For some, the thoughts come easily, dripping with patriotism or pure venom. For others, it needs hours of conversation for the words nation and feelings, usually buried deep or hardly ever considered, to surface. INDIA TODAY presents frank, unguarded thoughts of some of the best known-and some totally unknown- people,For some, the thoughts come easily, dripping with patriotism or pure venom. For others, it needs hours of conversation for the words nation and feelings, usually buried deep or hardly ever considered, to surface. INDIA TODAY presents frank, unguarded thoughts of some of the best known-and some totally unknown- people across the nation who make up the fabric of India. After 50 years of Independence, this is the voice of India, a reflection of who we are. It shows how far we have come. And how far we need to go.Inder Kumar GujralPrime MinisterPride in your country is something you needn’t express everyday, but it is there. Pride is abstract, it isn’t a mantra you can get up every morning and recite. I don’t agree that our young generation don’t have it. I think it is there in the twinkle in their eyes, in the pride in their work.The fact is that 50 years ago my family slept on the railway platform, and today I am prime minister. This is a combination of the Punjabi ethos of robust optimism and the Indian ethos of accommodation, adjustment and assimilation.For me, Indianness is summed up in the fact that in 1947 we imported a sewing needle, now we make everything from a sewing needle to a satellite. Jo socha na tha, vo aaj socha to hai. Jo dekha na tha, vo aaj dekha to hai.Atal Bihari VajpayeeLeader of the Opposition, former prime ministerHinduism is not equal to an Indian identity. These days, there has been a confusion about the meaning of the word ‘Hindu’. It has come to be identified with a religion. For so many centuries this was not the case. Even when a Muslim went abroad, they would call him a Hindu. It was a name given to all those people who resided this side of the Hindukush.advertisementAfter Partition, Muslims had problems adjusting. They felt that maybe by calling themselves Indian, they were endangering Islam. This confusion will last a few days. Today there is such an unfortunate situation that in Hindustan, a Muslim thinks he is in danger and, strangely enough, a Hindu also thinks he is in danger, when there is actually no danger. Politicians play on this. I am not separating myself from this. The game has started and no political party is separate from it.That’s why I prefer to use the word ‘Indian’. It’s enough if everyone here says they are Indian. I feel Indian because I feel I have, and will have, a hand in the future of this country. Gandhiji wanted to be the leader of all Hindus and Muslims.” Rajmohan GandhiGrandson of Mahatma Gandhi, policy analyst Freedom – Respect others’ freedom more than mine. MNCs – A word which provokes a negative reaction, which I certainly disagree with.Violence – Shed the notion that India is inherently a non-violent country.Charkha – A reminder that each person should be a consumer as well as a producer. Saffron – Try and return to the original purity of that colour.Pakistan – Something very important and still unfinished.Nation – Blood, soil and the right spirit.Mahatma – Extraordinary potential inside the ordinary man.Fifty – A man who should look back. He must also look forward.India – A wonderful slice of humanity.British – I think they enriched us, despite all the pain. Muslim – As heterogeneous as the Hindu. Politician – Each Indian is a politician.Jayant Rao TilakGrandson of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, politicianMany people feel India will not stay together for long. I don’t agree. We are emotionally one. There is a will to be a nation. I have seen Indian citizens giving their blood, life and land, nobody can demolish them. That’s why I feel we are not short of anything. The only thing we don’t have is discipline.Jinnah was Tilak’s disciple. Tilak worked for Hindu-Muslim unity. I think Jinnah changed later because of Gandhiji’s attitude. Gandhiji wanted to be the leader of all Hindus and Muslims and Jinnah wasn’t ready to accept that. And me? What am I if I’m not an Indian? I was born here, my heritage binds me, as does our attitude to life: Vasudeva kutumbkam, all the people of the world are one.Nusli WadiaGrandson of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, industrialistWe have been insular all these years. And to go global, we must realise that our culture must stand on its identity and its inner strengths. By inviting KFC, Coca-Cola or McDonald’s, we don’t lose our culture.I don’t think Jinnah wanted Pakistan. He was negotiating, and put in a demand for it which he never dreamt would come true. I think it was Nehru who was responsible. There was never any rivalry between Gandhi and Jinnah, but between Nehru and Jinnah.I never wanted to live in Pakistan, because I didn’t inherit Jinnah’s politics. I was brought up as a Parsi, I was brought up as an Indian. One time, because of my lineage, I was asked to join politics by Sanjay Gandhi, to exploit my grandfather and the Muslim connection. I didn’t get lured and I have no regrets.advertisementMohammad AzharuddinFormer captain, Indian cricket team, star batsmanWhen you’re playing for the country, there is no caste, creed and religion. Sports has nothing like that. You have to go out there and play for your country. And I am very hopeful that one day cricket will bring India and Pakistan together. They should come together because we share so much. The same sort of family attachment; people there are also the same. I’ve never thought of settling down in Pakistan. You can’t leave your country and go because once you are born here, you are so into the country. You can’t just say, “No, I don’t want to stay here.” I have to stay in India. I am an Indian. That’s the bottom line and nobody can change that.Sachin TendulkarCaptain, Indian cricket teamIt’s very hard to explain what sacrifice is and what we do. It happens spontaneously, you realise this particular guy is not playing for himself, it just happens. You start thinking about the team and not yourself.When you grow up in your country, the culture is automatically there within you.You don’t need to go to any special kind of classes to learn how to love your country. Nobody needs to learn this. It should be within you.Vishwanathan AnandChess wizard, master of lightning attacks and crafty defence The goodIn spite of our population, we have a pretty good democracy.People are incredibly resilient. But this is a double-edged sword since it’s clear a lot of our problems could be solved if we bothered to do something about them.We have a great heritage.Our food is fantastic.The badOne billion isn’t a great population if 300 million live like they do.I can appreciate there are a hierarchy of problems, but cleanliness doesn’t have to be at the very end.We need a stamp of approval from a foreigner before we appreciate our own heritage.I can’t get our food easily abroad.Rahul DravidFighting spirit of the Indian cricket teamI feel secure in India. At home, we take India for granted. It is on tour that I miss the familiarity of home and you realise you can only be at peace at home. So, sometimes, when I hear people talking about India, saying something incorrect, I feel it’s important to make a point to them of what we actually are. And no, I don’t need to be a Test cricketer to feel Indian.advertisementIf you get too pumped up and start saying, “I will do this for my country”, you often end up doing something stupid. But the most fantastic feeling for me is when, after a match, people sometimes say, “You made us proud.” I feel best then.Bal ThackerayShiv Sena supremo, extreme Hindu nationalistYou spit on the road. You shit on the road. And you take that as your freedom. Is that the freedom you want after 50 years? The balance sheet of the past 50 years of India is bullshit.The hi-fi society has no pride in this nation. They have no nation, no religion, no nothing. They have their own creed. It is a very costly thing for the nation, this hi-fi. Nobody bothers about this nation. It is there, so it is there.I’m going to do nothing on August 15. I’m going to sit and see if there is a breeze or not. If there is, the flag is going to fly. If not, it won’t. The country is in such a bad state, even the flag doesn’t move. And people who are so old they can’t stand are going to hoist the flag.I say this to the traitors of India: ‘Le lo, saarajahan le lo, jahannum bhi tumhara, lekin Hindustan hamara (Take it, take the whole world, even hell is all yours, but Hindustan is ours).’Syed ShahabuddinFormer diplomat and MP, promotes Muslim causesAn Indian Muslim is someone who is substantively a Muslim, but who happens to be born in India. While a Muslim Indian means somebody who is basically an Indian, who happens to profess Islam. The Indian Muslim is in the process of transition into what I hopefully call Muslim India.This has come about because of a gradual disillusionment with Pakistan. Bangladesh proved that Pakistan was not meant for the Muslims of the subcontinent. Our problem was in minority areas where we couldn’t assert ourselves, not in areas where we were in a majority and had the power anyway. So there was a basic illogic in Pakistan.There is still a section of Hindus who have not accepted the Muslim presence in India. They want to wipe us out. Thankfully, they don’t have the upper hand yet.Sam ManekshawField Marshal, 1971 hero, soldier’s soldierIndiraji once asked me after the 1971 victory, “Sam, are you planning to take over the country?” And I told her, “Indiraji, my nose may be longer than yours, but I don’t poke it into other people’s business. ” The armed forces should be away from politics.The fault in India is the Hindu religion. You have to have gods. You made Akbar a god. Later, you got the white Mughals.Then you made a god out of Gandhiji, Nehru, Indiraji, Rajivji. We put up their statues, pay homage every year. What for?It’s complete bloody nonsense that people join the Army to serve the country-like the politicians do it only for the sake of the country. We do it for our damn bread and butter. I am not saying the Indian soldier