I is for India

Many people falsely believe that Mahatma Gandhi was the first prime minister of 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 military 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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