How do you introduce a man of the stature of Sir Winston Churchill?
To any proud self-respecting British citizen some of the following (and very commendable, I must say) titles come to mind: one of the greatest prime ministers to serve Great Britain and one of the best wartime leaders of the century, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, proficient army officer, legendary statesman and so on and so forth. But since without light there can be no dark and since so many good qualities cannot exist without some negative trait to balance it all out I, the pro-India patriot who thinks that my country is bloody awesome, shall also add another trait to his profile: somewhat of an arrogant mistrusting racist.
Now since I have had no opportunity to personally meet this phenomenal leader, it is only fair that I supplement this claim with some sort of proof, no matter how feeble. Well even as India and Pakistan were on the brink of gaining independence and the idea of the partition was already put forth, this great leader decided to quote something that should not have been, something that showed how he refused to trust the people of a country that was under his country’s rule for over a century. Sir Winston Churchill., in argument against granting India and Pakistan Independence said:
“Power will go to rascals, rogues, freebooters; all leaders will be of low caliber & men of straw; they’ll
have sweet tongues & silly hearts; they will fight amongst themselves for power & the two countries will
be lost in political squabbles. . . .A day would come when even air & water will be taxed.”
The patriot in me, when I first read this, took offence, for obvious reasons. After all how could a man who lived thousands of miles away, make any such judgment about Indians (and Pakistanis)? What he observed under a highly autocratic British rule, can hardly be the true impression of the citizens of a land of over a billion people. But then I thought about the state India is in now. And then Pakistan. And then something much worse: that excuse of a diplomatic and political relationship we have. And I wished Winston Churchill had never said these words for totally different reasons. In retrospect, they seemed like a haunting prophecy, something that after years of struggle to be proved wrong, had come around to bite us in the you-know-where. Where had we gone wrong?
Looking back, immediately after independence, India and Pakistan both proved the British prime minister wrong to an extent. People seemed happier, the countries were progressing and the mood in general was upbeat. Winston Churchill was wrong… or so it seemed. And then started the wars, Kargil, 26/11 and those absolutely worthless and inconclusive peace talks. In an extended effort to show our displeasure towards each other we stopped playing cricket together (very mature, I must add). Sadly, it all happened just like he said (except for the air and water part). And as the world looked on, we fought with each other, stopping only to seek the approval of the United Nations and more importantly, of the United States of America.
This Independence Day, what I really want and hopefully so do a lot of others, is to see a time when India and Pakistan can be at peace. I know, that’s a lot to ask and not even remotely easy. And I also know that it’s childish and immature to say that we should let bygones be bygones, because that is just not possible. But hopefully, we can at least give it a start? Let’s at least try to make an effort to prove Winston Churchill wrong. For our sake.
P.S. And while we are on the subject, stop with all those questions about Sania Mirza’s nationality. Just because she married a Pakistani does not mean she changed her nationality. She is as Indian as anyone out there…