Such an episode is almost inconceivable elsewhere—a country ruled by a man who does not understand its national language, a 'national language' which half the population does not understand, and this particular solution to enable the prime minister to address his people.
The playback singer Yesudas had sung his way to the top of the Hindi music charts with lyrics written out in his songbook in the Malayalam script, but to see that Bollywoodian practice elevated to the prime ministerial address on Independence Day was a startling affirmation of Indian pluralism.
For the simple fact is that we are all minorities in India. There has never been an
"If America can be called a melting-pot, India can be considered as a thali, a sumptuous selection of dishes in different bowls" archetypal Indian to stand alongside the archetypal Englishman or Frenchman. A Hindi-speaking Hindu male from Uttar Pradesh may cherish the illusion he represents the 'majority community', an expression much favoured by the less industrious of our journalists. But he does not. As a Hindu, he belongs to the faith adhered to by 82% of the population. But a majority of the country does not speak Hindi. A majority does not hail from Uttar Pradesh, though you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise when you go there. And, if he were visiting, say, my home state of Kerala, he would be surprised to realise a majority there is not even male.
"If America can be called a melting-pot, India can be considered as a thali, a sumptuous selection of dishes in different bowls"
The Common Factor:
What makes India, then, a nation?
When an Italian nation was created in the second half of the 19th century out of a mosaic of principalities and statelets, one Italian nationalist wrote: "We have created Italy. Now all we need to do is to create Italians."
It is striking that, a few decades later, no Indian nationalist succumbed to the temptation to express a similar thought. The prime exponent of modern Indian nationalism, Jawaharlal Nehru, believed that India and Indians had existed for millennia before he articulated their political aspirations in the 20th century.
Nonetheless, the India that was born in 1947 was in a very real sense a new creation: a state that made fellow citizens of the Ladakhi and the Laccadivian for the first time; a state that divided Punjabi from Punjabi for the first time; a state that asked a Keralite peasant to feel allegiance to a Kashmiri Pundit ruling in Delhi, also for the first time.
The Ever-Ever Land:
It is the idea of an ever-ever land—emerging from an ancient civilisation, united by a shared history, sustained by pluralist democracy. It is a land of multiple identities. You can be many things and one thing: you can be a good Muslim, a good Keralite and a good Indian all at the same time. If America is a melting-pot, then to me India is a
So the Indian idea is that a nation may endure differences of caste, creed, colour, conviction, culture, cuisine, costume and custom, and still rally around a consensus—that in a democracy you don't really need to agree, except on the ground rules of how you will disagree.
India's founding fathers wrote a Constitution for their dreams; we have given passports to their ideals. In May 2004, a Roman Catholic political leader (Sonia Gandhi) made way for a Sikh (Manmohan Singh) to be sworn in as prime minister by a Muslim (President Abdul Kalam)—in a country 81% Hindu. That one simple moment revealed Indian identity. India was never truer to itself than when celebrating its own diversity.
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT