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Heritage of an August Kranti

Updated: Aug 9, 2022

Within 1500 metres from where I share this reflection lies the iconic “August Kranti Maidan” wherein imbibed is the memory of a call given 80 years ago to date : “Bharat Chodo” or “Quit India”.

Almost exactly a year ago in my last formal public event as Director Maritime History Society, the Indian Navy commemorated a “Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav” Digital Symposium in the early part of the 75 week national celebration. This morning I, pleasantly surprised at synergy of my thoughts with what I was reading in the column “Straight Forward” by Chief Editor, Hindustan Times, Shashi Shekhar I nodded that #AKAM celebration is inspirational to propel us forward. What all must “Quit India” to make this forward surge my beloved countrymen?

Allow us at #JohnsonOdakkalInitiatives to weave in and through memorable insights revealed at a six-session “Heritage for Legacy” workshop held digitally from 18 to 29 July 2022. Beloved ‘Bapu’ became popularised by that title since Champaran Satyagraha in 1917. Bapu or Mahatma Gandhi became the inspiring hero to Odakkal Master of Kondotty, Malappuram, North Kerala as I recounted in the session, “A Journey of Legacy.” Shashi Shekhar reminds us that on August 8th 1942 Mahatma Gandhi at present day August Kranti Maidan said, “Here is a mantra, a short one that I give you. You may imprint it on your hearts and let every breath of yours give expression to it. The mantra is: ‘Do or die.’ We shall either free India or die in the attempt: we shall not live to see the perpetuation of our slavery.” In 2022 the mantra is relevant and inspires a new call for “Quit India” not to the British colonialist but to equally evil if not worse enslavers.

The #HarGharTiranga movement is apparently very laudable to make the Indian Tricolour a part of the web and waft of every Indian mindset. However, in the effort to make this a social media kind of viral phenomenon may we be cautious of turning a legacy to a commonplace fad. The first variant of our current Tricolour that stands for an independent India, designed by Pingali Venkayya, was revealed in April 1923 in an event paying homage to the Jallianwala Bagh martyrs. On July 22, 1947, the Constituent Assembly adopted the flag as a symbol of national pride and glory. According to the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), only hand-spun and hand-woven cotton khadi fabric was to be used to design the flag as it has always been a significance of India’s struggle for independence. The 2022 amendments to Flag Code India may have logic to many and yet the discarding of khadi as the fabric of the Indian Spirit is tragic. In paying homage to fallen soldiers we hear that the Tricolour does not fly by the breeze that wafts across but by the breath of every son of the soil or soldier who paid with their life to defend it. Quit India therefore of belittling what the Indian National Flag stands for as a standard of synergy and symphony that brings together a diversity that no other nation probably could boast. Patriotism is not frenzied passion and that emotion needs to be evicted from the nation. More than posture or display may the Tricolour be our inspiration to truly build Mera Bharat Mahan!

During the earlier mentioned workshop, history & heritage scholars Sukhada Joshi-Mhatre & Riddhi Joshi shared the unbelievable presence of commendable legacy that exists in our neighbourhoods and within our family narratives & heirlooms. Their accounts gave case studies of what every village or town in India represents - a tapestry of multiple hues that showcase colour and context across the spectrum. Just a few locales in Mumbai and accounts of a few family collections had the audience spellbound. That brings up the need to Quit India of the notion of unipolarity in culture and a new pandemic of integrated linear ideology where diversity or dissent is abhorred!

Returning to the vignettes from the heritage workshop, current food habits of millennials in India were brought alive by renowned Culinary Anthropologist Dr. Kurush Dalal who is Director, School of Archaeology at India Study Centre. His narration of the anthropology of regional and national food trajectory reminded the listeners that a synthesis, integration and blending of need and time identifies “Indian Food”. He explained the journey of both forced and natural changes in food habits from a pastoral to agricultural and settler mode. In an era when food taboos threaten to ostracise communities and inflame riots, blends such as “paratha manchurian” and “paneer dosa” twinkle sunbeams of hope. Quit India of narrow gastronomical bondages that fail to alleviate hunger, food wastage and inequality.

A major “Bharat Chodo Abhiyan” I wish to unfold is of the continental, territorial mindset that threatens to engulf India also into a global move of protectionism and pseudo nationalism. The Mare Oriental Indicus recognition in 16th Century CE saw an ocean named after India. That recognised the most dominant geographical feature of the Indian peninsula in the crossroads of ocean connectivity, culture and commerce. In the opening session of the heritage workshop I took the audience on a 40 year old voyage onboard a Shipping Corporation of India from Chalna in Chittagong to Montreal in Canada and back to present day Mumbai harbour. It birthed and enhanced a journey of heritage, inheritance and legacy that was my privilege for 34 years with the Indian Navy. Last year after my superannuation the launch of Johnson Odakkal Initiatives unfolded a venture for Knowledge Influence, Growth Mindset and Life Navigation.

Yes there is a global recognition of Indian naval prowess and India as a preferred maritime partner. Sadly, the launch of many sea-oriented initiatives do not find adequate traction on ground. The nation which has the story of Sagar Manthan in its knowledge legacy needs to quit a restrictive land based approach in its growth and security. The oceans are the primary source of trade and sustenance. Quit India of narrow dividing mindsets that are inward focussed instead of a surge in maritime and global vision.

Today Commander Abhilash Tomy, Kirti Chakra, the first Indian to non-stop, Solo Circumnavigate the Globe, in a sailboat (INSV Mhadei) is a participant in the Golden Globe Race 2022. He nearly lost his life in the southern centre of the Indian Ocean during Golden Globe Race 2018 and broke his back amidst a storm between Cape Town and Australia. In GGR2022 Abhilash will carry an Indian heart on a UAE registered yacht Bayanat and hope to draw best wishes of a billion plus Indians who need to recast their vision seaward.

Let us be mindful that the 75th anniversary of India's independence or the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav is the pride of Independent India and the heroes of our nation. The Prime Minister has desired that this Amrit Mahotsav encourages people to work towards Amrit Kaal, which lays out a 25 year strategy that seeks to benefit children, women, farmers, and the underprivileged. Additionally, “it is an elixir of innovations and commitments; an elixir of Atma Nirbhar Bharat”. This Swavalamban Mahotsav is meant to veb a celebration of the nation's awakening, the realisation of the ideal of good governance, and the advancement of peace and development on a global scale.

In our march to an Amrit Kaal I pray that we Quit India of #HateMongering #DivisiveAgendas and #NarrowSectarianPolitics that have been surging across the nation (and even across the world). Will India, my proud nation rise to global leadership to uphold peace, good order and in the ethos of #VasudhaivaKutumbakam”?

As I draw curtains on this reflection I note that a municipal employee came to my doorstep to handover from the administration a poor copy of the Indian Tricolour with incorrect colour shades and fragility that will certainly tear the fabric if I fly it. I have folded that Tricolour with honour and stored it away. As I mentioned in my “A Journey of Legacy” session, I recall my father hoist a Khadi Tricolour on every January 26th and August 15th (also his birthday). I will with full honour fly a good quality Khadi Gramodyog Indian National Flag in the #HarGharTiranga movement.

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Ashok Rai
Ashok Rai
Aug 08, 2022

Very well written 👏

Replying to

Thanks Dr Ashok Sir for your encouragement 🙏🏾

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