I write to you from the United States of America, the world’s most powerful democracy, on the occasion of the Independence Day of the world’s largest democracy. As with all birthdays we should make a wish. What do I wish for the land of my ancestors, whose blood, as I once explained to the British High Commissioner, runs through my veins?
My first wish is that as well as political independence, India one day attains economic independence. How will I know when that day arrives? When she no longer needs British citizens to feed her children. India is one tenth the economic size of the United States of America, but has more than ten times the hungry children. We can blame this on the British, but those excuses run out when India’s billionaires live in newly built palaces.
My second wish is that as well as political independence, India one day attains philosophical independence. This is the sense of destiny a nation of rich heritage should have. This is what the American settlers called their ‘manifest destiny’ when they proclaimed theirs was destined to be the ‘greatest country in the world’ and they still believe it so.
A national sense of destiny states a nation will not merely have economic wealth for a few of its citizens but has a political culture and message that should influence the world stage – that should be at the heart of all political groupings. That it will not stand silent on issues from Tibet to Burma – that let right be done though the heavens fall.
My third wish is that as well as political independence, India one day recognizes she is also Hindustan. That she should not merely ape the purely secular Western notion of liberal democracy, but have a sense of her own heritage and it too has something to offer its people and the world. That ‘Hindu’ is not something to be embarrassed about but the worlds oldest faith, that saffron is not the mark of an extremist, that tyranny by the minority is as much a danger as by the majority, that one can in bending over backwards, break the back of a nation too. That there is such a thing as ‘Indianness’ and that ‘progress’ and ‘cultural values’ can go hand in hand.
My fourth wish is that the so many from the rest of India stop attacking Gujarat. Yes it is a dry State and that is because it is the land of Gandhiji. He was a teetotal vegetarian. The rest of you should get over it. If in your rush to be progressive you have to shed your heritage, then so be it, and if you think we observant Guajaratis are behaving superior, well we have a lot to be proud about – and that should uplift you, not make you feel inferior.
If it makes you feel inferior in the rest of India that we lay claim from Gujarat to being the home State of the man without whom I seriously doubt the country would be Independent to this day, then get over it, but don’t mock us for respecting him. Thank us – our land is your land and our land produced a giant for all time.