is not loyal, but he is loyal to his regiment and officers, because he knows he is being looked after. I don’t think he has the education and the information to think in terms of the country.Rang LalJawan, 28 battalion BSF, Wagah borderI just came into the BSF after I saw the wardi (uniform) . When I wear the wardi, I like it. There is too much hardship here at the Wagah border. The heat, mosquitoes in the night and 22 hours duty a day. A man can die from a bullet but to die from just doing duty day and night, there is a difference.We just keep looking at each other and carry on. It’s a strong feeling of brotherhood. The whole job is based on hope. We keep thinking, what will I get further on? It’s like a dog who keeps sucking on a bone in the hope that he’ll get some juice from it. And then he thinks he is getting the juice, when in reality it is his own saliva.Rahul BajajTycoon, voice of Indian industry Something went wrong in India. How can some stupid Englishman from some stupid little coal-producing island come thousands of miles in a sailboat and take us over? Why didn’t it happen the other way? The fact is, we lost out. We came under foreign domination, and you lose your backbone with that.Politicians say the multinational companies are on Indian soil, they employ Indians.The most important thing is the customer, so ownership is not important. I say, fine. Most of our politicians are corrupt and incompetent. And all that we want is good government. So why don’t we import the best of ministers from the West and let them rule the country?I have always been for capitalism but I liked the bipolar world. The multipolar world is just a euphemism for unipolar, dominated by America. I am a proud Indian, but I feel like a servant in this world. And I don’t like it.Mehr-Ul-HaqRickshaw-wallah, CalcuttaI come from Bihar. I think of Calcutta as another country. I don’t like it as much as Bihar. I came here to work. I think there is too much thuggery here. I like Bihar because the harvest is good.This is very hard work. There are rickshaws in Bihar, but I feel ashamed to drive them there, in front of my people. I don’t think of Hindus and Muslims as separate. All humans are equal. We all live together in the villages. We even lend each other money. Azadi doesn’t inspire me. What is azadi when man pulls man?Farooq AbdullahChief Minister, secular hope of KashmirThis whole state was earlier Hindu land. We may not accept it, but it’s history. Centuries ago, they converted to Islam because of the caste system in HinduismI have never been discriminated against personally because I am Sheikh Abdullah’s son, but Muslims are discriminated against. In Nehru’s time it was written, do not give sensitive jobs to Muslims because here we are in a majority. Distrust was born here. The discrimination at the Centre made it very difficult even for my father to defend the fact that we were part of India. This is what fundamentalists play on. This is how they breed hatred for the nation.A nation can’t be built in a single day. It takes centuries. My destiny is India. It’s with my people.Satish DhawanMember, Space Commission, believer in brain gainRight now, India is free, free to muck around. But notice that in human terms we have made tremendous advances. We are surrounded by many countries but which one would you choose to live in? Singapore? What is Singapore doing, just making money?Or Switzerland? An advanced country but where women were given the right to vote just 15 years ago. So which one would you want to be with? Indian women or Swiss banks? But India has taken steps to build equality of human beings. And that is a larger step than anything you can do in technology. Technology can be learnt. This has to be felt, lived.People are not leaving the country for the greater cause of science.They are going for the greater cause of themselves. All right, as an individual, you have one life to live. But then, don’t come back and tell me how I should run India. Come and work here. And through your work, whatever you have to say, do it.Kunjarani DeviWeightlifter, 42 international medalsPeople in Manipur used to say, lifting weights is the work of a man. They used to say, this girl wears pants, lifts weights, what will become of her? I used to get angry. I even hit some. “What is your problem?” I asked. “I’m doing it for my country.” After the medals, they don’t misbehave.Sometimes, when we go abroad for a competition, I am ashamed. We have lived like beggars, with not enough money.Once I missed a gold medal because they arranged the visas too late. I took part in a higher weight category and lifted more weights than the champion in my category; my heart really broke at that time. But then we have to do it for India. Whatever I am today is because of India.What drives me to win is that from among all the crores in India, one Kunju will go and I have to show the world what one Kunju of India can do.”It has taken the punya of seven births to be born an Indian.”Sonal MansinghOdissi dancer, 20th century DraupadiAs I grow older, the resolve within me is becoming stronger, that perhaps it has taken the