मैं उन्मुक्त लहर हूँ
मैं क्षितिज से तट तक
खुश हूँ चल के
अनंत सागर में विचरण करके
मैं दूर हर आवाज
हर आकृति से
मुक्त हर एक बंधन से
मैं स्वतंत्र स्वर हूँ
मैं उन्मुक्त लहर हूँ ।

मेरा विस्तार है
चारों दिशाओं में
मैं बसेरा हूँ
नित ढलते सूरज का
ध्वनि हूँ
बहती हवा की
यह असीम सागर है
मैं संदेशवाहक हूँ
मैं उन्मुक्त लहर हूँ ।

किस ओर मुझे जाना है
कौन सा अंत मुझे पाना है
हैं और कई प्रश्न
सागर के जितने गहरे,
उनके उत्तर की सुध कहाँ किसे
मैं स्वच्छंद हूँ,
यह क्या कम है ?
मैं उन्मुक्त लहर हूँ ।

sunset at Varkala Beach, Kerala
Sunset at Varkala Beach, Kerala

"The identity of an individual is essentially a function of her choices, rather than the discovery of an immutable attribute."
-Amartya Sen in 'The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity'
This book is one of the best-known books of Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen. 'The Argumentative Indian' is a collection of sixteen essays on Indian History, Polity, Culture, Tradition, and Identity. Out of sixteen essays, few are very detailed, showing the meticulous research that the author did before writing them. Sometimes the author can be seen to be justifying the titles of essays and topics in too many paragraphs, but altogether it was a nice read, provoking thoughts on a large number of issues. The book gives a detailed account of early seculars like Akbar. .

In this book, Sen fights the notion that Indians have been irrational in their activities since ancient times. Instead, he argues by giving historical examples that the argumentative nature has existed since time immemorial. He gives the example of Gargi in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and of Maitreyi, Yajnavalkya’s wife. Gargi poses a question that even if one accumulates a huge amount of wealth, what should he do to become immortal. This assertion has been quoted and discussed many times in Indian Mythology and Philosophy. The arguments between Krishna and Arjuna at the battlefield of Kurukshetra also make an interesting example. When Arjuna refuses to fight against his relatives, Krishna preaches him about the importance of one's duty. That moment Krishna might have won the argument, but after the epic Mahabharata war, desolation might have proved Arjuna's concerns right. Also in India, people were free to choose their beliefs. Skeptics, agnostics, and atheists have existed throughout Indian History, without being persecuted for going against the established beliefs. Aryabhatta did not have to meet the fate of Galileo. In these lands, religions like Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism existed without any Holy War or Crusade.

Next to look for are the views of Sen on the role of women in Indian Society. He distinguishes the status of women on two parameters: agency and well-being. Agency is being the agent of change or action, similar to holding a position of power where the actions and decisions of concerned woman would have considerable weight. Well-being, on the other hand, is the parity between men and women on various components of Human Development Index (HDI) like literacy, age expectancy etc. Even countries like Japan which have achieved so much in the field of the well-being of women lack as far as women’s role as an agency is concerned, as it is difficult to find women in top corporate structure or in higher governmental posts. One stark fact that needs attention is that president of Indian National Congress in 1925 was Sarojini Naidu and Britain did not have Margaret Thatcher coroneted for next 50 years. Given that president of INC was no ceremonial position, it was an achievement as many democracies did not have or just had given to women the right to vote. In recent past, Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, all have had a female head of government which is hard to imagine even for the USA in near future.

The Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen
Sen tells many dimensions of gender inequality. Sen cites the case of unequal facilities, like in rural areas girls are not encouraged to go to schools. The result is a huge difference in male and female literacy in India. There is a vast disparity in property ownership. Although the law provides for equality in the inheritance of ancestral property, it is yet to come in mass practice. One more striking fact that Sen gives us that 'Handbook of Human Nutrition Requirement' of WHO classified household work as 'sedentary activity' which can be termed as blatant negligence from the members of male-dominated society.

Western Interest in India can be categorized into three approaches according to Sen. The first is 'exoticist' approach which deals with finding what is different, what is superior in India than west. Sometimes this gives exaggerated claims which can be difficult to verify. An example of this can be given from the time when Europe was going through Industrial Revolution and that led to the onset of Imperialism. Then Eastern theorists put forward the theory of mysticism, the theme of which was that the Western Societies were the master of outer self and Indians were the masters of the inner self. Second is the 'magisterial' approach which was propagated to facilitate the foreigners to rule India. This approach said that the Indians required the guardianhood of British to live in an orderly fashion. As James Mill said Indian civilization has 'deserving to be ruled over by higher men.' The third is a 'curatorial' approach which is more rational in nature than other two. It takes into consideration the diverse aspects of India culture and contribution of India in science and other fields. Al Beruni’s Ta’rikh al-Hind, Faxian’s and Xuanzang’s travel accounts fall into this category.

