Today is Independence Day for India. Right since childhood, this was a special day for me and I often wondered how great and powerful India would have been if not time and again ravaged by foreign mercenaries.
I read “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” by Mark Twain roughly at the same time I got introduced to the concept of Time Travel. The two themes were too exotic for me and I loved to imagine all sorts of adventures I could get into, if only I could get my hands on a working time machine.
One of my favorite daydreams were how I would visit ancient India and warned and prepare them of the impending attacks of the Mughals, the Nadir Shahs, the Mahmud of Ghazni and later the Europeans who would in due course of time attack and plunder the wealth and land of India and become a hero.
I naively imagined that I, a kid, would walk upto the great Kings of the past, like Ashoka, Harsha. Chandragupta Maurya etc and advice them to build up their armies, put strong forces / embattlements on the north west frontier so that the intruders can be stopped. I assumed that merely by telling the ancients of the impending doom, these adults would have listened to a kid and changed their course of action and thoughts. As I say, it was a childish fantasy, but then that’s why childhood is magical. No? Anything is so believable. Many of school bus rides back home became great magical adventures for me.
Ancient India : sophisticated but not pragmatic
Today, much older and wiser (hopefully), and after reading authors like Jared Diamond (about rise and fall of civilizations), Devidutt Pattanaik (about depth of Hindu culture and philosophy) and the like. I now realize that such a thing may have been difficult to achieve merely by forewarning. You see, as Indians we were too inward looking. We were happy in our land of milk and honey and never ventured out.
The foreigners were termed as “Mleccha” meaning barbarians or unclean/uneducated. Anybody who set out to the foreign lands or mingled with them was looked down upon the Brahmans and thus, while foreign travelers did visit India taking back stories of its culture and riches, Indians seldom were in touch with the outside world.
Undoubtedly, for a Beethoven/Mozart, an infantry soldier may appear “Mlechha” or uncivilized but then that doesn’t whittle down the importance of the soldier. In a real world, both exist, and probably the soldier will be more useful and effective than the musician in times of duress.
Divergence begins : And civilizations drift in different directions
Indians were definitely much advanced in philosophy and the arts while most of the world outside was still grappling with superstitions and barbarianism. But then, Indians cut out themselves and became content with their own achievements. The outside world meanwhile continued to progress in the physical sciences and kept looking outward for happiness in the material things.
Eventually, they discovered gunpowder and guns and formed large armies hungry for wealth/power while we Indians were still happy with our swords & spears, tiny fragmented kingdoms, bloated egos and a foolish schism of caste divide. Those were turbulent times and not realizing the desperation of the invaders / plunderers proved fatal.
Anybody who has played the “Age of Empires” would know what I am talking about. What happened therefore was inevitable. We never stopped squabbling amongst ourselves and never got to the bigger picture. The better equipped foreigners came and plundered us many times over.
Coming to the present
So have we learnt our lesson?
We are still not much better doing it today then earlier. While powers like China plan ahead for decades, take giant strides to ensure oil/food/water supply for their future generations, we Indians seem to be mired in too much discussion, procrastination and our in-fighting.
Our headlines are still dominated with ethnic/religious clashes, demands for separate state, intra state water-sharing disputes and various sections fighting either for reservations or the age-old nonsense of one set of “Bhoomiputras” (original sons of the soil) threatening other non-Bhoomiputras to vacate their small area.
I am afraid, I don’t see too much of focus or action to build India as safe, secure and powerful nation of tomorrow.
High time we learned and started seeing India as a whole.
Happy Independence Day to all !!!
Dear Mrs Verma ma'am,
I am working today as well. Not taking it like a holiday.