How Blue is my Sapphire

WordPress Story- 1

As I gaze at the sparkling, iridescent, luminous sapphire set in a ring, adorning my fair ring finger, which reminds of the Indian Ocean, with its cool and calm blue waters, I feel I’m going swirling down, into its depths, those depths which hold priceless treasures of mineral and material wealth, lying deep down on the ocean floor  for aeons. Sometimes I wonder, the same waters that usually seem collected also have the capability to rise up and above due to underwater tremors and shake the world. Just like Indians who stand for the principles of non-violence propounded by the Father of our Nation, Gandhiji but when frustration keeps mounting, it becomes difficult to keep the bubbling anger inside ourselves, and then a volcano erupts.
Nehruji has just ended his heart-rending speech, ‘Tryst with Destiny’, a sentence of which is, “At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.” Today is 14th August 1947. The clocks in homes, offices, government buildings, all strike twelve. Thousands of Indian patriots have assembled here, in front of the Council of State building. We all hear a booming sound, it goes on for two minutes. It is the conch being blown, heralding the birth of a new nation from its ashes, the way a phoenix obtains a new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor. Likewise, our country has left behind its abominable past to transition into an era where democracy will rule and dictatorship will take a backseat.

The New Dominion of Pakistan has come into being with Muhammad Ali Jinnah as its First Governor-General and Karachi has been made its capital. Indians are not so happy with this partition. Nehruji and other political leaders shudder when they think of the likely economic, social and political implications of the battle between Indians and Pakistanis over Jammu and Kashmir. The British have divided the region of Bengal into East and West Bengal, separating the eastern areas with a Muslim majority from the western areas with a Hindu majority. 

Celebrations in New Delhi began at 11 p.m. with the singing of Vande Mataram meaning “I pray/bow down to thee, Mother” and was followed by speeches by three eminent personalities: Chaudhary Khaliquzaman, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Nehruji. Astrologers have predicted that the auspicious time lies 24 minutes before and after 12:15 a.m., i.e. between 11:51 p.m. and 12:39 a.m. The hands of my watch point to 12:38 a.m.

I, Emma and my husband who is a barrister are walking home. We got married today morning, a British-Indian couple. I love him and his country, with all my heart. I find India fascinating and colourful. Indians are kindliness-personified, especially to British women. People are rejoicing, bursting crackers and distributing sweets. The streets of Delhi and New Delhi are crowded. The public buildings outlined in electric lights cast a tricolour glow on the street. The landscape is dotted with balloons and festoons in colours of orange, white and green. Children are clutching our national flag in their fists and merrily waving it about. The small ones may not understand what this independence means to us, but they are gay nevertheless. 

We reach home. Kitty is fast asleep in her cozy basket. A full stomach lulls us to sleep. She must have killed a rat and had her fill of it. The law of the jungle prevails among humans, as it does among animals. Survival of the fittest. If you have the resources you need to conquer kingdoms and usurp lands, you are seen as powerful by all and can treat men like puppets. If you’re one of the ruled, you have to submit weakly to those lordly powers, without once endeavouring to displease them. Else you’ re a goner.

I am lying on my bed, tired, but sleep doesn’t come to me. Thoughts are flitting around in my head, like butterflies around flowers, the focus being British Raj in India for almost a period of two centuries. 

The East India Company came as traders and slowly, began to establish their empire. They were clever and shrewd and noticed that Indian rulers were fighting amongst themselves and they weren’t united. The decline of the Mughal empire in the first half of the 18th century provided the British with the opportunity to seize a firm foothold in Indian politics. To defeat other rulers, kings often asked the British for help and in return gave them a portion of their kingdom. The moral, ‘United we stand, Divided we fall’ once again proved itself true with respect to Indian history. After the Battle of Plassey in 1757 AD, during which the East India Company’s Indian Army under Robert Clive defeated Siraj-ud-Daula, the Nawab of Bengal, the Company established itself as a major player in Indian affairs, and soon afterwards gained administrative rights over the regions of Bengal, Bihar and Midnapur part of Orissa, following the Battle of Buxar in 1764. After the defeat of Tipu Sultan, most of South India came either under the company’s direct rule, or under its indirect political control as a princely state in a subsidiary alliance. The Company subsequently gained control of regions ruled by the Maratha Empire, after defeating them in a series of wars. Punjab was annexed in 1849. Of course, there was rising discontentment among the Indians. 

The Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 was a large-scale rebellion against the East India Company’s rule. There were many soldiers who were from upper castes and conditions of service then prevailing in the army conflicted with their religious beliefs. They believed they would lose their sanctity if they agreed to travel overseas and that the British were trying to convert them to Christianity. Indian soldiers were paid lower salaries than their British counterparts and their chances of getting promotion and privileges were low. Old royal houses like the Mughals and the Peshwa were not given due respect. The final spark was provided by the rumoured use of cow and pig fat in cartridges. Hindus regarded the cow as sacred and according to Muslims, the pig was a dirty animal. Thus, soldiers of both religions protested vehemently against the use of these cartridges. It was wrong on the part of the British not to pay heed to the religious sentiments of Indian sepoys.  Mangal Pandey was the inspiration behind the revolution. However, the lack of effective organisation among the rebels, coupled with the military superiority of the British brought a rapid end to the rebellion. 

The Governor of Jhansi had signed a treaty with the British, which gave them the power to demand help from the rulers when needed, also their consent was necessary before the next ruler was chosen. One of the Company’s policies was that if a king died heirless, they would assume full control and merge that territory with the British provinces. Rani Lakshmibai had no son of her own. Yet she did not give up so easily and fought till her last breath.

Power is a two-sided coin. It has its pros and cons. You can employ power to do good or bad. India benefitted from the Crown Rule in a few ways. Sati was banned as it was impractical for a wife to sacrifice her living self for the sake of her dead husband. Thousands of elementary and secondary schools were set up which imparted sound education to Indians in English. Missionary schools taught Christianity. Universities were established in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras for students who wished to pursue higher studies. 

Jamsetji Tata was a pioneer who revolutionised the Indian industry. His four dream projects were steel, Institute of Science, power and a grand hotel in India. He thought of innovative solutions to the obstacles created by the British and thus, his dreams were realised even after his death. 

Indians got the gift of railways and telegraphy. The British laid roads, constructed ports and bridges, which are being used even today and will continue to be useful in future. They introduced a vaccine for prevention from smallpox and also improved sanitation.

The bright orange-yellowish sun rises from the horizon. The day is going to be an unusually sunny one, given that it is August, but it seems it won’t rain today, which will lift the spirits of our countrymen. The dawn of a new era ought to be bright, bringing positive changes in its wake. Freedom tastes sweet, coloured by the blood of millions over the ages. 

Innocent, unarmed Indians had been mercilessly massacred in Jallianwala Bagh, they were guilty of assembling peacefully to listen to messages from their leaders who had been deported! Brigadier-General Dyer had opened fire without warning and had gone on firing after the crowd had begun to disperse. It seems he found a sadistic pleasure in seeing innocent Indians lose their lives on the day of their religious New Year. 

The policy of commercialization of agriculture by the British encouraged market oriented production of cash crops such as opium, tea, coffee, sugar, jute and indigo. Indian peasants were forced to grow these cash crops that spoiled the fertility of the land and no other crop could be grown on it. Their ultimate aim was the appropriation of maximum revenue from the Indian peasants. The exaction of exorbitant rents by the government oppressed the peasants heavily. The peasants perpetually remained indebted to the local money-lenders.

The Civil Disobedience movement, Dandi march and Quit India movement sought to openly defy the British rule over India. People who protested were beaten, arrested and put behind bars and were given a treatment not even fit for animals. While extremists resorted to bombing and assassination, moderates like Gandhiji stood for the principle of non-violence. However, the British were not going to leave India. They were here to stay.

The Union of India has come into being with Jawaharlal Nehru assuming the office of First Prime Minister of independent India and Lord Mountbatten staying on as its First Governor-General. It looks as though Lady Mountbatten and Pandit Nehru have taken a liking to each other and Lord Mountbatten is not all affected by their relationship.

 Millions of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs are relocating across the newly-drawn borders, there are rumours of trains with horribly mutilated dead bodies of migrants having arrived in Punjab. Gandhiji is on a 24 hour fast from yesterday midnight. Unfortunately, he was not present to witness the unfurling of the Indian flag at New Delhi as he is in Calcutta where unrest prevails among the masses, at the same time, people there are also celebrating. The First Cabinet of India has come into being and will start functioning from today.