Sen brings out the differences between Mahatma Gandhi and Tagore on their course of action for India. Tagore was skeptical of patriotism and nationalism. Tagore argued that patriotism can limit the freedom to engage with ideas from outside the domestic walls and also the freedom to support the causes of people in other countries. Tagore was against the traditionalism and objected to the notion of eternally believing people as a child whereas Gandhi believed that masses were incapable of raising themselves to abstract ideas. In 1908, Tagore wrote a letter to Jagdish Chandra Bose, in which he said, "patriotism cannot be our final spiritual shelter; my refuge is humanity. I will not buy glass for the price of diamonds and will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity as long as I live."

Sen also argues that those who are leaning towards nationalism, are buying a foreign idea. He says that the first nationalist movements occurred in The West. So they are not indigenous to the people of The East. By supporting nationalism they are actually spreading a foreign Idea.

On Indian Atomic Bombs Testing in 1998, Sen has strong anti-nuclear views. He opines that India lost its conventional military superiority to nuclear parity with Pakistan after 1998 tests. He also argues that having nuclear weapons is not a guarantee that conventional wars won't happen. Kargil War vindicated this point of view. Sen argues that India could make nuclear bombs was an established fact well before 1998. There was no urgency for this test. India might have thought to be counted amongst world’s super powers but that is yet to be seen and that relies on other factors as well, economy to name one of them.

Sen quotes Ashoka, Rabindranath Tagore, Akbar and Satyajit Ray, at will, throughout the book. He gives an interesting viewpoint on Hinduism. India’s identity is of a pluralistic society and one must respect the whole spectrum of beliefs in our country. What author tried to say is that dissent should not be suppressed, but should be discussed objectively. In fact, the author considers the atheists at the other extreme of Hinduism. 

बहुत समय पहले
पुराने एक पेड़ के नीचे
जब हमने
सावन के दो झूले लगाए थे,
ठंडी हवाओं की सरसराहट के बीच
पास वाले झूले पर बैठ के
जब तुम एक छोर से
दूसरे छोर तक झूलती थी
तो पक्षियों के कलरव के साथ
तुम्हारा खुशी से चहक उठना
सारे माहौल को
एक खुशनुमा एहसास से भर देता था
तुम्हारी हँसी की खनक
चारो ओर गूँजती थी,
घने बादलों के साथ
सूरज का आँख-मिचौली करना,
पेड़ों की पत्तियों के बीच से
छन कर आती हुई
बारिश की छोटी बूँदों का
दोनों हाथ फैला के स्वागत करना
और सिर को लहराते हुए
बालों को बिखरा देना
मन को भा जाता था,
वो बादलों की गरज और
तुम्हारा मीठी आवाज़ में गुनगुना उठना
विषमता की सीमायें लाँघ जाता था,
वो पानी की बूँदें
तुम्हारे चेहरे पर
ऐसे लगती थी जैसे
शीशे की समतल सतह पर
चाँदी के छोटे छोटे घुंघरू
बिखेर दिए गये हों।

वो तुम कहती थी ना
कि एक दिन
बस यादें ही रह जाएँगी
तो अब यादें ही रह गयी हैं
ये यादें बस यादें नहीं हैं
ये यादें दोबारा जी उठने को बेकरार रहती हैं,
ये यादें कल्पनाओं के आँगन में
एक निरालस अंगड़ाई लेने को तैयार रहती हैं,
ये यादें हमेशा तुम्हारे साथ होने का
भरोसा दिलाती हैं,
और ये यादें भी आसानी से पीछा नहीं छोड़ती
मन की भंगुर दीवारों पर
बार बार चोट करके
आख़िर मन को भी विवश कर ही देती हैं,
और ये मन छोटे दर्द भी
बहुत शिद्दत से महसूस करता है,
इन यादों मे सारे रंज, सारी खुशियाँ
ढूंढ़ने पर अक्सर मिल ही जाती हैं,
इन यादों मे आकंठ डूबकर
चंद दशकों की ज़िंदगी
लम्हा लम्हा कर के गुज़री है।

जब यादों से कभी बाहर आता हूँ
तो तस्वीर का कुछ दूसरा ही पहलू दिखता है,
झूले के इर्द गिर्द कुछ भी तो नहीं बदला
बस तुम यहाँ नहीं हो
मन यहाँ नहीं है,
आज उन्हीं काले बादलों के बीच से आने वाली
सूरज की किरणें
आँखों को बेधती हुई सी लगती हैं,
ठंडी हवाओं से ठिठुरन सी होती है
और उन्हीं पत्तियों की सरसराहट से
एक पल के लिए मन सहम सा जाता है,
चारों ओर फैले हुए सन्नाटे के बीच
डालों पे बैठे हुए पक्षियों का कलरव
कर्णकटु शोर सा लगता है,
वो बारिश की बूँदें भी
अब अच्छी नहीं लगती हैं,
कभी आ कर देखना
वो पक्षी, वो पत्तियाँ,
वो पुरवा बयार
मेरे साथ तुम्हारी बाट जोहते हैं।

कुछ भी तो नहीं बदला है
बस तुम्हारी अनुपस्थिति में
पास वाला झूला
अब खाली पड़ा है। 

When the train started running, a young child of our fellow passenger sitting in the direction opposite to that of moving train said, "Mommy, mommy, train peechhe ja rahi hai.” (Mom, the train is moving backwards.) I could not stop smiling. Such is the innocence of the childhood. Thus started our journey. In the morning, little before reaching to Kotdwar, I stood by the gate of coach of the train. The chilly air and the small bushes alongside railway lines were best suited for that place. This was the perfect start of that morning.

Lansdowne is a quiet, small town situated in the dense cover of chir and deodar trees in Pauri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand. Some 250 km from Delhi, Lansdowne houses the Garhwal Rifles Regimental Centre. Lansdowne traces back its history to the colonial period. It was founded in 1887 and named after then Viceroy of India, Lord Lansdowne and was used as the recruiting centre of the Garhwal Rifles of British Indian Army. Before that it was known as Kaludanda, after Kalu, meaning black and Danda, meaning hill. One can reach Lansdowne via Kotdwar which is well connected by roads and railways. From kotdwar private cabs can be booked or a shared taxi can be taken.

The road to Lansdowne from Kotdwar is a treat to view. Initial stretch runs parallel to the river Khoh which is thought to have given the name Kotdwar, gateway to the Khoh, to the town. On the far side of the river, one can see wild elephants, if one is lucky enough, as told to us by a local person travelling with us. The weather was very welcoming and with increasing heights, it became more pleasant. We reached Lansdowne at around 8 in the morning when Lansdowne was slowly waking up. (Also see Lansdowne in Pics.)

Local residents were very warm hearted, one must say. As a true vagabond, we did not have any prior arrangement of accommodation and so had to settle with a hotel near the main market. It is advised that one should book a hotel in advance if one has to stay at a place away from the town center as during weekends the hotels get occupied fast.

The first place we visited was Darwan Singh Sangrahalaya, named after Darwan Singh Negi who received Victoria Cross, the prestigious award given to soldiers of British forces, for his bravery in First World War. The museum was situated near Parade Ground and War Memorial, built in the memory of soldiers who lost their lives in First World War. The Parade ground made me think that where did I see a plain ground so large in the mountains before this one. The museum shows the colorful history of Garhwali people, through their traditional dresses, various percussion instruments and nearby places of historical and mythological importance to visit. The museum also records the history of Garhwal Rifles in pictures of its decorated officers and soldiers, shows seized belongings of the enemy army and describes its role in various wars that The Empire and the independent India fought. We also saw the collection of weapons representing a long span of history and also the military uniforms that changed with time.

Then we went to Bhulla Tal, a manmade lake situated little away from the Gandhi Chowk, the centre of town. We sat there watching the ducks roaming in water, whose stillness was disturbed by winds and boats. Near the lake was a place where rabbits and guinea pigs were kept. They looked cute while eating grass and moving here and there in their ward. Then we stumbled upon something interesting. A bottle was kept there with injections and the description on the bottle read that it was used as the stress buster for these little animals. Maybe they also need the stress relieving drugs in such fast paced life of their own. Beyond the Bhulla Tal, there was a place which was serene, lonely and beautiful, surrounded by tall chir pine trees. We sat there for some time looking at distant hills, the road below and the valley further below. Those trees with blue sky in the background made a perfect picture.

We came back again to the lake and had lunch there. Then we started walking for Tip-in-Top. On our way found St. Mary’s Church, which was constructed in the late 1890s. This protestant church is now maintained by Garhwal Rifles. Here you can find booklets on the history of Garhwal Rifles up for sale. There were historical accounts of this church described by few posters. On a round poll in the middle of the church, these lines were written, “Suffer little children to come unto me”, which sounded very similar to me to what Krishna said to Arjuna in Gita. We marched ahead and reached Tip-in-Top. It was a little platform erected for site-seeing. We could see hills, valleys, small villages on the hilly slopes and roads like ropes. Close to Tip-in-Top are tree huts, a tourist rest house by Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Limited, ideal for a stay with the perfect natural view.

Then we went to Santoshi Mata Mandir, a small temple located on a hill top. Maintained by the Army, nice bhajans were being played there. One has to give credit to Garhwal Rifles for taking care of churches and temples and ensuring that this little town does not lose its beauty. The sunset view from Mandir was awesome. With the sun playing hide and seek with clouds, it was the perfect time to click few pictures.

After that, we came back to Gandhi Chowk and went to a small theatre there to watch a movie. The hall was small and very few people were there, hardly ten. After the movie, it was time for Dussehra celebrations. We mingled readily in the crowd. Considering that it was a small town, there was a huge crowd and it seemed that whole town came to watch the celebrations. When the organizers had some difficulty with burning the effigy of Ravana, because of dew, someone behind me in the crowd said, "We cannot burn Ravana. What will the tourists think of us?" We could not stop laughing. The firework was like fireflies moving with stars in the background. You cannot see these many stars in cities because of lights. what to say about the local bands playing some traditional song? I still love these bands as much as I loved them as a child.