punya (good deeds) of seven births to be born an Indian. And I would want at least seven more births in this land, because I still don’t know what it is. Yet it is a fantastic, mystical core.The core that we call Indianness-that which distinguishes us from the Japanese, the Chinese, the Pakistanis, everyone else-is still intact. Just like the kernel, even while the exterior shell keeps changing in shape and colour.I find this very encouraging. Nothing is lost in India.So many came and went, so many got digested, amalgamated, without even a burp. The entity called India is still here within ourselves. The elements, the remnants, and hidden streams of consciousness of thoughts, of traditions, of belief. It is all here, not lost.TabuWinner of the National Award for best actressI think among women there is some confusion about their identity. That’s probably because they haven’t had as much of a chance to express their identity as men. So they still have apprehensions. But it’s still a very nice thing because 50 years ago, they had no identity.The only identity an Indian woman had is that she is a good daughter, a good wife, a good mother.Women have followed these rules and regulations, that they should serve their husbands and in-laws.And over the years, this became the identity of Indian womanhood. Now it’s beginning to change. So it’s a good thing that people are more aware of women’s rights. And women are more aware.Amitabh BachchanSuperstar, all-time icon of Indian cinemaI am quite confident that at some point in the lives of even this present generation there will be an inner desire to want to know more-looking beyond being young and free and happy, or saying, “So what? Who cares? We are this generation.” And when that happens, you needn’t necessarily be in India.My son went to study abroad at a very young age. Whenever he wrote to us, he wrote in English, but signed in Hindi-Abhishek. It was the only Hindi he knew at that time. After a couple of years, he came back and said, “I want my flag.” I said, “Why?” He said, “I want to put it up in my room.” It is just that after a while you want your own identity.If I had to make a film about the last 50 years of India, the story would start off in a small town, Allahabad, where I was born, and trace the travel of this individual from a lower middle-class family, making his way up in this modern, upbeat, fast-moving Mumbai.Harivansh Rai BachchanFreedom fighter, revolutionised Hindi poetryOn Independence Day, in 1947, we were all at home. We hoisted the Indian flag. I asked the sweeper of the house to hoist it. I still have that flag.It’s good that we have got Independence. We have made tremendous progress. Kaifi AzmiUrdu poet, diehard socialist We sacrificed so much for our Independence. Today we need to sacrifice more to save it. Because it is harder to keep Independence in the right direction than to protect it. Fundamentalism, Hindu or Muslim, is the obstacle in our progress. All plans are stopped because of one cow or one masjid.This is the Hindustan of today.I was born in enslaved Hindustan, I am living in Independent Hindustan and I will die in a socialist Hindustan. This is not a dream. My life and poetry are tied to this. I am still walking on the same path and will die on it one day.A. RamachandranArtist, influenced by the Shantiniketan schoolIdentity starts from the grass-roots level. Today we are talking about an Indian identity in a situation where an entire generation has been brought up without any grass-roots level of understanding of this country.The Indian psyche is different, you can see it in our visual culture. It’s never been bound by nature. It has created its own gods, its own proportions. It has a fertile imagination, it accommodates everything.Remo FernandesMusician-singer, anti-drug, anti-AIDS activistWhen I am in India, I think how Goan I am. When I go abroad, I think how Indian I am.Being Indian means belonging to a country with a fabulous past, a great future and a lousy present.India is like a large Om. It contains everything. To keep down a country which is so rich in natural resources and human resources has taken a superhuman effort on the part of the Indian politician. But India is resilient. You take one little piece out of a well-structured society or building, and the whole thing collapses. Here, the building is put together with string, bamboo and stone. So even if you take one thing away, it will still be there, held together with that little bit of string.Charles CorreaArchitect with a visionToday, wehave all these overlays. The first overlay of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, British and even many layers before that. It’s what you call apalimpsest. You know its layers of transparency. You push a pin throughthat. Each one of us is like a pin which goes in at different places and finds different layers in different proportions. And that defines youridentity. So it’s so stupid to deny a layer. Just because I’m not aMuslim or a Hindu or a Christian, it doesn’t mean I haven’t beeninfluenced by these great value systems and paradigms.Mani RatnamFilm director, entertainer