Kya se kya ho gaya — An Indian saga before 2020

Caged under the lockdown like almost everybody else in the world, when I was wasting my time watching some old songs on TV, the famous song “Kya se Kya ho gaya” of the 1965 movie Guide, starring the dashing Dev Anand and the beautiful Wahida Rehman, appeared on the screen, where he was contemplating the fact that “What he was” and “What he has become”. But isn’t this the same question that we, the Human Species, had asked ourselves from time immemorial of “What we were” and “What we had become now”? Since our very start, we had been asking this question to ourselves! In order to answer it, let me now become your “Guide”. So fasten your seatbelts, ‘coz it is going to be a rollercoaster ride!

It all began 13.7 billion years ago when the Universe, time & space got their present existence with a BIG BANG. But there was no hurry because it took around 9 billion years till we got to our Earth, which was, at the time, just a hot burning ball of lava! Just a few million years later, Earth met with its biggest event, when a Mars-sized object collided with it. Luckily, it wasn’t a head-on collision, which resulted in the present tilt in Earth’s orientation, making it a limped Earth, and it also gave us our all-time friendly neighbour, the Moon! This “limping” Earth, for the most of the time, was just a dark abyss, both literally and metaphorically! Another billion years passed on before the first life emerged from the Seas. Now, we humans had always been hesitant at first to try on new things, and that’s probably why we took thousands of years to even try the land; But once we did, it was just us, the Homo Sapiens among the other human species, who were left on the planet, around 13000 years ago. And from then, what we had seen is just Revolution, Revolution & Revolution!

Arguably, the 1st remarkable discovery that we humans mistakenly came up with was Fire! From then on, not only we had used animals & plants for just and just our benefit, but in fact, we had also altered the evolution process of many animals in our favour, the best example being the Dog! From the 1st successful journey through a boat made up of hollowed tree trunk to the failed voyage of the Titanic, humans literally, got more & more intelligent!

The invention of Wheel, and the usage of animals, just pushed human boundaries! Due to the Agricultural Revolution, humans had plenty to eat, and with more time in hand what we did? Increased the Population! With more people around & to optimize the efforts, we began to form civilizations; But that was not enough! In order to lead this mass of creatures into one direction, RELIGION was born!

Divided by civilizations and religions, and with abundant time at hand, this human mind came up with great ideas like ELECTRICITY, but on the same time, it also came up with one of the worst ideas ever, CONQUER OTHERS! From then on began the downward slope of human existence. Occupied by his cunningly double-edged sword of intelligence, humans somehow started digging their own grave! Now, no longer was he limited by necessities, but it was those never-ending greedy desires that shaped the upcoming course of Mankind…

This never-ending greed for knowledge & power was affecting the human species on two fronts… One was aiding us & the other was merely destroying! “Ideas & Wars” has always been the “normal” for the world. On one hand, the search of knowledge led Aristotle, the father of Western Philosophy to come up with a whole new branch of Zoology, and on the other hand, the search of power led us to one of his students, who was brought up with the belief that he was of some divine birth. This student of Aristotle was raised in such a way that no matter how much he accomplished, he was never full! This peculiar student went on to stretch his empire from Greece to Egypt to modern-day Pakistan! This student of Aristotle was known by the world as Alexander The Great. A millennia later, this dichotomous search of knowledge & power still hovered over the world, when the western part of the world was observing the “Golden age of Mathematics”, and in the eastern front, the barbaric Genghis Khan was executing entire cities, leading to the death of around 40 million people! Fast forward to the 1900s, where the world saw two of the greatest wars of human history, the World War-1 & 2. This time the dark abyss was led by a man who as a kid, dreamt of becoming a holy priest. Little did we know then that this cute little kid would be raised into one of the most brutal & evil men the world has ever seen. Yes, he was none other than Adolf Hitler, whose thirst for power ceased to be quenched, and who gave this world one of the cruellest recorded atrocities ever, the Holocaust- which took over the life of around 10 million people, mostly Jews. But even under such terrific times, it was a Jew who arguably, single-handedly changed the face of Physics, whose 1905 paper, gave birth to two of the strongest pillars of modern physics, the Theory of Relativity, & the Quantum Mechanics, which are still adamantly standing despite never-ending testing of time & space. The name of this Jew became synonymous with “Genius”, he was none other than Sir Albert Einstein. Under the shadow of this weird dance of Salsa between groundbreaking ideas & earth-shattering wars, the human species, somehow, persisted!

Amid this disturbing dichotomous chaos, where blood and unacceptance were everywhere, there was an enchanted land who, itself, was breathing its own life, as another creature! This land was so indestructible that even Alexander the great had to set back from his own grand conquering expeditions towards the east, and along with that, this place was so magnanimous that even the Jews, who were executed in almost every part of the world, found acceptance! This is how Nobel Laurette Romain Rolland, a French philosopher described this piece of land,

“If there is one place on the face of this Earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is INDIA.”