Next day we went to St. John’s Church, a catholic one under the aegis of Diocese of Bijnor. It was elegantly built with its history dating back to 1937. It was a peaceful place. We sat there for a while. The small town of Lansdowne was built in characteristic British architecture. The officers’ bungalows, the church facades, benches in churches were beautifully designed and simple in their appearance. There was one place where we could not go because we had to catch the train. It was Bhim Pakora. We inquired about this place from locals who said that according to legends, while living in exile, Pandavas came to this place. Bhim picked one rock and kept it over another. Today this rock can be moved with one's finger’s touch but it does not topple.

We wandered in the jungles and then decided to go off the road, down in the valley. The greenery of the valley was very pleasing and sitting there, one would be tempted to get lost somewhere. The place was so quiet that you could hear birds chirruping and sound of leaves when winds move touching them. And all that with cold winds going past you reminding you to enjoy these moments to the fullest.
sunset from santoshi mata mandir, Lansdowne
The sunset in Lansdowne.

"But the trees seemed to know me. They whispered among themselves and beckoned me nearer. And looking around, I noticed the other small trees and wild plants and grasses had sprung up under the protection of the trees we had placed there." 
-Ruskin Bond in Rusty.

Indeed, oak, pine, chir pine and horse chestnut trees were the true residents of Kasauli. Greeting the new comers, swinging along with the wind, these trees were everywhere. They stood there looking at the passers-by like they owned the place. Ruskin Bond, who was born in Kasauli, described this feeling so beautifully. If it were not up to these trees to stand there, one’s eyes will certainly slip on the mountain slopes all the way down to the valley. 

Kasauli is a sleepy little town, secluded and very peaceful, located in Solan district of Himachal Pradesh. The best way to reach there is via Kalka. Reach Kalka by Indian Railways and then take a bus or cab from there to Kasauli. At Kalka Railway Station, we saw the Kalka-Shimla Railway trains and for a moment we thought to abandon our plans of Kasauli, instead, go to Shimla. Breathtaking views from Kalka-Shimla train would have been memorable, but then we weighed in favour of Kasauli. A trip from Kalka's Gandhi Chowk, where we boarded the bus, to Kasauli had all the typical traits of a Himalayan safari. Traveling on narrow, curvy roads with deep gorges on one side we could get a beautiful view of a village from the bus at the top of a hill. Also, we saw how life can be so difficult for small school-going children who had to go to schools at Parwanoo, a town between Kalka and Kasauli, and who could not find a seat in the crowded bus.

We reached Kasauli at around 9 am and then had a chai at the bus stand. A chai is always pleasant in such a weather. The weather was very soothing and extra comforting given that we came from Delhi where mercury was continuously in the forties. Then we started the search for a hotel to stay when we found one more new thing which was particularly pleasant to ears. It was the loudspeakers installed along the roadside at Mall Road. There were Hanuman's and Krishna's bhajans being played at a decent volume. Then we found our accommodation. The view from the balcony was good.  Clouds came towards us and disappeared. We stayed there a little before we started wandering in the roads unknown to us.

The Kasauli town was situated in a thick forest cover. There were no signs of any rush. Kasauli also houses an army cantonment which covers most of the upper town. Painted in olive green, the houses and other buildings in the shape of a hut had architectural resemblance with other small hill stations. The architecture was predominantly British. It was easy to spot people donning military fatigues here and there. Walking further we reached town's end and, yes, it is a small town. Then we started hillside walk with beautiful scenes. There were some interesting boards put up instructing not to litter. Then we reached sunset point. I accede that 1 pm is not the ideal time to reach to a sunset park, but we were exploring the mountains and next thing we saw was this sunset point. From this place, one can see cities situated in plains like Chandigarh, Ropar and Jalandhar etc. In fact, there is a concrete structure where one can see the directions of all these cities mentioned. Due to fog and clouds, we could not see places far away, but Chandigarh and Sukhna Lake could be seen as they were nearer.

Then we walked further and took a shortcut on a steep slope to reach a road down the hill. After sometime we reached gates of Air Force Station, Kasauli which encircles the Manki Point. Although there is a temptation to call it Monkey Point, I will stick with Manki Point as this was the name mentioned in all signboards and in the gate pass issued to us at the entrance. Before we could reach there, heavy downpour started. We took shelter in a canteen and had some parathas. When rain stopped we reached Manki Point, an ancient temple situated on a hill top. As soon as we reached rainfall started again. Legends were that while taking Sanjeevani Buti from the Himalayas to Lanka for unconscious Lakshman, this hilltop was hit by Hanuman's toe. This also gives the hilltop its present shape. Later local persons erected a temple at that place. The lawns of the temple have a helipad. From this place you can have a breathtaking 270view of the surrounding hills. We were not able to see too far because of the rain but whatever was visible was mesmerizing.

The evening walk in Lower Pine Mall was nice again. This time loudspeakers played Bollywood’s golden oldies. We sat there on a bench to enjoy the beauty of the moment. Due to shortage of time we could not visit many places like historical churches, but whatever we visited had a long-lasting effect. This whole town was so close to nature that it would be no exaggeration to say that nature itself took care of this town. Hidden was the message that we should also take care of the nature. One signboard put this beautifully:

Only when the last tree has withered
The last fish caught
The last river poisoned
Will we finally realize we cannot eat money.

