Beyond the Horizon
I took leave of my diplomatic career forever, about two weeks back. It was difficult to peel off the bureaucratic skin of mine and pretend that I was normal. Yet the memories of those thirty eight years of service which veritably transforms a normal individual to a machine, a ‘cog in the wheel’, were bitter sweet and a lot out of the ordinary. That apart, life in the foreign service had its thrill moments, to discover cultures of the world and be a part of them without losing your own. Yet at the end of the day, rather at sunset point, one is apt to draw a comparison between the culture one represented and the cultures one absorbed.
I remember in the early 1980s as a young diplomat in Paris, I had to constantly navigate between the India where poverty abounded and the one which showed the way to robust orientalism. There was no midway, it was either too black or too white, and I hated the French for decrying my country for being in the dark ages while their’s was the fountainhead of liberty, equality and fraternity, cherished values of the Revolution. The centuries old struggle for freedom; standing up to imperialism and colonial rule with the iron clad sheath of peace, truth and non- violence mattered very little to the French. Gandhi was little known there except in intellectual circles. Attenborough had not yet burst upon the scene.
Times have changed. Today India still suffers from endemic poverty, despite decades of state- controlled economics followed by a tethering market capitalism, but the world looks at the emerging developed economy image with some awe and more curiosity. India’s age-old culture and heritage in that optic has got a face lift, with soft power instruments yoga, bollywood, cuisine, traditional medicine (Ayurveda), cricket getting farther, to touch new horizons. India has today become the dream destination for the western traveller, businessman, and researcher to look out for something different, something new, something incomparable.
This is the new India, of a new age whose sanctity we must preserve, whose ethics and values we must nourish. For therein lie the recipe for a great civilization that India was, and continues to be. Thus for example, we saw the world come together in saluting India when 191 countries observed the International Day of Yoga on 21st June this year following a UN Resolution to this effect, put forth by India. It was a proud moment for the country when nearly 2 billion people were directly or indirectly participating in the yoga marathon throughout the day, and India notched a few records in the Guinness book. I saw 2,000 people in the city of Budapest stream into the iconic Balna building on the banks of the Danube that day, so did many more come together to celebrate yoga as an ideal panacea for holistic living and India claimed the leadership to drive this health message forward.
We as Indians can send out such powerful messages only when we end the dichotomy of hyperbole in rhetoric and minimal result on this ground. For then our intentions will look genuine. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is an eloquent example. All the flagship projects today are crying out for implementation and that needs the total support of the citizenry. Admittedly there are continental discrepancies in our sub-continent but then Indians have risen to the occasion in times of crises, disaster and danger. Let normal times be considered crisis moments, as each of the failures in execution could end up in a disaster.
The India of today has admittedly a different image than what it had when I joined the service some 38 years back. I harp on that as it could be a pointer to make ourselves conscious of our responsibilities, of what lies ahead if India has to take a certain trajectory of sustainable growth for her billion plus population within a secular democratic market capitalism set up, a jigsaw puzzle of ideologies and values.
A new sun is expanding its colours beyond the horizon. I wish to touch it, hold it in my palm to feel the strength and energy of the Progenitor who lies within us all. The sun will forever rise from the east and there could not be a better amalgam of geography, history and culture in the East than India. Let us all realize our vast potential, as children of a land that will never perish, rather constantly renew and regenerate and generation more will surge out of the crevices to add beauty, divinity and a wonderful radiance of life, for all times.
Let that be a part our thinking, we stand on the cusp of change, to a new dawn that which we can mould to the contours of living a glorious future. The future is in our hands, as we look beyond the horizon.
—The author retired as India’s Ambassador to Hungary and Bosnia and Herzegovina recently and is currently engaged in doctoral research