INDIA, also called as Bharat, was bordered by the mighty Indus river in the west, fenced by the great Himalayas in the east and slept on the lap of the Indian Ocean in the south. The original land of opportunities, the land where the oppressed & oppressor, both found shelter & where dissent and arguments were a way of life! Along with being the place where everyone & “everything” was welcomed, surprisingly, a man of this very place, named Brahmagupta also taught us how to deal with “nothing”(zero)! This was the place which gave birth to numerous languages and ideologies. Such was the vast span of this landmass that two of its greatest literary creations, the Ramayana & the Mahabharata, are often compared with the finest works of the west like the Iliad & the Odyssey! But what is more surprising is the fact that the Mahabharata itself is around 7 times that of the Iliad & Odyssey combined! Keeping aside the development in the Literature section, if one asks for the economic development, then this sub-continent accounted for more than 25% to the world economy, which is roughly more than what the whole Europe contributes today. India gave birth to many peace-loving & spiritualistic personalities like Gautam Buddha & Mahavira, who went on to create their own school of thoughts out of the blue, and who also went on to create their own religious hubs! One of such Buddhist hubs was Taxila, which gave birth to the great Takshashila University, which was one of the first Universities of the World! Peace-loving, we were, but that doesn’t connote that we were all-forgiving, we had our own share of bad-asses! One of such fiercest personalities was one of the Economics and Political Science’s professors of this same University, who was once humiliated by a powerful king Dhanananda, of the Nanda Dynasty — To reply to this shameful humiliation, he took off a young kid of the streets, and trained and prepared him to take over the formidable Nandas… This young boy came to be known as Chandragupta Maurya, the first king of the Mauryan Empire, which stretched from current parts of Iran to deep in Myanmar. So who was this Professor, you wonder? He was one of the greatest strategists the world has ever seen and was called as Chanakya/Kautilya, and his treatises, Arthashashtra & Chanakya-neeti, are still one of the most sophisticated texts on Political Science and Administration. This place was so awesome that people around the world were so crazy that they tried for centuries to find a sea route to India!

You might be wondering when did Islam arrive in India? You’re wrong if you think it was the Mughal Era! Commercially, Arab Muslims had interacted with Indians from the very early days of Islam itself, and the traders maintained good relations with Indians! But, the first wave struck when a 17-year-old boy, named Muhammad bin Qasim became the 1st Muslim General to invade the Indian Sub-continent, but alas, he managed to capture just Sindh; but neither did he, nor us, know back then, that this conquest would lead to the creation of Pakistan in the future! But after him, the second wave was from the Umayyad Caliphate in the early 8th century, but they went unnoticed with failures each time. But fate had something else for this living landmass! There’s a saying, “Love your Neighbors as yourself; but don’t take down the fence.” It was 10th century, when the 3rd wave hit with its full force, when Mahmud of Ghazni, smitten by the wealth of India, forced the doors of India to open up, which resulted in the formation of Islamic Delhi Sultanate in 1206. Yes, he was the same Mahmud who invaded India 17 times, and who looted the famous Somnath temple of Gujarat! So, this is how Islam entered India with full force; but this enchanting piece of land had changed many lives, and one of those lucky ones was a slave of Delhi, who was sold to a slave Commander on the streets! Time went on and he climbed the ladder of Administration like a crazy monkey! You may be still wondering, why the bloodthirsty Genghis Khan didn’t try his luck on India? You guessed it right, it was because at that time India was under the strong leadership of Sultanate Iltutmish, the slave boy! But the sultanate didn’t stick for long, as internal feuds and subsequent weak rulers resulted in the Mughal Invasion of India. The Mughal Empire brought with themselves a series of new administrative practices, leading to a more systematic & centralized rule. By the 17th century, Mughal India became the World’s largest economy, surpassing even the Qing China too! But due to numerous attempts of forced conversions & demolitions of various Hindu temples, the happy days for Mughal rule came at an end, when they were met with the rising Marathas, the brave Sikhs & Nadir Shah’s invasion in 1739… and this grand Mughal empire was made limited to just Shahjahanabad, under the last Mughal Empire, Bahadur Shah Zafar! But despite all these turbulences, this living enchanting landmass was still emitting the energy of a young, albeit experienced, adult! But little did it know that the jolt of real life was just lingering beneath the shadows, waiting for the right time to pounce and show its true face…