Photo Credits : Dharmendra Kumar
trees at sunset-point, kasauli
picture perfect
hill side walk at kasauli
a long walk
flowers at kasauli
alone and beautiful

उन्हीं बदनाम गलियों मे आना जाना है फिर से
वहाँ ज़िक्र-ए-यार होता है तो उठती है लहर कोई। 

अंजुमन मे ज़ाहिर होने के डर से चुप हैं वो
वो जिन्हें डरा ना सका था ज़माने का डर कोई। 

बस इतनी सी उम्मीद से साथ पाने की कोशिश थी
कि उन्हें भी पसंद आ जाता नाचीज़ का हुनर कोई। 

उनके ख़याल मे गुज़री है तमाम शब अब तक
कभी खुद के लिए बचा के रख लेते सहर कोई। 

दवा-औ-दुआ-औ-दारू नाकाम थे सब के सब
ये फ़ासला जाने कर गया मुझ पर असर कोई। 

गुमशुदगी की हद तक खो गये हैं वो अब तो
शायद मिल गये उनको भी नये हमसफ़र कोई। 

चंद यादों के सहारे जी रहा हूँ अब तो यायावर
एक अरसे से दीदार ना हुआ मयस्सर कोई। 

Ramachandra Guha cannot be truer in saying that for Indian student, or public in general, history comes to an end on 15th of august, 1947. Even if it has been extended beyond that, then only to 30th January of 1948, when Mahatma Gandhi was killed. In prolog to 'India After Gandhi', the author quotes educationist Krishna Kumar who says, "for Indian children history itself comes to an end with the Partition and the Independence. As a constituent of social studies, and later on as a subject in its own right, history runs right out of content in 1947 . . . All that has happened during the last 55 years may filter through them easily civics syllabus, popular cinema, and television; history as formally constituted knowledge of the past does not cover it”. (Read here about that in detail.)

Indeed, author took great pains to describe and document the journey of India after 1947, the journey of the largest democracy of the world. 'The largest democracy'- we take great pride in saying that to show superiority, on the world stage, as compared with the neighboring power China, which has one-party rule. The book is divided into five parts in chronological order. Each book describes a different period after 1947, giving detailed accounts of happenings of that period in India. In the first part, the author describes how India became Independent and its immediate concerns like refugees, the merger of princely states to British India, Kashmir problem, making constitution etc. were handled. In the second part, he describes the India under Nehru’s prime ministership. This ranges from Nehru’s unchallenged leadership in the beginning of the 1950s to his dwindling position after losing Sino-India War in 1962. This obviously did not go well with the public and Nehru looked weaker than ever but he was able to retain his post till his death. 

The part three concentrates on the weakening of Centre. In southern states, Non-Congress parties emerged as strong contenders for power. Kerala became the first state of India where a Non-Congress government was sworn in, led by E. M. S. Namboodiripad and probably first democratically elected communist government in the world, whose even commitment to democracy or respect to the ballot was untested till then. But they set examples to other communists in world by successfully working within the framework of Indian Constitution.  The part four goes through the rise of populism in India. Elections were more about catchy slogans. Policies were not decided on the basis of their impact on nation building but on their ability to woo the general public. The slogans like Garibi Hatao (Remove Poverty) were very useful in winning elections but the public was not shown any roadmap that would remove or reduce poverty. The last part of the book describes the last two decades where the reign of coalition governments considerably weakened the Centre’s authority. Many riots, major and minor, took place during last two decades. Also, author focuses Indian government’s efforts to open Indian economy to world and end what was called License Raj.

'India After Gandhi' by Ramachandra GuhaThe writer attributes many problems of India like Zamindari, untouchability and riots among many others to basically four factors: class, caste, religion and language and goes in details of the measures taken by makers of the constitution and by successive governments to implement those measures. The abolition of Zamindari system and redistribution of lands from feudal lords to landless farmers were few of them. The government of Nehru leaning towards socialism started this and communist government of West Bengal did it more enthusiastically, in part because communist uprisings had their roots in peasant and labor movements. Even though a large population of India is landless but as compared to 1950s we have covered a significant distance. The condition of Harijans, later called Dalits and Scheduled Castes, also did not improve significantly in villages far removed from the progress made by their brethren in cities but now they were a political force to reckon, more so after the rise of political parties committed especially to their cause. Same goes with minorities who were given constitutional assurances, reinforced from time to time by different governments, of their safety and equality. Indeed, their position is far better as compared to neighboring countries. The makers of our country dreamt of a country with social equality, but what we have is equality in legislature and governments but inequality in society.

