Today, India celebrates the 61st anniversary of its independence from British Rule. Not quite as exciting as 231 years for you Americans, but we did it with a lot fewer bullets. Since I tend to post about the things that really annoy me about India, I thought I’d dedicate some time to a few completely awesome things about it. Check them out, after the fold.
1. We prove, time and again, that an individual can make a difference
Dr. Bindeswar Pathak of Sulabh International saw the plight of the Dalits (the “untouchables” or members of the lowest caste), who have no other option but to work as garbage collectors, disposing of the trash, feces and urine of the other castes. At least I hope they dispose of it. Anyhow, he created a program where he helps these people (mostly women) learn to read, write and take on new jobs.
2. We have a group of Indian Rationalists who continue to fight the good fight
Led by Sanal Edamaruku, of “Great Tantric Challenge” fame, the Indian Rationalists continue to question gurus and godmen in public arenas, proving them wrong, often on National TV. Check out Edamaruku’s expose of “New Age Hypnotic Guru” Sivanand in March.
3. We remain the world’s largest democracy
We argue and fight, often to extremes. Our government is corrupt and confused. We could be a whole lot more effective if we figured out how to put our differences aside. But we also revel in our diversity and remain the world’s largest democracy. Our constitution confirms that we’re a secular country and we constantly fight attempts from one religion to dominate the government.
4. We love our armed forces
One of the local airlines, SpiceJet, has announced a “Freedom to Fly”program where any serving armed forces personnel get a full discount on the basic airline ticket price (paying only taxes and fees) to allow them to get home more easily and, presumably, more often.
5. We’re the underdog at the Olympics and we won!
We won our first 2008 gold medal this week – in air rifle shooting.
Our previous gold medals came from field hockey team, which didn’t even qualify for the Beijing Games. Go Abhinav Bindra!
6. We proved that nonviolent resistance can work.
Gandhi’s concept of Satyagraha was and still is controversial. Sam Harris, for example, has some interesting counter-arguments. But we achieved independence 61 years ago because of it and the concept of finding a non-violent way to disobey tyranny is a powerful and beautiful one.
7. We’re looking to space for answers
Yes, India has a space program. I hope all of you recovered from #4 above (realizing that India has a military and an airline named for a Spice Girl) before reading that. Our space program is small, private and has no military ambitions.
While the leaders of the free world imagine advanced weapons systems, scientists in India see space technology as a means to help the developing world.
Not only did it bring television to the entire subcontinent in one sweep in the early 1990s, it has furthered advances in water management, land tenure, archaeology and telemedicine.
Telemedicine, by the way, is basically visiting a doctor through a web cam. Awesome. The minute I can do a physical over Skype, I am there.
8. We’re bringing science education to village children
The lab carries over a hundred simple, low-cost experiments — most portable enough to be set up under a tree — and a teacher who will involve the students directly in discovery. They’ll step forward to help, and they’ll be urged to ask questions. They’ll see and experience scientific concepts in action. And whether the lesson shows what makes rockets fly, or how sound travels, or what makes a sunset colorful, they will remember and use what they learn
9. Like it or not, we embrace technology and we do it well
According to a Gartner report, three Indian IT services companies (Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys Technologies and Wipro Technologies) will emerge as the next generation of IT service “megavendors,” and are likely to replace the present megavendors (IBM, Accenture, and EDS) by 2011.
According to the study, Indian companies are much more than just the cheaper option:
Gartner attributes the success of India-3 to four critical competencies: process excellence, world-class HR practices, provision of high quality services at a low cost and achievement of significant and disproportionate ‘mind share’ compared to their actual size.
10. We have Bollywood, baby.
We don’t worry about all those complex diversions like ‘plot’ and ‘genres.’ Nope, the biggest movie maker in the world knows how to make movies. They all have pretty much the same plot and they combine all genres in one three-hour awesomepalooza. I’ll leave you with this classic sample:
So Happy Birthday India. It also happens to be my 10-year wedding anniversary today. Celebrate with me by saying something nice about someplace, someone or something that you love too!