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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Mile Sur Mera Tumhara

August 15, 1988, the 40th year of our Independence Day celebrations. We are all waiting to watch on TV Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's Independence Day speech from the ramparts of Red Fort. The telephone rings. It is my sister calling from Mumbai (then Bombay).

“Are you watching the Red Fort function? Keep watching after the speech, there is a big surprise awaiting.”
“What is it?” I ask.
“A surprise.” And she hangs up.

The Prime Minister arrives, unfurls the flag and starts addressing the nation. It must have been a great speech, as this is always the finest hour for any Prime Minister, but we hardly hear what he speaks. Our entire attention is concentrated on that call from my sister, and we are eagerly waiting for the speech to end. Rajiv Gandhi, who normally did not like delivering long speeches, appeared to go on and on with his great address. At last the three times Jai Hind call and the crowd at the Red Fort responding as enthusiastically. That was the moment when most people started to move away from their sets, but for us it was the time to get glued to the TV as never before during the address. And then starts the telecast for the first time of the great video song ‘Mile Sur Mera Tumahra’, symbolizing the cultural and linguistic diversity of India and the unity in that diversity. The song which contains beautiful video from the cultures and geographies across the country. The song which every Indian is familiar with. The song whose music is as diverse as the country itself. Starts with a slow rendering by the great Hindustani vocalist Pandit Bhim Sen Joshi, picks up speed and moves across all languages, cultures and musical variations. Beautiful composition to which all major artists of the late 80s, cutting across Indian languages, have donated their voices to, a song in which all major Indian movie stars of the time across languages and states have participated in. The song ends up fading in an amazing harmony with the final notes of the national anthem of India. And then the big surprise for the family, when the credits come. The video is produced by Kailash Surendranath and Arti Gupta, son and daughter-in-law of my sister who called that morning.

The national integration video was intended to instill a sense of pride and promote unity amongst Indians, highlighting the different linguistic communities and societies that live in India. It quickly captivated millions in India, gaining and maintaining near-anthem status ever since. But it is very sad that the message of unity that the song conveys is conspicuous by its absence from the minds and actions of many leaders and the people at large. Yes, my Independence Day sentiments are full of agony and ecstasy. Agony at what the petty politicians of petty parties are doing today to undo what their own forbears did. There are Kashmiris who are trying to undo the Kashmir of Sheikh Abdullah and dance to the tune of those who still swear by “divide and rule”. Agony at some state parties taking pride in instigating their followers to throw out people of other states settled there, treating it as their own 'Quit India' movement. Agony at what those vote and political powers pursuers are doing by bringing back the caste politics under false pretenses.

Ecstasy, of course, being lucky to be born at a time which brought me from the age of slavery to the age of freedom. Since 1948, when I came to Delhi from my native place Punjab, wounded and suffering a great political trauma of the Partition, I was in Delhi as witness and participant in a history which is my personal treasure and heritage. The ramparts of the Delhi Red Fort, since 1947, have always reminded me of those who brought India freedom and guided it on its date with destiny. I can never forget Nehru's famous words, “When the world slept, India awoke to its date with destiny.” Nehru dreamt of an economically prosperous India. He wanted a place in the sun for women and children. Lal Bahadur Shastri, who gave India two great slogans, “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan” and did what he said, I remember today. Indira Gandhi, the Iron Lady, kept India together in the face of many internal and external threats. She defeated the invading neighbour in the 1971 war that resulted in the creation of Independent Bangladesh. She guarded her country like a tigress. Morarji Desai, Chaudhary Charan Singh, Chander Shekhar, V.P.Singh and Inder Kumar Gujral guided this country through many difficulties in their own way. Rajiv Gandhi laid foundation for the IT revolution that prepared India to enter 21st century as a leading IT giant in the world. He put forth a bold vision of a new India, a modern India, ready to burst into the world stage, full of energy, enterprise and dynamism. Atal Bihari Vajpayee brought glory to the country by throwing out infiltrators from Kargil. Narsimha Rao ushered in the era of economic reforms with Manmohan Singh, the financial wizard, as his Finance Minister, who continues to take India to the top on the economic ladder as Prime Minister. His vision is not just of economic growth, but also of a growth which would improve the life of the common man.

Our country is witnessing unprecedented economic growth at this point in time. The whole world is eagerly watching the manner in which India is making rapid economic progress. Let us consolidate our gains and not waste them fighting amongst ourselves. The two evils, political and social separatism are the greatest enemies of Indian independence. Let us resist these enemies of people, with all our might. Lets stay united and undivided in all the diversity that is natural to this great nation. More than ever before, we must value the message of national unity imbibed in the beautiful video 'Mile Sur Mera Tumhara'.


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