Thursday, August 15, 2013

Indian Independence Day Mubarak Ho!

Happy August 15 everyone!

As you may (or may not) know, August 15 is India's Independence Day.  Mind you this is not to be confused with Republic Day which is January 26. What's the difference you ask?  Well, Republic Day celebrates the ratification of the Indian constitution.  Now at first I thought, Isn't that kind of double dipping?  You know, celebrating independence and the constitution? Isn't that a little much? 

Then I started reading Ramachandra Guha's book India After Gandhi.  I checked this out of the library, like, last year, but didn't get around to starting it until we went to Australia.  Mr. ATK was not too keen on hauling around a 900 page book in our shared backpack which he generally carried.  Especially since I had a nice light Kindle I could have brought.  I sympathize, but I always do the most reading on vacation and I had been wanting to read it, so along with us it came.

Me in Melbourne starting the book at the beginning of our vacation. Thanks to Mr. ATK for the flattering picture.

So why the two holidays? Apparently, on January 26, 1930 the Indian National Congress passed the Purna Swaraj declaration--the Declaration of Indian Independence from Britain.  Seventeen years later, when the British finally agreed to leave, the Congress wanted the handover to occur on January 26 as that was already their Independence Day.  The British chose August 15 because it was V-J day.  So when they finally finished writing the constitution in 1949, they chose for it to come into force on January 26, 1950--the twenty year anniversary of the Purna Swaraj declaration.  So it's not just about double dipping holidays--it has a very important historical significance.

Anyways, this book, its fairly in-depth book and I'm not going to into it here (apart from the previous paragraph.) But I will say that reading the book, while living here, has certainly given me a better of understanding of India today, by teaching me about the path India has traveled over the past 66 years.  Mr. ATK and I have traveled quite a bit around India and I've really grown quite fond of this insanely chaotic yet spectacular place.  But in all honesty, the longer I live here and the more I read about India, the less inclined I am to say I truly understand it at all.  Such is India. What I do have is a much greater appreciation for all of its complexities and idiosyncrasies.  It's development as a free, independent democracy is truly amazing especially considering the incredible diversity (in race, religion, language, culture) and the challenges of developing economically and socially with an ever-increasing population.  That is not to say I agree with every decision or action India has made or continues to make (not that India is particularly concerned with my opinion anyway).  But considering the prevailing (and pejorative) wisdom in the "west" in 1947 was that India, and Asia in general, just "wasn't ready" for democracy and that it would undoubtedly crumble into chaos before becoming an authoritarian state (or perhaps break apart all together), it is nice to see India has defied the odds and proven the skeptics wrong.*

And so, in honor or Indian Independence Day, I would like to sign off with a quote from Nehru's excellent "Tryst with Destiny" speech:

It is a fateful moment for us in India, for all Asia and for the world. A new star rises, the star of freedom in the east, a new hope comes into being, a vision long cherished materialises. May the star never set and that hope never be betrayed!

And I would also like to share this awesome Bollywood video from the movie "Chak De India." I haven't seen the movie (it's about field hockey), but the song is awesome. They were dancing to and singing this song at the India-Pakistan Patriotic Border Competition** which I have previously discussed here


*So far. And hopefully for years to come. जय हिन्द!
**Again, not the really name of the event.  I just made that up.

1 comment:

  1. while u might get hundreds of books on india's pre independence struggle, rarely u get books on the facts and stories post independence.. while in school history was always pre independence.. never read about emergency or pokhran blasts, war against pakistan etc.... guha has remained unbaised and presented history well... must read to improve ur knowledge