It was independence day the other day and my head was full of all sorts of thoughts. It is hard for me to make sense of them but in my time honoured tradition, I feel like marking the occasion, making a speech or something. It’s a bit late to do a flag hoisting so this post will have to do.

It is a bit surreal for me to see Manmohan Singh to make the speech from Red Fort. The Red fort has seen so many rulers in its time. Yet I wonder if it knows what to make of this one. He doesn’t sound like a ruler, his demeanour is certainly not of one, he is not a rabble rouser, he doesn’t ‘carry’ the audience with him, he can’t win an election and even his Jai Hinds don’t sound as passionate. He is one of the back room boys who has been pushed into the front room. I vaguely remember his first speech and I remember feeling sorry for him. I felt sorry for him because he would never quite get the credit for being who he is simply because he was a plant and even as plants go he had no front room skills. I also felt sorry for our country which I thought doesn’t quite deserve him and certainly hadn’t voted for him to be the prime minister. When he first made his speech no one would have predicted that he would still be making a speech 5 years, one election and a heart surgery later. I certainly didn’t expect that.

For the first time in the history of India, a non-politician has been at the helm of affairs for so long. While you could argue that some of these years have been spent learning some political skills on the job, some of these have also been spent bringing back room discipline to politics. I see more and more of it in the new government. The new government has set off on a breathtaking pace, by Indian standards, and all the ministries are rushing out with their 3 months, 6 months and annual plans. This is almost like a company announcing its quarterly results (probably another backroom skill being brought to governance). More importantly, the PM is also asserting his newly learnt front room skills. He has got himself an external affairs minister who is not exactly a heavyweight in foreign affairs, the heavyweight (who is also effectively the deputy PM) has been moved to Finance and in finance there is no bigger heavyweight than the PM himself. That is a move that Indira Gandhi would have been proud of. There is also so much politically correct about this prime minister. He is a Sikh and there is no bigger patriot than him as he himself told the Left parties during the nuclear stand off last year.

This brings me nicely onto what I want to talk about next. As a child I have totally bought into India’s moral standing in the world. India since independence has had a lot to say to the world on the right path. Whatever the country did was given this cloak of the morally correct thing to do. That cloak has come off, and in some cases rightly so, since the 90s. India is increasingly part of the world that now fights for scare resources and it now does whatever needs to be done to feed its economic development. This is quite interesting as all the top economies have subtle or big differences in their political outlook but that doesn’t stand in the way of meeting their economic objectives which are quite similar.

I am not sure what is India looking to gain by holding out on climate change talks. Yes our per capita emissions are among the lowest in the world, yes there is an additional cost to be borne for low carbon development and yes the developed world is responsible for most of the environmental mess if not all of it. Yes to all of that. But then what about the moral cloak, what about doing the right thing, or atleast to be seen to be doing the right thing. It makes sense if India is holding out for a better deal from the developed nations, but then what was a good deal 2 years ago is probably now a non-existent deal in a credit crunched world. The Copenhagen summit is 5 months away and India refuses to budge.

Can we not tell the developed world, that even though you have messed up our planet, we will help you clean it? Because we are India and we always do the right thing. Jai Hind.

Its independence day today and I am almost duty bound now to write something. Its been now 4 years since I first wrote about what independence day means to me and about my idea of India. I ususally try to be as optimistic as I can , atleast for as long as I can, and some years have been better than the other. This year I more pessimistic about things than usual. I still want to write though.

Today I woke up thinking about Nehru. He was Prime Minister from 1947 – 1964. I  admire him the most among our modern politicians. Some of these 17 years under his leadership were good, some were not so good and most were average. I wonder how he got thorugh these average and bad years and still managed to deliver a rousing speech from the Red Fort. Still manage to deliver three loud Jai Hinds to wake up the school kids so they could release their balloons. I wonder how he addressed his countrymen after the Chinese invasion of 1962, did he feel that he had let the country down. How did he face himself on the charges of promoting his own daughter at the expense of other capable politicians. I wonder today more than ever what went through his mind as he stood up to make those speeches.

I believe there is something about Red Fort. As you stand their at its top, you see a beautiful view of the Walled City. You stand on the very ground from where generations have ruled parts of the subcontinent. Among many other things, this was the place where Mutiny of 1857 had its famous stand, this is the place where the freedom figthers of the INA were tried and hanged. That place has, and continues to, see more rulers come and go than most other places. Nehru would know about this more than any of his contemporaries and maybe the place had a part to play in those years when the feet were weary and the speech writer had to work overtime.

But I wonder what else helped him through those years. Did he see something that his fellow country men didn’t.  Did he feel that the country that he had led was on the and believe in an idea of India and felt that we had a chance to make it real. Did he really feel that his new star, a star of freedom in the East, was on its way of achieving its destiny as he had imagined it in 1947. I am delving far into history so I can keep my optimism alive today. So I can say to myself that if Nehru saw it and believed in it, I can also believe in it today.

As I see India today, I see very or little progress in the last couple of years.  I am unsure of the direction she is taking, that is assuming it is a direction. I voted for the current government and I had huge hopes and I am sorely dissapointed. What is really sad is that the opposition is even worse. I am ok with the lack of good politicians but the parties don’t follow a democratic process to elect a leader. This is in the Congress atleast is a direct fallout of Nehru’s legacy. The India Shinning story has been spinned and milked for all its worth. The Olympics is the latest reminder. The sole medallist so far has his own private shooting range ! India is shinning for a minority of people. No one even talks about the majority for whom India is not shinning. And there is Kashmir which continues to be mismanaged.

I don’t know what Nehru would make of India today. To me , it is the same intrinsically since he died.

Jai Hind.