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@ 60 August 13, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in image, india, littlerockers.

Sorry, but I have the right to write yet another article on India’s 60th anniversary.

As you must have noted already, its India all over the place these days with the 60th anniversary just in a couple of days. We are of course having this thanks to that inexplicable obsession with rounded numbers. (Suggestion : how about celebrating only prime numbered anniversaries – 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 11 …61, 67… it will probably space out more and more over time πŸ˜‰ ).

There are scores of articles out there on this occasion. Outlook has an entire issue ( am sure do the other mags – India Today has several, but you can’t get them without a subscription though I rate them better in quality than the Outlook articles). Amit Varma has one here. ( Although I have no disagreement with his ideas, I am getting tired of the same theme ( personal liberties – economic and civil ) in almost every other article – BUT this one is a particularly well-written one ). Almost all articles have the same theme – about how India is not truly yet free, that we should not celebrate yet and have a long way to go. I have of course not yet seen an article that holds George Bush (or Karl Marx for that matter ) directly responsible for all our problems, but then I have not read every article out there :-). I am yet to come across Shashi Tharoor’s article on the topic, but when I do, I promise to skip it – years of writing weekly/bi-weekly columns for Hindu/Times, it appears to me that he may not have anything new to say.

I largely agree with these arguments (italicized above), but I am beginning to get bored even though we are a country about which many interesting things can be said. And they often are. The funniest little extract comes from U.R. Ananthmoorthy’s article :

I never tire of re-telling a story I heard from A.K. Ramanujan, a great poet and translator. Once, when he was collecting oral Ramayanas in the villages of Karnataka, he came to hear of a dialogue between Rama and Sita. Rama had been exiled to the forest and Sita was insisting that she would accompany him. Rama tried to tell her that life in a forest would be hard. In the course of the argument, when Rama came up with a strong argument, Sita replied: β€œIn every Ramayana I know, Sita accompanies Rama to the forest. How can you then say no to me?” This is a fascinating example of the intertextuality that unites India.

I not sure why the story is relevant to what he is otherwise saying, but its a cool one nevertheless – reminds me of movie spoofs in college cultural festivals.

In the midst of the pile, this article stands out as it tracks a journalist’s personal history of the various anniversaries. Lets say I take a cue from Mr. Mitra and ask all of us to write our own personal history of Aug 15ths over the years that we remember.

I don’t recall India’s 35th/40th or even the 45th anniversaries. In fact through most of ‘boyhood’, Independence Day meant a holiday, walking up late enough to just see the flag hoisting on TV. The 50th anniversary is an altogether different story. And as with many other things, the memories relating to these events remain because they (in this case the I-Day celebrations) happened at school.

Firstly, we had this skit whose basic plot was about Mahatma Gandhi, Laloo Yadav, Bal Thackerey and Winston Churchill all meeting up in heaven/hell (as the case might be) discussing India@50. I have faint memories of the script – how I wish I could find it. But I do remember preparing and practicing for the skit and my own rendition of Churchill’s lines about India was and will always be doomed, torn apart by internal contradictions. For the benefit of humanity readers, pictorial evidence of the above event may be relished here.


If you are able to recognize from the above details or approximate recollection, you will immediately realize that I am better placed to play Mr. Churchill’s role today – not as much because I agree with him ( though I fear we must not yet wantonly ridicule his prophecies ), but at least because with all the hairs departed, and that receding hairline, there is at least an appearance of credibility. Staying with Churchill, I think if he had said about India what he said about Russia ( “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”), he would gone quarter way to being regarded, even if mistakenly, as an Indophile.

For the record, 3 out of the 5 on the stage are studying/working out of India, with the 4th one on the way out soon. Also I have no idea what the glass tumbler is doing next to Laloo.

A second little thing was the student’s address that I co-wrote. My friend who delivered the speech to this day pulls my leg about how that Independence speech must have the only one out there that does not mention a single freedom fighter by name while still sounding very reasonable. Well, that was probably harsh, but since every other speech did it anyway, it was not all that bad. He does have a copy of the entire speech, but publication shall have to be awaited.

And thus, for want of a better conclusion, my India@60 article ends. πŸ˜€



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