Today, August 15, marks the country’s 65th National Independence Day. This day in 1947, the world witnessed the birth of a country whose powers and capacities had remained hidden behind British rule for almost 200 years.
A country often known today by superficial and unremarkable truths as the home to outsourced customer service technicians, curry powder and masala tea, the Kama Sutra, and billions of “brown people,” India’s true splendor has disgracefully withered away in time.
Having been born in the country and then been raised abroad, I often found myself clarifying what it meant to be Indian when I was a child. One question never failed to present itself repeatedly from many ill-educated and misinformed Westerners.
“What tribe are you in?”
Upon clarification that I truly was an Indian, many scratched their heads at what a “real Indian” was like.
“Can you speak ‘Indian’ for us?”
“India is in Asia?” ”
“But Indians are like Pocahontas, aren’t they?”
It was unfathomable how a country of such rich history, stature and global presence had become so lost in its identity to its neighbors abroad. And still today, India can be found often misunderstood and underrepresented for what she stands to be in the world.
As a tribute to my homeland, Mother India, included are some essentials to know about this land of mysteries. I hope that it will remind those from India to remember who they are and enlighten those outside a bit more about the country and its people.
India’s flag is made up of three equal horizontal bands: saffron (orange), white and green. In the center of the white band is the blue, 24-spoked Ashok Chakra. Each band and the chakra has its own representation for being apart of the flag.
The color saffron represents: courage, white: purity and truth; green: faith and fertility, and the Ashok Chakra: wheel of life in movement and death in stagnation.
India remains as the second most populated country in the world, with almost 1.2 billion citizens as reported by the U.S. CIA World Factbook. Even with its bustling economy and rapid growth, only 30% of the population is urbanized and many are living well under the poverty rate.
India, also affectionately known to its people as “Bharat,” ranks as being home to the fourth highest number of citizens living with HIV/AIDS, with some 2.4 million infected, and the third highest in HIV/AIDS-related deaths, with some 170,000 per year since 2009.
The country is also home to28 individual states — each unique with their own languages (and, for the record — “Indian” is not one of them), rituals and customs, and seven union territories. According to India.gov.in, “All five racial types — Australoid, Mongoloid, Europoid, Caucasian, and Negroid find representation among the people of India.”
It remains no surprise, then, when one understands that a person speaking “Indian” would be a force to behold — because that would mean speaking 22 languages — all of which are recognized by the Constitution of India; the wide-spoken language Hindi is considered the Official.
Over many years, India has been home to many peoples, and the land has seen invasion by Europeans, Turks, and even Afghans, all of which make up hundreds of years of rule in the country.
The country’s colors are rich in diversity, but its people united under their blend. Being Indian begs many questions of origin, but one thing remains universal: it means hailing from a country rich in history and culture, beyond measure.
Happy Independence Day, India! Jai Hind!
Special note: Kudos to Google, again, for celebrating with Indians everywhere and honoring us with a special Red Fort-themed logo on its homepage, today (featured on August 15, 2011).