Like everyone who cares for India, after reading world-wide reports on the poor, not to say shoddy preparations for the event, I too was concerned about how the Commonwealth Games would start and unravel, and I too secretly prayed that things work out well before the appointed hour.
When I saw the opening day celebrations on TV, I felt that my prayers (as those of millions of others) were answered, indeed more than what I had expected. It was one fantastic display of color and culture, of talent and training. It turned out to be a truly ecstatic moment for the people of India and for all who are affiliated to it. I am not sure if ever before in recent history, the hearts and souls of millions of Indians had swollen with such legitimate pride. I was tickled to tears of joy, seeing the spectacular performance with a tempestuous welcoming song and dance. It was such a delight to watch the lad on the tabla in utter joy. The show revealed the considerable cultural richness of an ancient civilization which, with all its faults and frailties, stands today with head held raised high and well poised to meet the challenges of the new century.
Coincidentally or otherwise, prior to the start of the games, there appeared a scathing piece on India in the New York Times (by Pankaj Mishra) which reported that “public spaces across north India were flooded with policemen and paramilitaries” (for fear of the impending High-Court ruling on the Babri-masjid controversy), spoke of migrant laborers who were “the parents small and thin and dark, and (of) the children with distended bellies and rust-brown hair that speak of chronic malnutrition,” and sympathetically referred to the insurrection in Kashmir where “Defying draconian curfews, large and overwhelmingly young crowds of Kashmiri Muslims have protested human rights abuses by the nearly 700,000 Indian security forces there.” It is not clear for whose edification or instigation this article was written and for what purpose: it might have served a cause if published in India, but why broadcast this now for readers in the United States, just on the eve of the CWG? What was accomplished by this? Also, the day before the games officially started, the CBS 60 Minutes program chose to air Melinda Gates’ worthy charity work to prevent polio in Delhi slums which, the reporter said, were frozen in the middle ages. Could they have not waited a couple of weeks before airing this commendable instance of American generosity towards the wretched of the world?
I grant that there are more than a few grains of truth in these contextually ill-timed news reports. Like many informed Indians I don’t entertain the naïve conviction that India has licked all her problems for good and that Indians are riding fast on the horseback of progress to become first in the world. Nor do I share the vanity of some Indians who are not shy of proclaiming to the world their superiority vis-à-vis other cultures, races, and nations. But let us suspend criticisms of caste and corruption just for a while, for the country has something good to celebrate now.
This is what I will say in this context: India has enormous intellectual, moral, material , spiritual, and man-power potential which, when properly channeled and adequately exploited, will make her scintillate among the civilized nations of the world. The democratic framework, multi-ethnic variety, and religious openness are among her great strengths, and the envy of pathetically tottering neighbors. These were amply and amazingly illustrated on the opening day of the CWG. In the midst of so many frustrating problems all over the world, an event like this is most welcome. It uplifts the spirit of the people, reveals what India is capable of when her resources are not even fully coordinated. It shows the world in positive and non-hurtful modes what the nation can accomplish. Given that the opening day celebrations were successful beyond expectations, with speedy last-minute constructions and clean-ups, and that too in the context of ill-wishers all too ready to thwart and bad-mouth the nation’s jubilance, the organizers of the event certainly deserve the commendations and heart-felt congratulations of all people who harbor goodwill towards India.
October 5, 2010