Sixty four years ago, our countrymen awoke to unbridled joy and hope, which was quickly followed by anger and despair when they found out that it was a dry day. But we’ve made some great strides since then. We’ve gone from being a nation ruled by parasitic tyrants, to a nation that offers its people the freedom to elect their own parasitic tyrants.
So on this special day, let’s relive some of the key events that shaped Independent India, beginning with the partition.
I’ve always been fascinated by the history of Partition. Various versions exist and various entities have been blamed, including the British, the Congress and Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who had perhaps foreseen Coke Studio India and wanted nothing to do with it.
According to the Indian version, Jinnah, having realised that he would never become Prime Minister here, stormed off and took a country with him. This is like the snotty cricket buddy every kid had, who, upon getting out, would leave in a huff, taking the only bat with him.
Another landmark event was the setting up of the first IIT, at Kharagpur in 1951. This was followed by six other IITs, which provided generations of Indian men with the ultimate pick-up line: “Hey baby, I’m an IIT-ian. Wanna take me home to your parents?”
In 1961, India became one of the first members of the Non-Aligned movement, which was like the peace-loving hippie of political organisations. We were being wooed by the biggest superpowers in the world, and this is how it went:
USA: Join us, and we’ll defeat Russia together! Then we’ll get rich selling our stories to the History Channel!
USSR: Join us, and we’ll defeat America together! Plus we’ve got vodka!
India: Uhhh, y’know what, I think I’ll just chill with my buds Yugoslavia and Ghana. Maybe do some farming, be groovy and just like, peace out man. Anyway, capitalism’s gonna be dead soon, so like, yeah.
This was all part of our affair with what is now derided as “Nehruvian socialism”, and unlike most affairs, it had all the excitement and passion of a post-lunch PWD office in Saharanpur. From the 50s to the 80s, our growth stagnated at about 3.5%. On the bright side, socialism worked wonders for the kajal, jhola and ethnic jewellery industries.
Then we had the 1971 Indo-Pak war, which led to the liberation of East Pakistan and East Bengal, or as it’s called now, “that place where the bai comes from.”
A few years later, in 1975, we had to contend with the draconian Emergency. Civil liberties were suspended, dissenters were locked up and free speech was shot down with a vengeance. Overenthusiastic patriots should note that this is the closest we’ll ever come to being like China.
Let’s move on to the ’80s, which are important because that’s when my generation arrived into a world where babies did not have Facebook pages. We are the last generation to know that phones could actually make for great bludgeoning devices. We are the last generation to have manually rewound audio cassettes and thankfully, we are the last generation to have seen what grown women look like in frocks.
The transformation began in 1991, when India’s reserves had dipped to 1.2 billion dollars, or about one Mayawati Garland. Dr. Manmohan Singh, then free from the responsibility of managing a scam factory, swooped in with reforms and saved the day. If there was ever a Roadies for economists, Manmohan Singh would win hands down.
Cut to now, when India is a great brand ambassador for dichotomy. We’ve got broadband, but most people online are astoundingly idiotic. We’ve got supermodels flaunting the starving-farmer look. We’ve discovered water on the moon, but we’re still arguing about whose God put it there.
So clearly, there’s a lot to be done. As Indians, we owe it to ourselves to go out there and do it. Really, it’s time we stop complaining, get off our butts and buy booze before the wine shops shut. Jai Hind.
(Note: This is my HT column dated 14th August 2011)