July 14, 2012

In Search of Greatness

At the crack of dawn on 15th August 1947, India finally became independent.
We successfully won back our nation from the British clutches and were all set to rule our motherland on our terms. Countless freedom fighters and nationalist workers perished in this long and grueling struggle.

In Search of Greatness 
by Devangi Patankar

When we look back on our history one facet that illuminates the whole era is the man who marched the nation towards freedom:Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 
A thin, lean man, he was lovingly called Bapu (:father) by the Indians. Even today, children are indoctrinated with Gandhiji’s values and ideals. We learn about the ‘tao of gandhi’ in every chapter of our history. It is safe to say that he was the most influential and powerful man of the 20th century.

Born in Gujarat to a senior government official, Gandhiji went on to study law at London. He spent 21 years of his life in South Africa doing remarkable and outstanding work for the Indians in SA. His experience there taught him that it was futile to openly challenge the British force and realized that one could get freedom only through non-cooperation and a pure heart.

His resilience and bravery are lessons in itself. To fight without any violence, to pave a way for his ideologies through non-co operation speaks heaps about his greatness.

He was a visionary in true sense of the word. His forecast that “India will only then be truly secular when a dalit girl will become the President of India.” is slowly becoming a reality.

He always said that he hopes ‘’his life is a message itself.” It couldn’t be more true.


And now, SIX decades later (6.5 to be precise-we will complete 65 years of independence this august the 15th). CNN IBN reflects back on all the eminent personalities (since independence) that have shaped our country into what it is today. There was a nationwide survey conducted by CNN-IBN along with HISTORY18 for this debate. The jury handpicked top 50 out of which 10 were further selected on the basis of nationwide poll, jury decision and market research poll, and now on the basis of same –will be decided "The Greatest Indian" since Mahatma Gandhi. The result will be declared on 15th of August. 




N Ram (Director (Kasturi & Sons, Publishers of The Hindu)
Nandan Nilekani (Chairman, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)
Shekhar Gupta (Editor-in-Chief, The Indian Express Group)
Michael Fereira (Three-Time World Billiards Champion)
Mukul Kesavan (Leading Novelist, Essayist and Historian)
Ramachandra Guha (Leading Author and Historian)
S Y Quraishi (Chief Election Commissioner of India)
Chetan Bhagat (India’s Best Selling Novelist)
Shubha Mudgal (Hindustani Classical Singer)
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw (Chairperson and Managing Director, Biocon)
Raghav Bahl (Founder and Editor, Network18)
Shashi Tharoor (Author and Member, Lok Sabha)
Raju Hirani  (Acclaimed Film Director, Writer and Editor)
Harsha Bhogle (India’s Top Cricket Commentator)
Vinod Mehta (Editorial Chairman, Outlook Group)
Girish Karnad (Film Writer, Director, Actor)
Prof. Yogendra Yadav (Leading Political Scientist)
Inder Malhotra (India’s Most Experienced Journalist)
Bishan Singh Bedi (Former Indian Left Arm Spinner)
Soli Sorabjee (Fmr. Attorney General Of India / Eminent Jurist)
Arun Jaitley (Leader of Opposition (Rajya Sabha)
Swapan Dasgupta (Leading Political Columnist and Commentator)
Sharmila Tagore (National Award Winning Film Actor)
Vidya Balan (National Award Winning Film Actor)
Shabana Azmi (National Award Winning Film Actor)
Harish Salve (Noted Jurist)
Shobha De (Best-Selling English Novelist)
Karan Thapar (TV Anchor)

A little about the 10 personalities who are shortlisted:-
     1)Jawaharlal Nehru
     Jawaharlal Nehru is undoubtedly the architect of modern India and parliamentary democracy. He laid a strong foundation for a secular India.

