Happy Independence Day, India! How Education Can Free India’s People

indian flagHappy Independence Day, India! It’s hard to believe that a country with such a rich history can only be celebrating independence as one nation for the 67th time, today. Just like on my birthday every year, it’s on India’s Independence day that I’m always very grateful: grateful for the rich culture from which I was born and raised and grateful for my life beyond India’s bleak reality.

Because I was born in India, it hits harder to home for me when I turn on the TV or hear the stories from back home. India’s poor seem to getting poorer, women’s rights seem to be getting fewer, and the entire country seems to be shrouded in a dark cloud of problems it can’t seem to improve. Somehow, I was one of the lucky ones got to experience everything wonderful that being Indian is about (here’s a little run-down of India’s history beyond Bollywood), but I was spared the hardships that so many millions of people suffer everyday.

Recently, I learned that India is the home to 287 million illiterate people — the most in any country. If that number is too vague to comprehend, think about this: India makes up 40% of the world’s population of illiterate people; almost as many people that LIVE IN THE UNITED STATES cannot READ OR WRITE in India.

When you can actually realize how many people this disables from having a job, having rights, having an opportunity to do something with their lives, you realize how many of this free country’s people are actually not free at all. They’re bound by the shackles of illiteracy, which will inevitably keep them and their children stuck in vicious cycle of poverty.

Education is what can free the world, and education singularly can free India’s people from their destitution. I’ve never felt more fiercely about the power — nay — the gift of education, and I’m pledging myself to educating people about this, so that maybe I won’t just be one of those “lucky ones.”

Pratham is non-profit organization that recently caught my eye because they are working at helping India’s impoverished children and youth by addressing the problem at the root cause: lack of education. The organization was established in 1995 and has helped to educate millions of children over the last 19 years.

What they’re doing is truly phenomenal. Pratham operates at less than a 10% overhead cost and develops innovating teaching solutions so that they can help educate children and youth with basic reading, writing and arithmetic schools to help them learn the foundational skills that are so important to build on.

Over the next month, a generous donor is pledging 25 cents for every new Facebook like Pratham USA’s page receives in order to spread awareness about their work solutions. It takes only about $25 to help educate a child in India for an ENTIRE YEAR. You’re already on Facebook all the time; a few seconds of your time to like their page can actually make a huge difference!

On that note, let’s hope that every child who has the opportunity to learn doesn’t waste it. An education is the greatest thing you can have for a better future — remember that!


Happy 65th Birthday, Mother India!

If there was ever a woman who grew more beautiful and powerful the more she expanded and reproduced, she was India. (Now, that’s a feat accomplished by few.)

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.

The Flag

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.

The flag was designed in 1916 by freedom fighter Pingali Venkayya, at the suggestion of Mahatma Gandhi. It was accepted as the national flag of India on July 22, 1947.

The People

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).