Many of India’s cultural, political & business elite were ’47-born. Here’s their take on the country.
General secretary, Congress
DoB: February 28, 1947
Though born in a feudal family, my father was a Gandhian and a member of the Congress party till 1947 and welcomed India becoming a democratic republic. He contested the 1952 Assembly election and won as an Independent. I had no intention of getting into politics but my father’s demise propelled me into politics. I have no regrets.
Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharal Nehru and their writings made me join Congress though the then Jan Sangh and RSS tried to convince me to join them which I refused to do. I was not impressed by their closed minds and communal thoughts towards Muslims.
Today, we are the largest democracy in the world and in spite of the speed breakers, we have become one of the fastest growing economies in the world. But poverty, illiteracy and malnourishment still looms large over us. We have to work towards their eradication. Only if we could improve our service delivery mechanism and check leakages, we can undoubtedly become world leaders. But I am an optimist and am sure the future is ours.
(As told to Abhijit Majumder)
CPI(M) politburo member
DoB: October 19, 1947
My mother’s friends told me with some amusement that her one regret was that she could not celebrate India’s independence on the streets of her beloved Calcutta as she would have liked to because she was seven months pregnant with me! But 65 years down the line, I don’t think many women will want to dance on Independence Day. We won our freedom from the colonial power, but not from the shackles of economic and social subordination imposed by Indians on Indians.
I first joined a political movement when I was working in London. The anti-establishment ferment sweeping across Europe drew me to Marxism. My inspiration was Jyoti Basu and I decided to return to India to join the CPI(M) as a full-time worker.
My heroes and heroines have been the leaders and workers of the communist movement. They symbolise patriotism for me because they fought capitalism and its political representatives, a system that deeply compromises India’s national interests, more so than ever today.
(As told to Jayanth Jacob)
Minister, Tribal Affairs & Panchayati Raj
DoB: February 15, 1947
Like most Indians, my all-time favourite hero is Mahatma Gandhi. He was the first man who could unite India as a political entity. As I head the panchayati raj ministry, I find his ideas about Gram Swaraj have immense relevance. I also admire Jawaharlal Nehru for building the infrastructure for a modern Indian and Indira Gandhi for bringing awareness among the downtrodden.
During the past 65 years, I have been seeing how India has been transforming itself. One of our biggest changes is the telecom revolution across the country especially in rural India. When I was young, I had to book telegrams and it used to reach my village after 2-3 days. Now, I can talk to any place in the world sitting in my village home.
The biggest strength of Indian democracy is that while we have seen political unrest in many parts of our neighbourhood, our nation has always stuck to its democratic values and system. But I am also worried about the growing tendency of caste and religion-based politics practised by a section of our politicians.
(As told to Saubhadra Chatterji)
Non-executive chairman, Infosys Ltd
DoB: December 2, 1947
Growing up, our heroes were national leaders, notably Jawaharlal Nehru. Today, the hero of the younger generation is most likely to be a sporting hero and not somebody who has transformed India or a national leader.
In those days, self-sufficiency and principles like honesty, integrity and selfless service were held to be inviolable. The idea today is to put yourself on a global map. The idea of India has changed over 65 years and a youngster in the job market looks at things differently from the way I would have 40 years ago. Opportunities today are so much wider, the economic context is much better and so much more seems possible. It is for this reason that I say that there was never a better time to be born in India.
Democracy has the ability to unequivocally pass power through the people to the nation’s leaders. This has worked over 65 years, and will hold India together for the challenges we have to face. If at all we have failed, in a democratic context, it is when the process adds to delays and outcomes get adversely impacted.
(As told to Vivek Sinha)
DoB: November 8, 1947
The idea of India is connected to its 1,000 years of tradition and culture. It has allowed everyone to be who we are. Sadly, my thoughts this Independence day, turns towards the fact that that we are also biting off more than we can chew. There are things to worry about. I have seen how violence disrupts lives. Our belief in unity in diversity is slowly getting blurred. And yet I am the happiest when I’m here, in India, in touch with my roots.
Growing up, my heroes were Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and my father Vaidyanath Someshwar Sami. From Gandhiji, I learnt the true meaning of simple living and high thinking, and from Mother Teresa, to value time and the true meaning of compassion.
My father instilled in me the strongest and sterling values and principles in life. My father was a true Gandhian and taught me the meaning of true patriotism. My heroes remain the same today. I also admire spiritual teachers like Sri Sri Ravishankar and the amazing Sadguru. Nothing has moved me more than the Dandi March and Gandhiji’s non-cooperation movement through non-violence.
(As told to Arindam Chatterjee )
DoB: September 14, 1947
I grew up when India was forming but all thoughts of freedom were, in our home, transformed immediately into artistic questions — what would constitute the freedom of the artiste? What would contemporary Indian art be like? What influences should we take from outside? Hindi at that time was stiff and Sanskritised and when my father, Ebrahim Alkazi, took over as head of the National School of Drama in the Sixties, he faced the challenge of having to create a canon in Hindi.
India’s perception of itself changed when we decided to be part of the market economy. Soon all that we wanted was to be global citizens, with no thought to our culture. We have forgotten that it is culture that links us to a vast tradition and becomes the source from which we draw to become modern.
One incident that shook me was the way we treated Maqbool Fida Husain. Why are intellectuals in our country forced to declare their secularism, their Indian-ness if they dissent?
(As told to Paramita Ghosh)