Sunday, November 01, 2009
Not So Long Ago
Not so long ago in the plains of the great nation of India, there lived some very educated Indian people. They had travelled far and wide, spoke many languages, and some of them had even had tea with the queen of England.
It so happened that at that time, the great nation had just liberated itself of the clutches of the British empire. A man in a white dhoti, of home spun Indian cloth, and wooden staff and wire framed spectacles had swayed the subcontinent. A very good thing, most people said, so now we could finally be the nation we were always supposed to be, but were never quite, before the british took us over and hammered us into one shape on a map.
I am not sure when, but one day, some of these people,(sitting around sipping their freshly brewed tea-pot tea), were having a conversation. Some one asked, so what do we do now that we are free, what do we build as the Symbol of the new India.
For a while every one was flummoxed. They sipped a few sips of tea, and when it had gone cold and needed refreshing they began thinking in murmurs, in a bit they turned quite audible and the conversation got on in true earnest.
Lets build a grand railway, said one. Another was quick to point out, that the British had already done that. Well, how about a great great road, that cuts across India and links across it to the great sea ports. The same gent very politely pointed out, that Alexander(was it Sher Shah Suri? I can't recall but that is besides he point!) had done that long long ago. A small silence followed. Then someone said let’s build a new capital complex. There was huge sign from almost the whole audience. So that was dropped before even a word could be uttered! Just then a freshly brewed pot of tea was carried in and the conversation ended there.
No one really gave it thought after that. Except one man, he kept thinking of the problem. How were we to tell the world we had arrived, that India was a free nation. What could be the face of the new modern India? , he thought. He scratched his graying head, adjusted his Gandhi/ Nehru topi (that now only peons in government office seem inclined to wear!) and cried out loud in dismay.
And then it struck him, before the reverberation of the dismayed cry could subside. The symbol of the new India would be a city like a no other. A modern city for a modern India. And the world would sit up and take notice as the land of snake charmers and dhotis would thunder through centuries of history and stand abreast with the torchbearers of the first world. India as he saw it would have arrived. This would be no mean city, not like the ones the brits or their halflings had spawned across Delhi or DC, no this would be different.
And so the next evening he invited the great gathering to tea, with a promise that he would unfold to them the great vision he had had.
It was a nice autumn evening in Delhi, (so at least I wish it was, Delhi looks it best in that season, with the million rust coloured leaves strewn on the sidewalks),when they walked in and sat about the well appointed drawing room.
And then he gave it to them, the many wise men, his great vision. A vision to herald in the New India. The India free, of oppression, of rule, of empire. An India for its teeming millions, that could do as it wished.
A new India. An India with no one to tell us what to do, who we are, what we should do. An India that could make its own future, and carve its own place.Give itself an identity that the world would stand up and take notice.
And in the great wisdom of his grey hair, and the many many years of travel and higher learning. In that great moment, of people defining history…..
He chose French!