India, the Land Columbus Set out to Find

What is it about India, that its tryst with destiny is still on-going? Why does India keep moving forward despite the doers and the naysayers, the empire builders and the colonized? The answer, I submit, lies in the glorious amalgam of history and hope, glory and defeat, education and renunciation, family and loneliness, accomplishment and worthlessness, ego and doubt, government and the governed, “East” and “West,” nuclear energy and organic linen; in short, India is a living contradiction – old and young, religious and secular, Eastern and Western, proud and humble, poor and rich, stranger and friend. On India’s Independence Day, one cannot but thank the British empire for all of its managerial excellence and vision, for it is they who did what no maharaja was able to do short of Ashoka the Great: create a Greater India, a unified India.


That there was a Great Partition, with untold stories of misery and heroism, courage and slaughter, so that a few “Royals,” domestic and foreign, could uproot so much humanity for mapmakers’ joy rather than compel sovereign governments to give equal protection to the governed, remains an irksome lesson for would-be nation-makers. Arab Spring’s lessons are both forward-looking, as they are rear-view looking, and given the world being conquered, as a whole, by the unstoppable digital binary code, the great denominator, the world has indeed gone “flat,” and time “instantaneous”: lost are the curves of the globe and the hands of time on the alter of digital transparency – more controlled by multinational corporations than by analogue sovereign governments desperately seeking to harness the binary code to defend against “enemies, foreign and domestic.” What is to become of India, one may ask. Beware, I say to all who thought that China would counter-balance the Soviets.

Like China’s core greatness lay sub-rosa unseen by the likes of Henry Kissinger, so, I fear is true of India, albeit, mercifully, only in part. In part, I say, because India’s investment in democracy’s warts is full-throttle and every citizen, poor and rich alike, sees themselves as the master of the public trust. Just ask The New York Times’ columnist Thomas Friedman as to why he is so in love with India, and why India, a Hindu-majority nation, effortlessly and confidently rests its position in the comity of nations in the gentle, strong and erudite hands of Salman Khurshid.


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It is as if Ashoka the Great, Akbar the Great, Guru Nanak, and Mother Teresa, not just Gandhi, Jinnah and Nehru, wrought this continuing tryst with destiny. For us in the United States, where each of the 50 states are a laboratory of policy for the nation to embrace or reject, India, I submit, given its diverse religious content and in the main peaceful co-existence, economic growth that defies the weight of regulations, may well be a laboratory to the world – for there, East and West, greed and charity, ambition and detachment live in substantial harmony. Since Secretary John Kerry is working overtime to seize the moment decreed by destiny, as he races to the Middle East to jumpstart the cob-webbed peace process between Israel and Palestine, no matter the profit of the status quoers, and harder yet, to re-order the Afgan-Subcontinent equation, each of the affected nations and citizenry, in the exercise of their enlightened selfinterest, owe a good faith response – for destiny awaits, in an infinite variety of shades and colors, the outstretched-hand’s state of loneliness or girth, given the many amalgamated hands reaching for the same sweet spot of history. Moreover, the dynamic of Israel’s meddlesome Thomas Dewey-like preference in last year’s presidential elections when Barack Obama won the “imperial term” in a resounding Harry Truman-like fashion, presents the Middle East a better shot than ever before.

However, multi-lateral frustration infecting the Afgan- Subcontinent recalibrated process requires a critical mass of trilateral leadership, which ignores the interlopers’ inflammatory excesses, so as to bring the blessings of liberty and prosperity to their populace, unhappily aware of their common ancestry and uncommon present. For them I recall the example of the European Union’s birth, when jealous pride of many a nation, that claimed the world as its own, was overcome – surely those in the sub-continent can bequeath to their childrens’ children a gentle neighborhood where all are free to worship as they see fit and prosper per individual effort, as they have the benefit of cross-pride “across the border.” It may well be that the United Nations, created with the ink of World War II victory and a subsequent switcheroo a la ROC with PRC, needs the reforms that many have pushed for, including, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and his then-Permanent Representative Hardeep Singh Puri, after winning an unprecedented near-unanimous electoral victory to a rotational seat on the Security Council.

It may well be that the “bubbling” South China Sea needs to bubble less, even as it starts the Kabuki dance of a future theater of avoid-able war and remilitarization. India’s attention, then, must be Eastward, Upward, and Westward. As an American, I can only hope that the land Columbus set out to find, India, and the nation he caused to be born, the United States, find in each other a common soul, aided by the rule of law and abetted by a democratic republic, such that Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. …” and Jawaharlal Nehru’s “Tryst with Destiny” speech loudly resonates to this day: “Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity. At the dawn of history India started on her unending quest, and trackless centuries are filled with her striving and the grandeur of her success and her failures.

Through good and ill fortune alike she has never lost sight of that quest or forgotten the ideals which gave her strength. We end today a period of ill fortune and India discovers herself again. The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity, to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us. Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?” The world is better that Columbus lived, dreamed and strove. For we are here, dear Cristoforo Columbo, to prove you were never map-lost.

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