Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The True Spirit of Independence

I do not write posts on every other festival we celebrate in the country. I sometimes think I should though, since there are so many that my blog would complete 50 posts each year only with such posts. I wasn't planning on writing today, but something compelled, rather inspired me to.


We Indians love to criticize our country. I can vouch for the fact that it is our common favorite pastime. Whenever two or more Indians get together in any damn situation - traveling in a bus, sipping tea at the roadside chai-wallah or watching an exciting Cricket match onscreen - the discussion eventually veers towards how big a failure our Indian system is.

Youngsters huddle together and criticize the Indian Education system, the septuagenarian-octogenarian politicians ruling our country and any particularly hot topic in the news, usually not knowing any of the intricacies involved. It isn't like we don't also criticize every other country there is on the globe, especially our erstwhile rulers from the Great Britain and the gorey Amreekans. We Indians are uniformly racist for everyone that way. Just that, in the end our own motherland turns out to be the winner in terms of the number of subjects it can disappoint us on. Admit it, don't we all do that?

THAT is the kind of negative attitude we Indians carry like a chip on our shoulders today. Criticize Gandhi for dividing the nation, dig up dirt on famous freedom fighters to character-assassinate them, abuse the current political system, curse the country for its high crime rate and faulty security system and declare that we as a country and people suck. We do this all year round as a rule, and then, come Independence Day, there we all are - celebrating our independence, flying kites, chanting slogans of "I love my India" and changing our Facebook display pictures (more recently, cover pictures have taken over that function) to reflect the National Flag or something similar. 'Spirit of Independence' we like to call it. But pry a bit deeper, and is that spirit really there? Does it exist in all of its intensity and fervor in the average Indian citizen? I should think not.

Most of us fail to realize the true effect that the freedom struggle and the nation's eventual independence have had on our nation and our psyches. If we are independent in our thoughts and lifestyle today; if we have our own system in the first place, our own rules and even a near-fair, documented system to implement them, it is all due to that fateful day from 65 years ago. We are a democracy today, even though much flawed and criticized, yet something no Indian could ever have dreamed of until the 1940s. With independence came not only the right to run our own country, but the confidence to govern ourselves and make things work without foreign intervention. Many of you would know from personal experience how hard it can be to stand on your own feet and think for yourself if you've been imposed upon and led for far too long. It takes a population full of courage, determination and belief in their collective strength to salvage a nation from ruins and build in its place a real force to reckon with.


To all those people who love criticizing the country, ask yourself - aren't we all ultimately learning? We make mistakes, take wrong decisions, hurt people, lose valuables, in the process learning from it all and looking towards a better future. We all may not have the same ability or the fastidiousness to do things right and achieve note and fame, but each life is unique in itself and has merit worth exploring. Analogously our country is also learning, growing with each passing year, sometimes bettering itself, sometimes facing huge setbacks, yet looking forward with a vision. Before independence, we had everything but hope. Development ensued in many spheres even in the British raj, yet the common man did not think for himself. He was at best a slave, an urchin to many. I daresay the common man is at least his own master now. There are rules even now; government policies that don't go down our throats so well, but rules will always exist. Without rules and a system, chaos shall ensue. A chaos much much worse than what your eyes see across the country today. With the independence of the nation and development of our own Constitution, India as a country got a vision to work towards, a prize to keep its eye on. I shall quote Mr. Shashi Tharoor here:
"A nation exploited for two centuries by the British, which had effectively a zero per cent rate of growth throughout the first half of the 20th century, a land riven by religious, regional and caste conflicts, and full of poor, malnourished and diseased people, faced with the enormous political challenge of integrating several hundred 'princely states', came together through its elected representatives to produce, in the soaring majesty of its Constitution, a compelling vision for the future."
The prize may have kept on changing over the years, but it is very much there. The country today has many aims to work towards - elimination of corruption from the system, combating natural disasters, addressing issues like unemployment, hunger and poverty to name a few - and the dream of someday being called a SUPERPOWER. However none of the growth we see around us today could have been possible had our people not willed themselves to sacrifice their lives and jump into the freedom struggle at different points of time to free India of foreign rule. That having been one shackle removed, there are many more boundaries still to be surpassed, many feats to be achieved before one can fully be satisfied with the nation. Yet, if the efforts, achievements and laurels of all those pre- and post-independence years go unapplauded, wouldn't it be an insult to our nation, to our very own people?

We, the people of India, need to believe in ourselves and our nation. We need to will ourselves into being the change we want to see in the system. If we as the common people keep exercising our own personal racist agendas, faulty principles and corruption at grass-root levels and still blame the system and the people running the government as the real culprits, what hope does the country have of evolving into anything better? The true 'spirit of independence' lies in believing in our country and its power. Look at the positives and work towards developing them rather than dwelling upon all the flaws. Work on the cons, I say, don't just criticize. Be true to yourself - don't just respect the country and its struggle for independence on the 15th of August each year. Imbibe that spirit of independence into your daily life, your dealings, respect for yourself and every fellow Indian. Be a true Indian - take pride in the treasure trove of culture, values, intellect and inherent capabilities that being an Indian by default brings you - be happy in being who you are by birth. There's nothing better you can do for your country.
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