Spatiotemporal heterogeneities

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Indian Independence day, 2007.


(The word “aachhe” in Bengali sort of means “is” – it’s like the Hindi “hain,” just not as ubiquitous. So sometime in the 1980s, an aunt of mine, when she saw this ad endorsing Medicine XYZ “for headache” in the tram-car while traveling down Rashbehari Avenue, thought, “So true…you need Medicine XYZ because head aachhe – the head is there. If we didn’t have heads we would never need it.” The tram had rolled down 100 meters past Lansdowne crossing, when she realized with a sense of sunlight streaming past parting clouds, with half relief and a tinge of disappointment at the anticlimax, that it was merely for headaches. The light brightened the landscape, but also did away with the tantalizing and mysterious possibilities of the mists and the halflight. Yet she had a glimpse of them possibilities beyond the obvious.)

This incident – apart from establishing that the same blood flows in her veins and mine, ;-) – makes that further point. Today as we complete 60 years of independence, that sense of possibilities came back to me. I’ll tell you how, but before that propriety demands that I fill you in with the broad details – for it’s essential to examine the obvious before looking beyond.

Fun day it was – I’ll describe mine - Flag-hoisting; Jana-Gana-Mana (I sing it in Bengali, btw); little dirac-delta functions of vocal nationalism; Mehrab, Shova are rich; good breakfast (I had to help people finish three helpings of Kesari bath – for we’re a poor nation still, and so am I); discussion with boss (for one’s ‘free’ to do that); and then the Games. Now if “the Games” with a capital G gives you a sense of the Olympics, I’d argue there’s no problem of scales there – for the adrenalin rush and the high emotions can make any well-contested game the equivalent of a Steffi Graf-Monica Seles Wimbledon final. Talking of which I should mention the basketball games from yesterday – the scores will tell you about well-contested – three games – 20-20; 27-25; 20-19 – and the transcripts of the on-field conversations will tell you about high-emotions (Urvashi requested a revelation in the press) – in the polite language of the Indian print-media it’d read thus: Mehrab:***********; Gautam:********; Partha:**********; Mehrab:******….so on and so forth. And finally the Sea Harriers meet the Spitfires in the final tomorrow, and the Raptors are out by, I’d say, the skin of their teeth, only I’m sure they’ve more plaque than would compare with the closeness of the margins. (No, no, I assure you, to the best of my knowledge, they brush their teeth well – so mothers don’t fret!) Adil had once got bruised in a football match from the good old In vitro – In vivo days – and said, “Mein ne is khel ke liye apna khun bahaya hain, aur tum is bare mein mazak karte hon…!?” – well he got his revenge - ‘Blaadee’ mosquitoes extracted enough blood from me to compensate for probably all that ever flowed in the 1st battle of Panipat. I couldn’t concentrate too well, but now I too have spent blood for a game.

(Oft one comes across stores selling “Childrenswear, Ladieswear, Menswear,” and oft one wonders why they feel the need to claim that men swear at all ages – first as children, then as laddies, and then as men! It’s a silly claim, to say nothing of being somewhat sexist.)

And then today. First the cricket won by the kitchen staff; then kho-kho won by a team constituted largely from the Lab 22 gang; then the treasure hunt (won by the veterans of course); the kabbadi (which also quite coincidentally won by somebody); and the tug-of-war (which wasn’t – it was a tie between Lakshmi’s team and the Wildlifers, who though, it should be mentioned, had beaten them in the leagues – the rope broke twice spreading people from about the tennis court to the glass panes of the library). And more things happen as I write this mail. Amistad’s on (what am I doing here?); and Shilpa has won the women’s single badminton match, and the women’s doubles with Ruchi; and Dharma and Atira are the mixed-doubles champions. And it’ll trail into tomorrow.

(When you take the shuttle from Mandara to the institute, to your left, just before Valmiki Furnishing selling its mattresses, you’ll see this commercial building boldly marked as “A’s complex.” I’ve often marveled at that. How did they ever know? Of all the many, many A-s that I’ve known ever since whenever I joined NCBS, each day I’d apply it to one person, and sigh, “So true! How did they ever know? And why did they write it on their walls?” And magically it works for most of our A-s, if not all, and probably for B-s, C-s and D-s too, but I haven’t tried it out. I have applied it to myself, and I won’t tell you of the outcome.)

“Unity in Diversity,” Wiki tells me is the motto of South Africa, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Eupropean union (In varietate concordia), and one of the mottos of the US of A (with the same pedantic crush on Latin - E pluribus unum). Yet we live it as well as anybody. People who hardly talk in their day-to-day lives, met today, and found out that the rest weren’t a bad lot too. Even if we go back to our pottering about, essential but ant-like existences, still the good works on some. And hopefully this is a beginning of good things. Beyond the obvious of fun, and jai-hind, and holiday, did you sense it today? It was there here. The spirit was. My generation was born much after independence – and while our knowledge of history is reasonably sound, it’s not tempered by sheer antagonism to, or romantic nostalgia for, the days of the Raj. We tend to be wary of the dangers of flag-brandishing nationalism. But beyond it all the old principles that define us as a people hold. I leave you with the beginning of the tryst with destiny speech. For once, be a little immodest, and apply it to yourself, and to your day at NCBS today (do it for each sentence), and do it a bit broader, and see where you are:

“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 sleeps, 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.

At the dawn of history India started on her unending quest, and trackless centuries are filled with her striving and the grandeur of her success and her failures. Through good and ill fortune alike she has never lost sight of that quest or forgotten the ideals which gave her strength. We end today a period of ill fortune and India discovers herself again. The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity, to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us. Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?”

I think we are! I think we will! I think let’s!

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Warmth,
S.
(check orkut account...attention seeking behaviour at its worst)

11:20 PM  
Blogger i149 said...

always a joy to visit this blog

12:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know one more decision

1:26 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home