Now let me narrate you a story… Once after their death, 3 men simultaneously reached the Gates of Swarag-Lok, where Narad-muni was already waiting for them. He instructed these men of the rules to stay in this beautiful Swarag-Lok, “There’s just one condition for thou to stay here, DO NOT STEP ON THE Duck!” Amused by this weird rules, their curiosity vanished when the Gates opened & they saw numerous ducks lying just everywhere! The first guy, being a little stubborn, didn’t follow the rule & stepped on a duck as soon as he entered! Narad presented himself with a very ugly and old woman, and he handcuffed the 1st man with her, for the rest of the time! Observing this incident, the remaining two guys got shocked and decided to be careful. Months passed & they didn’t step on any duck. But one day, the 2nd guy, when he was abruptly awoken from a bad dream, he mistakenly stepped his feet on a duck! Again Narad came there, but this time with a homely woman, and he handcuffed this 2nd man with this woman for the rest of his time. The last guy of these 3 men, observed this too & promised himself to be cautious all the time! Years passed but he never ever stepped on any duck… But one day, suddenly Narad came to him out of nowhere, this time with one of the most beautiful women, handcuffed this last man with her and then disappeared! This man, who was surprised to his core, asked her, “But, I didn’t step on any duck! Why am I handcuffed to you?” She replied back, “I don’t know about you, but I did step on a duck just a moment ago!”

So, sometimes your success does depend on someone else’s failure! And this is what exactly happened in the 1700s. When the landmass was under the rule of a strong king like Jahangir, a trading company, governed by the Britishers, under the name of East India Company (EIC) entered India just as “traders”, but when the Mughals were defeated under Nadir Shah’s invasion, this signalled everywhere of a weak India, and those hiding under the garb of “traders” showed their real form, the form of barbaric invaders! EIC, who had maintained good relations with the Mughal Empire, used this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and took over the rule on India! What came next was a dream never dreamt by any Indian!

This free melodic bird was transformed into a 3rd World landmass, where vultures hawked for a living dead on this barren land. This world leader, who shared 25% of the world economy, was transformed into a poverty capital, with an economy of less than 5%! What followed then was a gritty & horrific tale of genocides, wars, struggles, movements and of course, an unforgettable struggle for Independence! This land even at such horrendous times didn’t fail to show us its magic! One of them was a tale of two boys, who were quite similar, but still very different! Both were of Gujarati descent, both were married at an early age, both got a chance to study Law at England but both were resisted by their very own people from going there, but again both were adamant & went on to pursue their dreams, both were invited to practice Law at the bar in England… but where they deferred was, one believed in “Satyagraha”, while the other rejected it as “Political Anarchy”; one used religion to unite this land, while the other used religion to divide this very land; One recast the Political struggle into a moral crusade, while the other recast this same struggle into a desire for a theocratic nation; One was named Gandhi, while the other was named Jinnah! This enchanting land also gave us people who were just madly in love with their motherland, to the extent that, a Punjabi boy even went on to hang for it at the mere age of 23, while another Bengali went on to shake hands with the very same & cruel Hitler just to see his own motherland smile! One was called as Shahid-e-Azam (Bhagat Singh), and the other was renowned as Netaji (Subhash Chandra Bose)! One of the most celebrated Indian poets of that time, Mirza Ghalib very beautifully summarized the prevalent situation:

“Likhte rahey junoon kee hikayat-e-khoon chakaan

Harchand iss main haath hamaare qalam hue…”

(We kept on writing the blood-drenched narratives of that madness

Although our hands were chopped off in the process…)

What followed was a magnanimous 90 years old struggle for India’s Independence from 1857 to 1947 and an unfortunate Partition of this beautiful and enchanting landmass into two pieces! Then how does the mainland India healed herself from the previous injuries of barbaric Colonialism is a more than 70 years of a saga that brings us to the present time…

So, how are Indians now? No doubt the wounds were deep, but still, after more than 70 years of the post-Independence period, India had again stood up on its feet, had fought 4 Wars among which 3 are with its recent neighbour Pakistan (who was once her own), had sent satellites on Moon & Mars, had an awesome Constitution and is currently the World’s biggest Democracy with a population of 1.4 billion people (Yes, we just love procreating!). Today, a regular Indian is either a man, ignorant of his rich past, who’s chewing his favourite Pan Masala, while listening to an Amitabh Bachchan’s song “Main pal do pal ka shayar hun…” on radio & discussing on who’s better between Sachin or Kohli (it is Sachin, of course!), or either a girl fighting her parents to further continue her education!

Everything was going on smoothly & slowly. An Indian was either on a date with his girlfriend in a Café Coffee Day, or locked in a room preparing for any tough exam like JEE or UPSC when suddenly a piece of news was slowly trending on every TV news channel of some random virus in a random city of Wuhan, and in a corner, there was a countdown for the upcoming year which read,

Just 5 hours to go, then we shall celebrate 2020!

(Taken from my blog: https://gravesofthoughts.blogspot.com/2020/09/kya-se-kya-ho-gaya-magnum-opus.html)

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