The turbulence at the peripheries has remained a matter of concern. Although terrorism died in Punjab in the late 1990s, it is still a major concern in Kashmir and North-East. The last ruler of Jammu and Kashmir Maharaja Hari Singh said to make Kashmir the Switzerland of the east. He did not live long enough to see its present perils but his indecisiveness certainly had a role to play in later problems of his former kingdom. The Jammu and Kashmir problem comes in between any hope of a normalized relationship between India and Pakistan and an amicable solution is still not thinkable in near future. The insurgency in the north-east was a major concern once and still there are instances when it seems to resurface, but it would be apt to say that with granting statehood and greater autonomy, the unrest has been quelled. In fact, at a press conference in January 1997, the former Meghalaya chief minister B. B. Lyngdoh lashed out at the media for 'lionizing' the guerrillas. 'They're cowards, petty thieves, robbers, and extortionists,'’ insisted Lyngdoh. 'Insurgency in the north-east died two decades ago.'

The author also discusses in detail why India survives despite several western intellectuals declaring that India will fall apart owing to its differences. They argued that India is not a country, but is made up of countries which are very different from each other, citing the example of Europe. After any unfortunate event like the death of Nehru or Indira Gandhi, the imposition of emergency in 1975, the rise of insurgencies in different parts, they wrote off India. But India survives. The hard work of Sardar Patel in the integration of India is intact. The accommodation of aspirations of all sections in the very idea of India and Constitutional assurances has contributed to that. India is intact and all the languages are freely promoted, but Pakistan disintegrated on lingual basis after they tried to impose another language on a Bengali speaking population and a major ethnic tension goes on in Sri Lanka after Sinhalese was made official language ignoring Tamil.

Ramachandra Guha also addresses the question although not directly that whether 'growth of regional parties and populist policies has weakened democracy in India.' Let us consider views of both sides of the argument. It may be argued that greater power to states or regional parties would, in fact, give importance to the local issues at the Centre. The formation and winning of mass support by caste or region based parties have actually given powers to the communities for which these parties stand. Their belief in democratic ways for the fulfilment of their demands is actually a pleasant development. That is one side of the argument but then author comments on nature of this democracy, "The decline of Parliament, and of reasoned public discourse in general, has meant that the Government forces are swarmed by the opposition almost instantly after an electoral mandate. There is no patience, either on the part of the government or the opposition, to respect the authenticity of the mandate to rule given by the voter to a parliament or legislature." He concludes that India is no longer a constitutional democracy but a populist one.

बाग में
एक चटख रंग की पत्ती देखता हूँ
सवेरे की
शीतल सुरभित हवा के साथ
झूमती हुई
सूरज के प्रकाश में चमकती हुई
पक्षियों के कलरव से
तालमेल बनाती हुई
ओस की बूँदों में नहाई हुई
वो अपनी ही दुनिया में जी रही है
वो नयी पत्ती है
बसंत ऋतु मे जन्मी है
अभी बाग के
तौर-तरीकों से अंजान है।

कल जब ये पत्ती बड़ी होगी
तो इसे
ज़िम्मेदारियों का बोध कराया जाएगा
रंग चटख से गाढ़ा पड़ता जाएगा
ये पत्ती
लू के थपेड़े सहना सीखेगी
धूप से हारे
किसी राही को ये पत्ती
विश्राम देगी।

और फिर वर्षा ऋतु में
बादलों की गरज के संग
आँधी तूफान में
इस छोर से उस छोर तक
कूदते फाँदते हुए
बारिश में भीगा करेगी
हालाँकि अब इसे बाग के
चाल चलन की पूरी जानकारी है
लेकिन परवाह थोड़े ही है
पत्ती युवावस्था में है।

और फिर एक समय ऐसा भी आएगा
जब पत्ती का रंग गाढ़े हरे से
पीला पड़ने लगेगा
आसपास की पत्तियाँ
तेज हवा चलने पे
दिल थाम के बैठ जाएँगी
की कहीं ये पत्ती गिर ना जाए
धीरे धीरे
शाखा से पत्ती की पकड़ कमजोर होती जाएगी
पतझड़ के ऐसे ही
किसी सामान्य दिन
पत्ती वृक्ष से गिर जाएगी
ज़मीन पर कुछ दिन पड़े हुए
पत्ती का रंग काला पड़ जाएगा
एक दिन माली आएगा
इस पत्ती को ऐसी ही
अनेक पत्तियों के साथ जला देगा
बाकी पत्तियाँ मूक देखते रह जाएँगी
उस पत्ती के जाने का
बाग पर कुछ असर नही होगा
ऐसा लगेगा
जैसे कभी वो पत्ती वहाँ थी ही नही
और वैसे भी
अगले बसंत मे फिर नयी पत्तियाँ तो आएँगी ही।

बैठा सोचता हूँ
कि मैं भी
किसी गुमनाम बाग की
एक आवारा पत्ती हूँ
हवा चलने पर मचलता हूँ
ओस की बूँदो पर थिरकता हूँ
बारिश मे भीग लेता हूँ
आज हूँ
तो जीवन बहुत सरस लगता है
और जब कल नही रहूँगा
तो भी उस गुमनाम बाग में
जीवन ऐसे ही चलता रहेगा
जैसे बाग में मुझ पत्ती का
अस्तित्व कभी था ही नहीं।

