As we celebrate the 69th Independence Day …
by Elizabeth Menon
As we celebrate the 69th Independence Day …
It was the night of 14 August 1947 when Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India, chaired the Constituent Assembly of India that commenced in the Constitution Hall in New Delhi at 11:00 PM (IST) and 'Vandemaataram' was first on the agenda, which was sung by Sucheta Kripalani, the great Freedom Fighter of India. Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, announced the birth of a new nation born after more than a century of colonial rule, with these golden words: “ At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world seeps, India will awake to life and freedom.” Jawaharlal Nehru made his famous speech, 'Tryst with Destiny', which is considered one of the best speeches of the 20th Century and he called upon the members to take a solemn pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity: “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 seeps, 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 … … Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?": the rationalist in India's best-loved Prime Minister was evident in his speech. 'The great day' that millions of people have been dreaming about for years materialized on Friday, 15 August 1947 and today is the 69th celebration of that Big Day!
Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru worked together on the values that should shape this new great nation. However, the signing of the Constitution of India did not take place till 26 January 1950; much has happened to this magnificent country since the independence, both good and bad! Gandhiji, the apostle of non-violence and leader of freedom movement, was against the partition but even he was unable to stop the greatest forced migration of Hindus and Muslims that followed. A Hindu extremist shot and killed Gandhiji only six months after the Independence, Indira Gandhi, the second woman in the world to become the Prime Minister of a nation and who served as Prime Minister for 16 years, was assassinated in 1984; her son, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, was also killed by terrorist in 1991. And now, India has Pranab Mukherji as its 13th President at the Rashtrapathi Bhavan and Narendra Mod is our Prime Minister since May 2014.
'Vandemaataram' (Mother, I bow to Thee...”) was written by the Bengali writer Bankim Chandra Chatterjee on 7 November 1875 in Sanskrit and Bengali, which was translated into English by Aurobindo Ghose ---- "Mother, I bow to you ...Mother, I bow to you...". And I bow to Bharat Mata and all the mothers, Past, Present and of the Future, while I am listening to Bankim Chandra Chatterji's 'Vande Maataram ...'! The first two stanzas of 'Vandemaataram' were declared as the 'National Song of India' in 1950, when India became the 'Republic' and has the pride of place equal to that of 'Jana Gana Mana', the 'National Anthem' of the country. 'Jana Gana Mana' was written on 11 December 1911 in Bengali by Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel Laureate (1913), who later translated it into English. One should enjoy it and feel patriotic, but make sure that one is standing in attention while the Anthem is being played -- I always get a lump in my throat when I hear our National Anthem! Tagore and Margaret Cousins, who was an expert in European music and wife of the Irish poet James Cousins, set down the notation for 'Jana Gana Mana' at Madanappalli in Andhra Pradesh, which is followed only when the song is sung in the original slow rendition – it is often performed in the orchestral/choral version composed by the English composer Herbert Murrill at Nehru's request! The framed original English translation of 'Jana Gana Mana', titled as 'The Morning Song of India' in Rabindranath Tagore's handwriting is displayed in the library of Theosophical College in Madanappalli. (Margaret Cousins came to Madras in 1915 when her husband was invited to edit Annie Besant`s 'New India'. Margaret worked to improving status of women in India and she was the first non Indian member of Indian Women`s University in Pune in 1916. She established the first Women`s organisation in India in 1917 and exerted pressure on the government to grand voting rights to Indian women. She also formed the 'All Women's Conference' in 1926 and became the President of AIWC in 1938.)
It is a known fact that the brains behind any ruling Government are its Administrative Services, IAS, IPS, IRS and IFS and Armed Forces that go on working even during political turmoil! It was Sardar Patel’s dream to have a disciplined Administrative Service without any interference from the political party and One hopes that this concept is strictly adhered to, for the smooth functioning of our Governments – we need to abolish corruption and have disciplined officers in our Civil Service to uphold the Nation’s pride in our democracy and culture. It is essential that the political parties acknowledge that the Civil Service is the backbone of a government. One still thinks of Dr D Babu Paul when the three letters, 'IAS' come to mind and we need more officers like him, and Rishi Raj Singh IPS, who has shown how to make the roads in Kerala safe while he was the Commissioner of Transport! I only hope that the 'Indian Administrative Service' continues to exist as a centralized Service and doesn't get destroyed by regional and political interference!