Friday, October 3, 2014

Resurgence of India - the tryst at Madison Square Garden...

There are few arenas around the world, excluding the Manchester arena and O2 Arena (both in England) that can boast of the kind of glory that Madison Square Garden Manhattan possesses. Situated in the heart of Mid-town, the power nerve of New York, this 820,000 square feet facility has hosted some of the iconic personalities, Musical events and festivals of the twentieth century. It is in these hallowed enclosures that the legendary Mohammad Ali lost in fifteen rounds to George foreman - a fight that will be resonate in history as 'one that defined professional boxing, and assured Ali's immortality; it was here that John Lennon, performed to a resounding ovation before he was shot down by a mad man; it was here that Elvis Presley, the youth icon of the flower age, drove his high strung audiences to overwhelming waves of ecstasy in four house full performances; it was here that Michael Jackson celebrated his thirtieth year as a magical artist, when excerpts from his career were aired on gigantic screens, followed by a live performance and dinner with the legend - an evening when Jackson earned approximately $ 150,000 per minute; It is here that the muscled, sweaty and oiled men in World wrestling federation entertain the world with their pyrotechnics and exaggerated anger; it is here that basketball and tennis have found a fit podium to unleash some of their best celebrity performances- and it here that the Fifteenth Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi chose to display his raw charisma, flaming oratory , astounding confidence and indubitable sense of destiny to the world at large. It was for the first time in the history of the Madison square garden that a political voice resounded with such clarity, conviction and optimism. Even John F Kennedy’s famed appearance with Marilyn Monroe on his fortieth birthday, when the tragic queen appeared and sang a birthday song in a dress that still make us hold our breath- failed to evoke the rousing reception and adulation that this diminutive man, dressed immaculately in starched Indian costume got from this huge crowd that had gathered to see, feel and hear his presence. For at least a few brief moments, almost everyone there was proud to be an Indian.
If there is anything that a study of democracy across centuries will prove, it is this indisputable fact that a leader should not merely possess a vision, a drive, a passion to transform; but also should exude this rather undefinable, yet tangible and powerful sense of something that we loosely christen as ‘charisma’. Without this factor, it is virtually impossible to steer a country in a desired direction. The United States of America is perhaps the best example of enlightened democracy in the globe; and if one looks at the parade of Presidents who have occupied the white house – beginning with Washington, Adams and Jefferson to Lincoln, Grant and Wilson; followed by Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Kennedy and then in recent times, Clinton and Obama - the singular quality all of these heads of state was an appeal that went beyond erudition, pedigree and political ideology. It was their “presence” - that mattered. One of the conspicuously missing aspects of Indian democracy has been a lack of personality; barring Nehru and to some extent his daughter Indira, who unfortunately channeled it the wrong way; we have had no clear leadership who could walk up to a podium with consummate confidence, only with small note in their hands, mustering their fullest life force into their speeches and ideas- until Narendra Modi; who personifies this rustic appeal of a man who knows his business with undivided conviction. Like Alexander, who had a raw instinct for war and peace, friend and foe, Modi is carrying his new found India with a clear mission, demarcating and delineating his concerns, articulating in a manner that leaves no room for ambiguity. For a man with no considerable formal education, very minimal international exposure, new to etiquette and courtesies; he held himself with great stature and maturity both in the United Nation’s assembly, his dinner and subsequent talks with Obama. In all, this has been one of the most successful and highly visible trips made by any Indian Diplomat in ages. When mahatma Gandhi attend the round table conference in England, the world got to see the saint in action; and now when Modi walked the corridors of white house, it seems as though, a new era, a fresh chapter is unveiling itself in India’s political landscape.
But then, one has to be a little circumspect as well. For India is a very different kind of democracy, and it needs and aspirations are significantly different. The euphoria that Modi creating is wonderful, but to sustain it for a prolonged period to effect any radical changes it political, economic and social structure will be something that the world is looking forward to, and will posit a great challenge to Modi’s leadership. After many years of insipid political will, the giant in India is beginning to wake up again. The signs are all there; and the world is ripe for a new superpower to emerge in the east with all the right elements of democracy and moral citizenship entrenched in it.
Swami Vivekananda often used to quote this famous verse from the Katha Upanishad, a dialogue between the young Nachiketha and Lord of death – ‘Uttisthata Jagrata Prapya Barannibodhata Kshurasanna Dhara Nishita Dustayadurgama Pathah tat kabaya badanti’. It means: “Arise, awake and stop not until the goal is reached. This is treading a razor’s edge, and one needs all the courage and determination one can muster”. Vivekananda admired the freedom struggle of America and the way its people and leaders responded to the challenge of colonialism to build a true democracy on principles of freedom, education and growth. This ancient wisdom reflected his passion to see India emerge out its cocoon. Modi has this vision written in his office room, and he knows he is walking a razor’s edge.
I am only hoping that Modi’s personal fame does not supersede his work ahead to build a stronger and better India. History should not dismiss his political career as whimsically as King Ferdinand of Naples summed up Lorenzo’s (the man behind Italian renaissance in 16th century), when he said:
“He lived long enough for his glory, but to short a time for Italy...”
Hopefully, Modi would raise himself above personal ambitions and agenda and govern long enough to be the tipping point in India’s tryst with democracy…
God bless…

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