Nehru still holds the record of serving the longest term in office. He was among the leaders through most of his public life. His Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) saved India from getting caught in the cold war between USA and Soviet Union during India's nascent stage as an independent nation.
He set up our modern industries, academic institutions of excellence and encouraged scientific revolution. He has also created an atmosphere that allowed and encouraged free thinking. His contributions outweigh his flaws like China war of 1962 and over emphasis on controlled economy.
     2)Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar 

     Sachin was born in April 24, 1973 in Mumbai. His genius was first seen by his coach Ramanath Achrekar. Sachin scored a century in his debut Ranji Trophy match against Gujarat when he was less than 16 years scoring 100 not out and became the youngest Indian to score a century on his debut, his burst in to international cricket scene was when he took on ace leg- spinner Abdul Qadir and scored 53 runs in 18 balls scoring 27 runs off a Qadir over in a match in Pakistan when he was barely 16.
Tendulkar has virtually broken every record in the game and has established quite a few of his own. He recently scored 100 centuries when he scored his hundredth against Bangladesh in an ODI at Mirpur.

He has now scored highest number of runs, maximum centuries, and is reckoned as the greatest cricketer ever to play the game. He is the first player to score a double century in ODI cricket.

           3)Vallabhai Patel 

    The iron man of India, he is considered as the best prime minister we never had. He will always be remembered for the stellar role he played in unifying over 500 princely states into the union of India. Slightly younger than Mahatmaji and older than Nehru he worked with both of them shoulder to shoulder in our freedom struggle. A man with ample leadership qualities and indomitable courage Patel was irreplaceable in our history of freedom struggle.

     4)Mother Teresa 

     As she once said 'Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love', Mother Teresa was embodiment of love and compassion. This Albanian Nun who made India her home to care for millions of unfortunate people has not many parallels in history. Mother Teresa is the only Nobel Peace Laureate from India and entire South Asia. Teresa's Missionaries of Charities is now an iconic voluntary organisation working for the dispossessed in the World.

            5)J R D Tata

     He was known as a perfectionist among his peers. The only industrialist to get India’s highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna, JRD was a pioneer aviator who started civil aviation in India. In 1938, at the age of 34, J R D was elected Chairman of Tata & Sons making him the head of the largest industrial group in India.

For decades, he directed the huge Tata Group of companies with 14 enterprises under his leadership with major interests in Steel, Engineering, Power, Chemicals and Hospitality. He was famous for succeeding in business while maintaining high ethical standards. Under his chairmanship, the assets of the Tata Group grew from US$100 million to over US$5 billion.

When he retired in 1988, Tata & Sons was a conglomerate of 95 enterprises which they either started or in which they had controlling interest. J R D’s also promoted fine arts and one of the most admired philanthropists of his time.

6)Lata Mangeshkar

For over 6 decades Lata Mangeshkar continued to be the reigning queen of playback singing, having sung for over a thousand Hindi films and in twenty regional Indian languages. Though a young Lata began singing at the age of 13, her breakthrough song was ‘Aayega Aanewala…’ from the film ‘Mahal’ in 1949 picturised on Madhubala, and there was no looking back. Over the years, from SD Burman to AR Rahman, Lata has sung for every mainstream music composer and she has lent her voice to both film and non-film songs. It is said that during the Sino-Indian War in 1963, Mangeshkar’s rendition of the patriotic song ‘Aye Mere Watan Ke Logo…’ was so powerful that it brought tears to eyes of then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Apart from the Padma Bhushan, the Padma Vibhushan and the Dada Saheb Phalke Award, Lata Mangehskar has also been honoured with India’s highest civilian award - the Bharat Ratna.
She was also nominated as a member of the Rajya Sabha in 1999.

7)Indira Gandhi

She did not believe in free thinking like her great father. She took a      different route and was hailed as the 'Iron Lady' of India. Indira Gandhi is remembered for liberating Bangladesh in 1971, pro-poor programmes like 20-20, Bank nationalization, consolidating India's power at international level and the introduction of social justice in her party. She gave a new direction and vigor to India. Was extremely adept at balancing two great powers during the cold war, Though she is still criticized for the draconian emergency, she is also credited with unleashing many reforms that changed the lives of people from all sections of the society. Perhaps the last Prime Minister who had absolute control over both party and government.
8)APJ Abdul Kalam 

Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam fondly known as just Kalam  and also often referred to as the “Missile Man of India” was people's President. He is a scientist & a visionary par excellence. A P J Abdul Kalam was the Project Director of India's first indigenous Satellite Launch Vehicle - SLV-III.The Pokhran II nuclear Tests were conducted under his guidance in 1998. The Bharat Ratna recipient became the 11th President of India in the year 2002. A bachelor Dr. Kalam is still very active in public life. He has inspired million of young Indians to dream to make India a superpower by 2020.