अपने रोशन चेहरे पे वो नाज़ करते रहे रात भर
खुदा की काबिलियत पे फ़ख्र करते रहे रात भर। 

रुख़ से नक़ाब हटाया उन्होने कि शमा बुझ गयी
फिर जतन से चेहरा पर्दे में छिपाते रहे रात भर। 

चाँद को चाँदनी से कब दूर पाया है किसी ने
फिर भी चाँद को तन्हा ही देखते रहे रात भर। 

बड़े खुलूस से भेजा उन्हें जश्न-ए-बर्बादी का बुलावा
कदम चलते रहे, वो खुद को रोकते रहे रात भर। 

अदाओं की दिलकशी को मोहब्बत समझ बैठे थे
उसी मोहब्बत की आग में फिर जलते रहे रात भर। 

मेरा फसाना बज़्म में सुनाने के कहाँ काबिल था
वो अपना दर्द-ए-दिल ही बयाँ करते रहे रात भर। 

ठुकराते रहे ज़िंदगी भर मोहब्बत की मेरी पेशकश
वफ़ा खोजते हैं अब मुसल्सल, बेवफाओं में रात भर। 

वास्तविकता की दुनिया से कोई नाता नहीं मेरा
आईने में ही जब खुद को तलाशते रहे रात भर।

Swami Vivekananda, the indian  monk
"Many times I have been in the jaws of death, starving, footsore, and weary; for days and days I had no food, and often could walk no further; I would sink down under a tree, and life would seem to be ebbing away. I could not speak, I could scarcely think, but, at last, the mind reverted to the idea: "I have no fear nor death; never was I born, never did I die; I never hunger or thirst. I am It! I am It! The whole of nature cannot crush me; it is my servant. Assert thy strength, thou Lord of lords and God of gods! Regain thy lost empire! Arise and walk and stop not!" And I would rise up, reinvigorated; and here I am today, living! Thus, whenever darkness comes, assert the reality and everything adverse must vanish. For, after all, it is but a dream. Mountain-high though the difficulties appear, terrible and gloomy though all things seem, they are but Maya. Fear not, and it is banished. Crush it, and it vanishes. Stamp upon it, and it dies." (Delivered at Los Angeles, Calif., 5th January 1900)

Today is the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, the missionary who spread the Indian philosophy beyond India. A lover of mankind, he strove to promote peace and human brotherhood on the spiritual foundation of the Vedantic Oneness of existence. A mystic of the highest order, Vivekananda had a direct and intuitive experience of Reality. He derived his ideas from that unfailing source of wisdom and often presented them in the soul-stirring language of poetry. The natural tendency of Vivekananda's mind, like that of his master, Ramakrishna, was to soar above the world and forget itself in contemplation of the Absolute. But another part of his personality bled at the sight of human suffering in East and West alike. It might appear that his mind seldom found a point of rest in its oscillation between contemplation of God and service to man. Be that as it may, he chose, in obedience to a higher call, service to man as his mission on earth; and this choice has endeared him to people in the West.

In the course of a short life of thirty-nine years (1863-1902), of which only ten were devoted to public activities and those too in the midst of acute physical suffering, he left for posterity his four classics: Jnana-Yoga, Bhakti-Yoga, Karma-Yoga, and Raja-Yoga, all of which are outstanding treatises on Hindu philosophy. In addition, he delivered innumerable lectures, wrote inspired letters in his own hand to his many friends and disciples, composed numerous poems, and acted as spiritual guide to the many seekers, who came to him for instruction. He also organized the Ramakrishna Order of monks, which is one of the most outstanding religious organization of modern India. It is devoted to the propagation of the Hindu spiritual culture not only in the Swami's native land but also in America and in other parts of the world.

Swami Vivekananda once spoke of himself as a "condensed India." His life and teachings are of inestimable value to the West for an understanding of the mind of Asia. William James, the Harvard philosopher, called the Swami the "paragon of Vedantists." Max Muller and Paul Deussen, the famous Orientalists of the nineteenth century, held him in genuine respect and affection. "His words," writes Romain Rolland, "are great music, phrases in the style of Beethoven, stirring rhythms like the march of Handel choruses. I cannot touch these sayings of his, scattered as they are through the pages of books, at thirty years' distance, without receiving a thrill through my body like an electric shock. And what shocks, what transports, must have been produced when in burning words they issued from the lips of the hero!'' (Nikhilananda, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center)

I remember a nice poem by Swamiji, titled 'To The Awakened India'.

Once more awake!
For sleep it was, not death, to bring thee life
Anew, and rest to lotus-eyes for visions
Daring yet. The world in need awaits, O Truth!
No death for thee!

Resume thy march,
With gentle feet that would not break the
Peaceful rest even of the roadside dust
That lies so low. Yet strong and steady,
Blissful, bold, and free. Awakener, ever
Forward! Speak thy stirring words.
And tell the world—
Awake, arise, and dream no more!
This is the land of dreams, where Karma
Weaves unthreaded garlands with our thoughts
Of flowers sweet or noxious, and none
Has root or stem, being born in naught, which
The softest breath of Truth drives back to
Primal nothingness. Be bold, and face
The Truth! Be one with it! Let visions cease,
Or, if you cannot, dream but truer dreams,
Which are Eternal Love and Service Free.