The day is about to finish and a new day about to take its place. The souls of innumerable patriots will now rest in peace, because their mission has been accomplished. The blood they have shed has not gone in vain. At last, we are free, free from the shackles that bound and restricted us. Every child will now take in its first breath in an independent nation. Now, nobody exists to lord over us. We have to build our own nation, with our hands and minds. We have to make our own decisions and implement them. We must forget our past, it cannot be changed. Destiny is not in our hands. We have suffered what fate had ordained for us and we will suffer no longer. But, we must always keep in mind the sacrifices made by our ancestors and remember them in our prayers, for they have become martyrs. We, the citizens of independent India need to rise and channelize our energies, our ultimate goal being to take our nation to the zenith of glory and prosperity. Along the path, obstacles will present themselves, we have got to overcome them, never once forgetting the age-old adage, ‘United we stand, divided we fall.’

Bengaluru Diaries

In February 2016, I took a decision that was going to teach me to be independent: I would travel alone to my hometown Bengaluru and stay with my cousins and grandparents for a few days and then return. And so, tickets were booked, both for going and return in A/c 3 Tier on the Sampark Kranti Express which runs from Hazrat Nizamuddin to Bengaluru.
It was May 19. My train was expected to arrive at 11:15 am in Pune, but it arrived only at 11:45 am. My parents had accompanied to the railway station to see me off, my mother constantly giving me advice, fussing over me and upset because I wouldn’t be there for the next 15 days.
When I got onto the train, a woman and her younger son had occupied my seat and told me to sit somewhere else. To this, my mother asserted that they had better let me sit on the seat allotted to me as I was going alone and had nobody to look after me. She reluctantly agreed. I could have sat anywhere, not that I had a problem, being an amiable person, but mothers! Their love is unparalleled.
The train started chugging and they waved to me. Shortly after that, the ticket checker came on his round and I showed him the printout of my ticket my father had got for me and my PAN card as identity proof. I also obtained my pillow and chadar for the journey. I didn’t feel the need to talk to my copassengers. I ate lunch, listened to music and read both the books I had brought along. At night, I couldn’t sleep because the train had picked up speed and the bogey was shaking horribly, despite being A/c.
However, it reached Bengaluru at its expected time. I got off the train, having told a man to help me unload my suitcase onto the platform, and waited. My uncle came after 10 minutes and took responsibility of my suitcase and we went to his apartment which is just behind the railway station.
Fun time ahead! We enjoyed a lot in Wonder la, basically a water amusement park with dry rides as well.

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Wonder la Amusement Park welcomes you

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The rides were scary and exciting at the same time. There was a play pool and rain dance as well. We had to walk barefoot all over the place, having deposited our slippers and belongings in lockers made available to people. I was scared of entering into the pool initially but I held my aunt’s and cousin sister’s hand and all was well. I just loved it, the feel of cool water against my skin, standing under the blazing sun, though wading through the water is difficult. On one of the dry rides, at a point of time when it was in mid air, we could see the whole park spread out in front of us which was breathtakingly beautiful. We changed into dry clothes afterwards.
My cousins’ family was going to Goa for a reunion of Naval cadets and their families. Those four days I spent at my grandparents’ place. I visited the ISKCON temple which is near their house.

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ISKCON Bengaluru

Their house being on a hill, I was not getting mobile network inside the house and so was unable to use Internet while I was inside. So, I had to keep walking to and fro on the road outside their house to send replies to my Whatsapp messages.
My birthday which falls on May 25 went off wonderfully. I got presents from my cousins, uncle-aunty and grandparents. We had ordered a birthday cake which I cut in the evening, to all singing ‘Happy Birthday Vaishnavi!’in the background. A hearty dinner followed.
On the return journey, imagine my surprise to find a girl from my college in my compartment! What a pleasant coincidence! A Bengali uncle-aunty and that uncle’s mother were also in my compartment. Aunty started asking me where I was going, said that they too were going to Pune, exchanged a few words and kept asking me about the Bengaluru metro, as their daughter was going to stay in Bengaluru for her higher studies.

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Bengaluru metro

They kept talking amongst themselves in Bengali, without once guessing that I can follow a conversation in Bengali. Mazaa aata hai when people speak freely in a tongue, thinking others won’t understand just because thanks to movies, Tamilians are supposed to speak Hindi with difficulty, let alone other languages. I don’t tell them that I can understand what they are saying, kyuki usmein hi toh asli mazaa hai.
The journey taught me to be independent: being responsible for my luggage and handling it, seeing that I bring home all that I had taken, and more whatever I had been given and  had bought in Bengaluru, adjusting with passengers on the train, taking my meals when on the train, on time, overall it was a test I had set for myself on how well I can take care of myself without my parents’ help and timely advice. Though the first day I forgot to carry my bath towel into the washroom and had to make do in its absence, it was worth it!