9)Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar

 The Chief Architect of India's Constitution. He challenged the untouchability in a democratic manner and was the most powerful and credible voice against its practice. As Independent India's first Law and Justice Minister he made progressive, modern laws. He was a great scholar, an electrifying orator, a barrister of international repute and firmly believed that only a true social justice and equal opportunities can hold this vast nation together. He is as relevant today as he was 60 years ago. He is THE man who made all the differences to the lives of hundreds of millions of Dalits and other exploited communities. His immortal words, ‘They alone rise who strive.Some of you nurse the wrong notion that you will not rise in this world. But remember that the age of helplessness has ended. A new epoch has set in’ still inspires millions of oppressed.

10)Atal Bihari Vajpayee

 Known as the Ajaatshatru (a person with no enemies) in Indian politics, Atal Bihari Vajpayee is one of the most admired public figures. He is liked by both his admirers and opponents. A true believer in the culture of consensus Vajpayee led a fractious coalition government for Six years from 1998-2004. His first term in office lasted for just 13 days in 1996. As India's first non-Congress foreign minister during post Emergency years, he was credited with maintaining the most cordial relationship with Pakistan."Atal Bihari Vajpayee is the best PM India has never had," was the refrain among many Indians during 1980s and 1990s. He showed immense boldness in taking a bus yatra to Lahore before the Kargil war and going ahead with Pokhran - two. As a political analyst once rightly said 'He is larger than his party'. A true unifier, who is above his party and politics.


Reading this info on the 10 selected I somehow can’t help but contemplate that yes, these figures are no doubt eminent and extremely distinguished in their own domains but to compare them with Gandhiji would be a bit heavy. The qualities Gandhiji possessed and the respect he gained is unparallel.

For example I am a big fan of Sachin Tendulkar myself and yes I do love Lata Mangeshkar’s songs but one cannot possibly rank them with the likes of Mahatma Gandhi! I agree that they are legends in their own field’s of course, but if we are looking for the greatest Indian since Gandhi then we have to consider the gravity of this title. It  probably first and foremost depends on the person’s contribution towards the country’s progress in economic or social terms. With no disrespect to Tendulkar and Mangeshkar, they are the authority in their domain which is to entertain and to play a sport respectively. These are completely different realms and not exactly related to the direct betterment of India as a country.
In a country where the natives are ruled by bollywood and cricket we must not deviate from the real title which is at stake here.

Of course this is a debatable topic sans frontières and no definite conclusion. I personally feel that Gandhiji encapsulates all the 10 candidates’ qualities combined and is still much more. Maybe instead of conferring such a big title on any of the nominees, one could re-term the debate to “who could be the most influential personality in the 21st century in India for India” because finally in today's developing country the greatness of any person will depend on his/her contribution towards the betterment of the society.

I would urge each one of you to visit the site www.thegreatestindian.in and vote for your choice

As afterall its our nation, a democratic one at that; we must grab such interesting and engaging opportunities to share our thoughts on our country, to make our voices heard about our leaders.

The following link is the process manual for the ongoing debate for "the greatest Indian since Mahatma"

About the Guest Author 
Devangi Patankar from Pune,Maharastra holds a FIDE rating of 2100 and has  3 WIM norms in her kitty, She has also won Commonwealth gold twice for u-14 and u-18 age categories. She is a final year B.Com student in a reputed college in Pune.

Editors' Note:
As a welcome to our new author, we give a teaser question here to highlight a unique characteristic! What's the connection between Asian Junior Champion N.Srinath, Former National Champions Iswarya Shobana, Devangi Patankar and National 'A' player T.Abhay?
Leave your answers here! (Hint is inside the post as a highlighted word!)
Answer will be published appropriately!