Saturday, January 26, 2008

January 26, 2007 - from Sevagram to Nagpur

GROUND ZERO FOR INDIAN INDEPENDENCE. One year ago today, we awoke at the home of Indian independence--Gandhi's ashram at Sevagram. Not long into our day's ride north to Nagpur, we realized it would be no ordinary day. It was Republic Day in India. Unlike anything we'd experienced in America on July 4, Indians came out into the streets in a proud demonstration of their nation's democratic freedoms.

CELEBRATING IN EVERY TOWN. Every town and village we rode through on our way to Nagpur was having a parade or celebrating. India gained its independence non-violently from England on August 15, 1947. But it was three years later--on January 26, 1950--that India formally became a republic, adopting its constitution and installing a democratically-elected government.

WORLD'S LARGEST DEMOCRACY. The democracy is still young--just 57 years old--and quite dynamic. One gets the sense that the nation is still coming into its own. India is now the world’s largest democracy, at nearly 1.2 billion citizens.

"MY INDIA." Indians are very proud of their country and its growing place among nations. It was written on their faces and in the intensity of their patriotism on this day. It was affectionately spoken: "My India!" We celebrated, too, flying the India flag on our bicycles from this day forward--all the way into New Delhi.

THE ARGUMENTATIVE INDIAN. While in India, I picked up a book by one of India's Nobel laureates. The book is titled The Argumentative Indian. The author makes the point that democracy will likely have its fullest expression in this nation because of the will and ability of Indians to express their views and concerns vociferously and to organize and take to the streets for the sake of their voices being heard. May it be so.

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