At the carefully chosen auspicious midnight hour in 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru famously spoke on India's "Tryst with Destiny." Sixty-seven years later, it does have the feel of yet another tryst with destiny, with the election of Narendra Modi to the office of the prime minister as a mere formal act that is pending, after the thumping victory in the recently concluded long-drawn election. (Modi will become the first prime minister who was born in independent India.)
Such is the margin of victory, and such is the magnitude of loss for the scions of the Nehru family, that the Congress Party might not rise again. Finito as they say in the Congress Party's president's old country. Coincidence it will be if Modi gets sworn into office on the anniversary of the death of the last of the Nehru-clan's prime minister--Rajiv Gandhi.
No doubt about the gravity of the political development. It is a marker in history. What might be in store? Que sera sera is not what we bloggers and commentators say. We attempt to read the tea leaves. We express our excitement and concerns. In this case, given my long track record, like here, of anything but a Modi sympathizer, concerns are in plenty.
A friend, in/from India, reminded me about Khalil Gibran's poem, Pity the Nation
Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion.The concerns about Modi are about the very traits of the leader and the country that Gibran notes: " the bully as hero," whose statesman is a fox," the nation divided into fragments" ... And the poem itself, therefore, serving as a contrast to the wonderful dream that Rabindranath Tagore dreamt for an independent India, Where the mind is without fear:
Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave
and eats a bread it does not harvest.
Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero,
and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful.
Pity a nation that despises a passion in its dream,
yet submits in its awakening.
Pity the nation that raises not its voice
save when it walks in a funeral,
boasts not except among its ruins,
and will rebel not save when its neck is laid
between the sword and the block.
Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox,
whose philosopher is a juggler,
and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking
Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpeting,
and farewells him with hooting,
only to welcome another with trumpeting again.
Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years
and whose strongmen are yet in the cradle.
Pity the nation divided into fragments,
each fragment deeming itself a nation.
Khalil Gibran (The Garden of the Prophet - 1934)
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held highOf course, Gibran's poem was the later one and could easily be his response to Tagore. Both the mystical thinkers were expressing similar sentiments about countries and their leaders. The biggest worry of mine is about the fragments and that Modi, even if not a uniter, might end up being even more divisive. A future where the walls narrow, the minorities live in fear, and the neighbors get even more ready to push that red button.
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
Yet, I hope against hope. After all, human existence over the thousands of years has been propelled by hope, if nothing else.
The hope is this: Modi will become India's equivalent of Nixon going to China. With his long documented association with the RSS, Modi bleeds more saffron than anybody else can. Thus, if he were to engage in opening up relations with Muslims--internally and with Pakistan--his supporters will not have the slightest doubts about the strongman, the Hindu, that Modi is. Modi will not be accused of treason by his fanatical followers. The huge parliamentary majority that Modi has, which is such that there might not even be a formal Leader of the Opposition, means that Modi does not have to try to appease any coalition partner and can go about mending fences with Muslims within India and with the ummah.
For now, good luck, Mr. Prime Minister! And good luck to my old country!