with a causeListen, if the TV comes into your home, it will not take your grandmother out of the house. This 200 years of western influence cannot destroy what is 5,000 years old.There is no need to feel insecure about Indianness. If you have it, and love it, you will not lose it. This feeling of belonging is like belonging to a home. To feel patriotism for your country is like caring for someone you love.Pradeep LalBusinessman, wheelchair-tennis playerIbelieve in the maximum use of minimum resources. It is what I have to do in my situation. There are no provisions made for us in this country.Most of the disabled people who, like me, don’t have cars, don’t comeout. They sit in their houses, worrying about how they will go out. As a result, the leaders are totally insensitive to us. Disabled people areirrelevant to politicians because their votes don’t count, since most of them can’t make it to the polling booths.Abroad, the facilities arefantastic. You can do all the normal things. While I was in Japan, Ifelt like throwing away my passport and keep on staying in Japan. Butyou can’t stay anywhere for long. In the West, they can give youeverything materially, but there are no ties, no bond.Aparna SenActress, director, editorWe are still not aggressive about ourselves-we still find it hard to sell ourselves, it’s the done thing in the West, to tell others how good you are. There is still a certain humility in an Indian.India exists in several time-frames at the same time. Parts of India exist in the 18th century and parts in the 21st century. In parts of India, you feel like part of a global village, and in other parts, you feel like you are as far apart as Mars. But in all parts of India there is an Indianness. I am a minuscule part of everything India is. And wherever I go I take that part with me.Ranjeet SinghJathedar, Akal Takht, TADA detainee for 11 yearsI am an Indian because our ancestors and we have sacrificed a lot forthis country. No other state has contributed as much to India as Punjab. And we are very proud of it.We think religion and politics are one. Not like the politicians who take an oath to God to serve the country, then say religion is separate from politics and loot the country.If hedoesn’t have religion, whom will he fear? There is one flaw in us.We no longer have the values that should be there in a Sikh-to always helpothers. I feel bad about the damage done to Hindus. How can we beenemies of Hindus when our Guru sacrificed his head for theirwell-being?But the Government also needs to make us feel that it is ourcountry too. It doesn’t feel like this right now. The Golden Templebelongs as much to you as it does to me.Father Arnaut PintoRector, Basilica of Bom Jesus, GoaEach country and culture has its genius. But however much I like the French or the Portuguese, I am not French, or Portuguese. I am born in India. I have an identity of my own.Freedom is important, but when understood properly. There is no use of Independence if I’m dying of hunger.India is not free.Two-thirds of our people are below the poverty line. There is corruption in our country, injustice, bonded labour of our children. Where are our politicians? What are they doing? Politicians distort religious values to get vote banks-no religion teaches hatred. This causes tremendous sorrow to my soul. The country is a gift of God. It doesn’t belong to this or that individual. I pray for India.Mahasweta DeviAuthor, tireless supporter of tribal causesI am an Indian. Why should I define it? I’ve been to many countries butevery time, I want to come back even though many things have beenbypassed since1947. I can’t live anywhere else. I just can’t stand it. I belong to India. It’s what gives me pride. If my mother was poor,skeletal and couldn’t give me food, I would still be proud to call hermy mother. It’s like that. It’s my country. It’s my India.IbethoiNgami tribal, Loktak Lake, ManipurWhat does the Indian map look like? You’ll have to ask the children. I know that I am in Manipur. They tell me I am in India. Here, it is enough to call yourself a Meitei, that gives you an identity. I don’t know if I am an Indian, I’m not educated, so I really can’t say.But yes, I have heard of Indira Gandhi. She was our prime minister. I felt very bad when she died. Nowadays, the prime ministers change so often that I can’t remember their names.ThangarajanFisherman, 22, earns about Rs 100 a day. About to get marriedI do not know India’s boundaries, from where to where the country exists. I just go to catch fish every day. Sometimes three miles this way, andsometimes three miles the other way. Independence? I don’t know aboutit. If it is a holiday, I will drink a little more.Abdul RashidShikarawallah, Dal Lake, SrinagarWe are just caught between the guns of the security forces and the militants. We keep hearing of these talks between India and Pakistan. What are they talking about? We don’t care whether we are a part of either. A man should just be able to earn his living.Till somebody holds our hand firmly, nothing is going to change. Our community feeling is with Pakistan, but our earning is with India.