I is for India

I’ve had a long fascination with India. You can read what the CIA World Factbook says about the country.

Maybe I’m drawn in because of the idea of an independence movement that was won, NOT primarily by militarily means, but rather through a civil disobedience movement practiced by Mohandas K. Gandhi, which he first utilized in South Africa and then in India. I read a Gandhi autobiography in college – I may reread it this year – and I recognize his liberation struggle techniques that were eventually used by Martin Luther King, Jr. and others.

Gandhi was disheartened, though, by the partition of India and Pakistan into two separate countries, upon independence in 1947, especially since the severing was based largely on religious beliefs. I always found it really strange that Pakistan was established in two geographic parts, East and West, divided by 1,600 km (994 mi) of India. In 1971, East Pakistan became Bangladesh.

It’s an odd thing: many people falsely believe that Mahatma Gandhi was the first prime minister of India; even JEOPARDY!! contestants have made this mistake. The Mahatma was NEVER a political leader, in that sense. It was Jawaharlal Nehru who led the nation from 1947 until his death in 1964. Here’s a list of all the prime ministers of India. The country is often cited as the largest democracy in the world.

I am intrigued by the so-called Indian renaming controversy. I still have to think, when I hear Mumbai, that it is the former Bombay. I’ll figure it out eventually; I’ve been saying Beijing instead of Peking, China for a good while now.

It’d be impossible to do justice to India here. My interests include everything from the long-standing dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir to the many fascinating structures, to sitar music, undoubtedly a function of George Harrison helping introduce Ravi Shankar to America.

I do wish a friend of mine who visited several places around India at Christmastime 2005 would put out a blog. She sent out e-mails to her friends about her findings at the time, and they are quite entertaining. Only a brief snippet I’ll share here: “Delhi is flat, mostly low scale and teaming with traffic of every vehicle imaginable including those with 4 legs. The road rules make Boston driving look polite.”

ABC Wednesday – Round 10

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30 thoughts on “I is for India

  1. I had no idea that the names were changed. I know little of India, and just assumed that Mumbai had been growing into prominence more recently.

  2. Great post. I’ve always been fascinated with India. I took a course in Indian literature in college which was taught by a professor who lived in India many years and I’ve always hoped to visit myself but never had. Carver, ABC Wednesday Team

  3. Sweet post. I was also strongly influenced by a biography I read of Ghandi as a teenager. He was an incredible person and leader. I look forward to savoring some of the links you provide. Have a great week.

  4. Excellent choice, Roger. I’m glad the people of India have been able to change the names of their cities back to the original non-Anglicized spelling.
    I think the reason so many people assume the spiritual leader Gandhi was a political leader is because he was able to effect changes which had been impossible otherwise.
    I have a friend who went to India to teach after he got his BA, and then went to England where he got a PhD in the history of the British in India. He found there weren’t any universities in Canada who wanted anyone to teach that, so he ended up teaching Asian Studies in Australia. When he was in India teaching in the 60s, I wanted to go over there, and was very excited about it, but he wrote me and said, “Don’t come to Inja, Diz, it ain’t the way Kipling wrote it!” And, of course, he was right. I was quite unprepared for the reality, after too much Ballad of East and West.
    K

  5. I have a few students of Indian background, 2 of whom are currently visiting with family in India for a month. Both kids were born here, but their parents marriage was an arranged one, which the kids find weird. The older daughter will graduate this year and we have the most fascinating discussions about the differences in culture! Have you ever been there, Roger?

    leslie
    abcw team

  6. India always seemed such an exotic country and so far away, but now we have East Indian friends who are back and forth to visit families and attend to business it is almost like someplace just next door.

  7. I enjoyed this post. I too am fascinated with India and would love to visit someday. I need to put the Gandhi autobiography on my list – thanks for the inspiration.

  8. Like, like, like… It is nice to see you are fascinated by Indian culture. 🙂

    Gandhi was indeed a great man. Good to see your interests are varied and hence you are not talking from just a western stereotypical view of India. What the African writer Chimamanda Adichie calls the ‘Danger of a single story’.

    And yes agree on the traffic part. You need to be a champ to drive on Indian roads. Needless to mention with loads of patience 🙂

  9. Mother Teresa used to leap to mind when I thought of India … and all the suffering she found there, particularly in Calcutta. But I know India is evolving and becoming an ever more important player world wide economically. I think so many places are still trying to adjust from all the shifting of borders in the 40s.

  10. Very interesting post, Roger. My husband has been there several times. At first I wasn’t too interested, but then I read several books whose titles I don’t recall and we don’t have them any more because we’re trying to downsize (HA!) One I read was by E. M. Forster – “Passage to India”(didn’t like the movie!) Another was “Freedom at Midnight”, I think, which was mostly about the life of Ghandi. That was fascinating. I could never understand why they split Pakistan in two either.

  11. Always thought it’s Beijing, and Peking was more like the duck. (Burma and Myanmar too) You must have seen Ghandi. I hope the name India stays.

  12. My late dad came from India, he migrated here before the world war 2 and never step back there again! Someday I would like to visit India, soon I hope.

  13. I have a friend who is married to an Indian and was there in 1970 she was shocked about the poverty there and the gap between very rich and very poor, there was nearly nothing as middle class. Driving through Calcutta in the morning a truck collected corpses from the street ! Imagine !

  14. I think Jinnah at first imagined a united India, although he disagreed with Gandhi about some of his ideas, but of course disappointingly it did not work out that way. The partition itself must have been traumatic for those who had to move. Fascinating country, I have noticed that those who have worked or lived there for any length of time are always totally changed.

  15. You have written this very well. This is a country where there is unity in diversity.

    I thank you for linking to my blog in your wonderful article.

  16. Hello Roger.
    I am an Indian, but born in Trinidad. I too have a fascination with India…must be all those exotic beauties (lol). Seriously…the country as a whole is filed with so much mystique and charm. I’ve never been, but I hope to one of these days.
    Nice post. Thanks for sharing & visiting.

    Intimate Moments With You

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