first time ever in human history, peoples of all known human religions, castes, creed, color, hundreds of languages, cultures, customs, likes, dislikes, priorities, and frankly, unknown number of human feelings were stitched together as ONE nation called "India".
70 years on, and for all the miraculous achievements India has attained, I still see India as a country that has partially succeeded and terribly failed.
70 years on, India, which was richer than China and South Korea on a per capita basis in the 1960s and 1970s is poorer than those countries today.
70 years on, corruption is still rife, well alive and glorious in all aspects of Indian life.
70 years on, malnutrition and disease could be seen in every street corner.
70 years on, India still struggles to find peace with the country with which it shares common history -- Pakistan.
70 years on, India still struggles to find peace in the border with its other gigantic neighbor -- China.
70 years on, Nepal, another neighbor hates India more today than ever in its history.
70 years on, Sri Lanka, for all its atrocious racism that it has encouraged in its society, has never been so less fearful, or less concerned about India and its power.
70 years on, India, which was the light for poorer African nations in the global stage, is the dimmest ever today.
70 years on, chronic illiteracy, broken infrastructure, gross inequality in access to opportunities fills the streets and hearts of Indians.
So is there is no hope? No, there is! For it is this country that prides itself in its millennia old slogan of वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् (Sanskrit for: One world, one family).
And it is this country where cultures clash to uphold a very universal human principle of யாதும் ஊரே யாவரும் கேளிர் (Tamil for: Every town in this world is my town; every citizen of this world is my relative).
And it is in this land where a physically weak, but morally strong Gujarati, who asked sturdy Indians of all religions and cultures to die in non-violence and never kill in violence, even during the height of oppression, is hailed as the "Father of the nation".
And it is in this land, where not a single incidence of persecution of Jews was ever reported to have to taken place in its entire history.
And it is in this land, where logic goes out of the window, leaving everyone scratching their heads to find a definition for "entrepreneurs". Are they people with skills and ideas? Or are they just otherwise called Indians?
And it is in this land, of almost 80% Hindus, electing an Italian catholic woman for the top most office in the country, only for her to voluntarily give way for a Sikh man to assume the office. An office he was sworn in by a Muslim President.
And it is in this land, where the very national flag holds the sacred colors of Hindus (saffron) and Muslims (green) living in peace together (white), while upholding the Buddhist principles of dharma (the wheel).
And it is in this land, where when the tricolor flag is hoisted proudly across the nation today, more than half the Indian population, who don't understand a word of the national anthem, that was written by a Bengali, in Bengali, and translated peacefully into Hindi, will sing it with patriotic fervor and with a deep sense of belonging. Though almost half the population might not understand the meaning in the anthem, they do understand one thing deeply: that the spirit that they hold inside them transcends boundaries and holds humanity together.
Philostratus, in his book Life of Apollonius of Tyana, written in 2nd century AD, recognized the experience of Apollonius in India, and he wrote Apollonius describing:
In India I found a race of mortals living upon the Earth, but not adhering to it. Inhabiting cities, but not being fixed to them, possessing everything but possessed by nothing.
And that India, and that Indian spirit is still alive and well! And that gives me hope!
Happy Independence Day to all Indian brothers and sisters :)