By Balwant Sanghera
VANCOUVER: India will be celebrating its 66th anniversary of independence from the British on August 15. No doubt, some recent developments haven’t been favourable to India’s positive image. Like many other developing countries this largest democracy in the world has not been immune to issues like corruption, pollution, infrastructure, poverty etc… These problems are not unique to India. A number of developing and developed countries are facing similar problems. Hopefully, the people of India will eventually be able to address them in a satisfactory manner.
Despite these problems, India continues to be one of the most fascinating countries in the world. It is a country full of contrasts and contradictions.
India is reported to be 34,000 years old. Its civilization is considered to be as one of the most ancient and living ones. India continues to lead the world in a number of areas. For example, it has more post offices in the world than any other country. India’s railway system, with more than one million employees, is the largest public sector employer in the world.
Four of the major religions in the world-Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism –were born in India. These religions are practiced/followed by 25% of the world’s population. There are 300,000 active mosques in India. These are more than in any other country, including the Muslim world. It is a truly multicultural and multilingual country.
India has one of the youngest demographics in the world. There are approximately 770 million Indians under the age of 35 with 550 million of them under the age of 24. India’s middle class is close to 350 million. Not only that, historically, India has been in the forefront in giving the world a number of new inventions.
The number system was invented in India. Indian scientist Aryabhatta invented the digit zero. The place value system and the decimal system were developed in 100 BC in India. The game of chess as well as Algebra, Trignometry, and Calculus also originated in India.
The world’s first university was established in Takshila in 700 BC. More than 10,500 students from all over the world studied more than 60 subjects there. The University of Nalanda, built in the 4th century BC, was one of the greatest achievements of ancient India in the field of education.
Not only that, India excelled in many other areas as well. Take medicine for example. Ayurveda is the earliest school of medicine known to humans. Charka, the father of medicine consolidated Ayurveda 2,500 years ago. Today, Ayurveda is fast regaining its rightful place. The art of Navigation was born in the river Sindh 6,000 years ago. The very word Navigation is derived from the Sanskrit word NAVGATIH. The list goes on and on.
Prominent American writer Mark Twain summed it all up very well in these words: “India is the cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most constructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.”
Thus, despite all of the difficulties facing the most populous democracy in the world, Indians have a lot to celebrate.
Happy Independence Day, India!
(Balwant Sanghera, who has been honoured with the Order of British Columbia, is a retired school psychiatrist and community leader who lives in Richmond in British Columbia)