I have always been a lover of music and songs. It is not seldom that people find me singing to myself, humming a song or whistling a tune, as I walk the corridors, and up and down the staircases of the Monastery where I live. Whether you will call this one of my strengths or weaknesses, I will allow you that freedom. As far as I am concerned, I consider this habit a huge strength of mine, as it often helps me to get rid of my worries and tensions. I know there are some who do not like my music, but I care two hoots, as long as I do not disturb the community or others.
Among my favourite songs is “SAARE JAHAN SE ACCHA, HINDUSTAN HAMAARA...” I often find myself humming and whistling this tune. The reason is not only because I like the song, but even more because I love my country, my India. God has blessed our country in many ways. And among other blessings, He chose to give us our freedom from the British on the feast day of the Assumption of His Blessed Mother. And, therefore, every time I have feelings of love and appreciation for our country, surging within my heart, I praise and thank God and His Blessed Mother Mary.
I was, of course, born in Portuguese Goa. In all sincerity, I say that I am grateful to the Lord for giving me an Indo-Portuguese taste and culture. I am not like some who criticise the colonialists in such a way that they forget to remember the good things the contacts with the colonising powers and their culture have given them. I do not think that is the right way to look at colonization. There is no need to ignore the baby, when we throw out the bath-water.
I remember, for example, that some of the Latin American peoples, led by the Guatemalan Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú, rejected the Centenary celebrations of the Evangelization of South America because of their squint-eyed view of Colonization. I do not think that was right. Christianity brought many blessings upon South America, which cannot be and should not be ignored. That would be sheer ingratitude. This, of course, is not denying the evil that happened during the colonial times.
In our case, the bath-water got thrown out, when the Indian Army took over Goa, on the 19th of December, 1961, just like in India it was at the stroke of midnight of the 14th of August, 1947. All Indians had expected this, just like we, the Goans had expected that someday Goa would have to come to the fold of Mother India. And I rejoiced with many who were happy at this new reality, this change of hands, realizing that now we are where we had to be --- in the embrace of Mother India.
I never felt I should ignore some good things I got because of my Indo-Portuguese contact. I consider myself lucky that I know the beautiful Portuguese language. The Portuguese songs and dances, the VIRAS, CORRIDINHOS, the FADOS which had made me happy, continue to do so even now. The great Goan favourite “ENCOSTA A TUA CEBECINHA” is still one of my loved Portuguese songs. So, I am certainly not like those who curse the colonizers, without realizing that the Lord’s Blessings lay hidden also in the colonial times. I like the sweet Portuguese language, and love to speak it, whenever I have the opportunity. I loved my visit to Portugal. Needless to say, FATIMA was the main attraction. But apart from that, I had the opportunity of visiting Lisbon, Porto and the historic University of Coimbra. I loved it all. And how can I not mention the “VINHOS”, the MACIEIRA, TINTO, MOSCATEL... the list is endless.
After saying the above, I do not join the club of those who say, unfortunately not without reasons, that what the 19th of December, 1961 brought for Goa, was not liberation, but invasion and neo-colonialism. Yes, there are such people who say that Goa has been colonised again, even making its fate worse than what it was under the Portuguese. No, I do not join that club, even though I see so many things going the wrong way, in Goa, as well as in India.
In God’s own time, He had given Portugal a role to play in Goa, just like He gave Great Britain a role to play, which the British did in their own way, even though not without some failures. We are, and we should be, grateful to them, among other things for the navigational charts of the waters of the ocean which have been given to us by that country which ruled the waves, and which are still being used by us. We are also grateful to them for the English language which has helped us, and is still helping us in our various contacts with the world for the education of our children, and for the many developmental projects of our country.
Now it should be India’s turn to take over, and it did on the 15th of August 1947, even though failing in many ways. Needless to say that we have failed, among other things, to fulfil the dream of the Father of our Nation Mahatma Gandhi, that of wiping every tear from every eye. And Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, in his famous “Tryst with Destiny” speech on the eve of our Independence Day, had said: “It is fitting that at this solemn moment that we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people, and to the still larger cause of humanity”. What have we done? Where have we reached?
Going back to the point about SAARE JAHAN SE ACCHA, HINDUSTAN HAMAARA, I was saying that it is one of my big favourites. Sadly, however, somehow, since of late, I do not find that joy in singing, humming and whistling this song any more, as I did before. The reason very clearly is all that has been happening in “HINDUSTAN HAMAARA” and in “AMCHEM GOEM”. The millions of people shedding tears because they cannot afford a square meal a day. Millions who have no means of earning their daily bread because they have no jobs. The rampant corruption everywhere which leaves the common good of the country far from being attained.
How does it feel to see thousands of people on roads walking miles to get a morsel of bread for themselves and for their families? And the same to fetch a bucket of water to drink? Is this the Freedom envisaged by Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru? Side by side with this scenario, we see many of our leaders and their friends fattening themselves with the money ‘stolen’ from the poor.
The continuous attacks on Minorities, specially on Muslims and Christians, the destruction of their worshipping places and other institutions make me wonder if we have forgotten that we are a secular country, which is expected to respect every religion. Have we forgotten that we have one of the best Constitutions in the World? Or have we discarded it and thrown it out, like a famous American comedian, a TV personality, who was suggesting to the American people to do, when they were helping the people of Iraq to draft a Constitution for themselves, after Saddam Hussein. “Why break your heads over a new draft,” he said; “give them our own Constitution, because nobody observes it here anyway.” Have we come to that stage?
We read about a Dharma Sansad, held in Haridwar last month, where a call was given for a Muslim genocide and ethnic cleansing! Are we playing with fire while we have scant regard for our Constitution? Can we not see that this attitude can lead us to a civil war in our country? God forbid! But then it is rightly said: “God helps those who help themselves”. Why are our Authorities sitting tight without taking action against those who violate our Constitution? What is more hurting and disturbing is the fact that those who are in authority, and therefore, are responsible for seeing to it that the Constitution is observed, are sitting like mute spectators. One could, naturally, get the idea that they themselves are prompting and inspiring those who are breaking the Constitution, to play these nefarious games.
It is hurting to learn that our beloved India has gone down to 101st position among 116th countries, even behind Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal in the Global Hunger Index. Why are we sinking in the Democracy Index, Press Freedom Index, Women’s Safety Index, Corruption Index, Rule of Law Index and so on. Where are our leaders shamelessly taking us? Where have you gone, Dear HINDUSTAN HAMAARA! QUO VADIS INDIA!