Some time last month I had the pleasure of being in the private audience of Prof Ramchandra Guha, noted historical commentator (one of the best we have says abyuthvad) and cricket enthusiast. What struck me apart from the fresh smelling straight-off-the-press, duly authographed tome titled 'India after Gandhi' was the passion of the man and the eloquence with which he presented his case to an audience from different nationalities.
I say he was passionate because I was sitting right in the first row (part reason being that I didnt get a seat at the back, but was grateful later to my twist of fate) and I could literally see the twinkle in the eye and feel the energy with which Prof Guha made his points. I say he was eloquent because he made an assortment of foreigners who had come to celebrate India's economic success realise that they should be instead celebrating India's political success.
Reading his book over the weekend I realised why the man was charged up. It's because India is such an antithesis, its baffling to logic to understand its existence today; and once you get to that line of thought even more baffling to realise that almost a billion people get up every morning and go about their business taking it for granted that India still chugs on regardless of its diversity.
Coming back to the talk at the fabulous Lalitha Mahal in Mysore, Prof Guha went on to explain that inspite of these diversities, and given the odds at any given point in time, its nothing short of a miracle that we have continued to exist as a single democratic sovereign entity. There have been attempts to rule India with an iron fist. Fortunately that hasn't been the case and the secret lies in our diversity. A list of reasons were presented, which according to the Professor is the glue that binds us together. I remember just three. One, our Constitution, which empowers every Indian adult with equal electoral rights. Two, the separation of important guardians of the Constitution like the Judiciary and the Election Commission from the Government and finally the game of cricket. Prof Guha's book also throws light on the horrors of Partition; and the cunning and intrigue on either side of the Border. For someone like me who was born long after Independence, the account made for interesting reading.
Looking back, todays economic boom is largely a byproduct of our political success. Had we broken up after Independence into a clutter of princely states there would not be the large market that drives consumption. Had we not integrated, the resources of the East, the technology of the South, the enterprise of the West and the spirituality of the North would not create the unique dynamite that is India.
I left the lecture feeling extremely patriotic and proud to be Indian. At that moment I just celebrated the concept of India with some vintage cognac (and later on with an assortment of liquor shots!) and forgot all those things about India and Indians that sometimes bugged me, even better, I felt that I could understand why we are the way we are. 'India After Gandhi' is a must read.