Read more about Swami Vivekananda's childhood:

Swami Vivekananda, the indian  monk
"We can never lose what is really ours. Who can lose his being? Who can lose his very existence? If I am good, it is the existence first, and then that becomes colored with the quality of goodness. If I am evil, it is the existence first, and that becomes colored with the quality of badness. That existence is first, last, and always; it is never lost but ever present." (Swami Vivekananda)

A spiritual genius of commanding intellect and power, Vivekananda crammed immense labor and achievement into his short life - 1863-1902. Born as Narendranath Datta on 12 January 1863 in Calcutta to Viswanath Datta, an attorney and Bhubaneshwari Devi, a religious and kind-hearted lady. From very childhood, he started showing signs of a great individual. His father was little conspicuous of the activities of his child but provided him an environment where he could grow to his full abilities. During childhood, when other children spent their time playing games, he used to play at meditation. In a famous story, it is said that, once, while he was deep in meditation, a cobra came. All the other children of that room went away, but he continued to be in mediation as if nothing happened. Such was his power of concentration and focus that he shot in succession twelve eggs swinging up and down in a river while having no experience of firing a gun before.

His childhood tales describe the life of a monk who would conquer the world by his intellect and humbleness. The child Narendra (Swamiji's childhood name) was very naughty and it was very difficult to calm him down. When all other methods to pacify him failed, his mother Bhuvaneswari Devi would pour cold water over his head, chanting the name of "Shiva", and he would instantly calm down; or if someone said to him that if you do not calm down, Lord Shiva will not let you enter Kailasa, Narendra would be pacified. When he grew up, his mother used to tell him about this method to calm him down, saying, "I asked Lord Shiva for a son and He sent me a demon!"

His mother played a crucial role in shaping his future. When he told her, one day, of having been unjustly treated in school, she said to him, in consolation: 'My child, what does it matter, if you are right? Always follow the truth without caring about the result. Very often you may have to suffer injustice or unpleasant consequences for holding to the truth; but you must not, under any circumstances, abandon it.' Many years later Narendranath proudly said to an audience, 'I am indebted to my mother for whatever knowledge I have acquired.'

In his childhood, he used to climb a Champaka tree in his friend's house. It was his favorite pastime to hang upside down from that tree. He loved the fragrance of Champaka flowers. One day when he climbed the tree, the old owner of the house came and said to him that the tree was inhabited by ghosts and one of them is Brahmadaitya. If Narendra would not climb down from the tree, the Brahmadaitya will kill him. Listening to this he immediately climbed down from the tree. As soon as the old person went away, celebrating that he persuaded Narendra to climb down, Narendra climbed up the tree again. Seeing him doing this, his friend asked what is he doing - "The ghost Brahmadaitya will eat you up". Narendra smiled and said, "Do not believe in everything that elders tell you, but also use your conscience. If this tree was a living place of a ghost, then I would have been dead long ago." Such was his fearlessness and belief in his convictions.

There is one more story about his courage. One day he was setting a big trapeze in the gymnasium with the help of some people, including an English sailor. During the effort, the trapeze fell and the sailor was knocked unconscious. All other children fled from the fear of police, assuming the sailor to be dead. Narendra stayed there and tore a piece of his cloth to wrap around the sailor's wounds, washed his face and helped him in fighting the injury. Later he moved the sailor to the nearby school where Narendra took care of him for a week. Later he sent the sailor away with a small amount of money collected from his friends.

Curiosity was an integral part of his life. In his father's office different varieties of tobacco pipes were provided for clients belonging to different Hindu castes, as were the prevailing conditions during those times. Similarly, different tobacco pipes were kept for Muslim clients. Narendra smoked tobacco from all the pipes and when rebuked for doing the same, he replied, "I could not figure out the difference."

He was very eager to know about the God. He went to meet Devendranath Tagore, a leader identified with Brahmo Samaj and asked him, "Sir, have you seen God?" Tagore was surprised by this question and said to him, "My child, You have to have the eyes of Yogi. You should practice meditation." This was the case with almost all leaders of various sects whom he approached with the same question, which never satisfied him.

Few Quotes by Swami Vivekananda:
"Never mind failures; they are quite natural, they are the beauty of life, these failures. What would life be without them? It would not be worth having if it were not for struggles. Where would be the poetry of life? Never mind the struggles, the mistakes. I never heard a cow tell a lie, but it is only a cow—never a man. So never mind these failures, these little backslidings; hold the ideal a thousand times, and if you fail a thousand times, make the attempt once more."
"To succeed, you must have tremendous perseverance, tremendous will. “I will drink the ocean", says the persevering soul; "at my will mountains will crumble up". Have that sort of energy, that sort of will; work hard, and you will reach the goal."
-Vedanta philosophy : Lectures by the Swami Vivekananda on Raja Yoga (1899), Ch. VI : Pratyahara and Dharana.

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