Last week, in honour of the Indian Independence Day, a special article on Sri Aurobindo, the revolutionary was shared on our sister blog, Matriwords. This two-part reflective post may be seen as a continuation of that theme.
May 2006. At my suburban home in the Midwestern United States.
I was stuck in bed with a bad knee injury. For several days. Obviously books were my most preferred companion during that time. (Though I admit after a few days I also enjoyed watching some – ok, a lot of – TV once I was able enough to climb downstairs to occupy the living room futon in front of the box).
But this post is not about knee injuries or TV watching. If you have ever read anything on this blog, you know that I hardly ever write about stuff like that. Like what, you ask? Well, what’s the word I am looking for? Oh, I shall let it pass and instead go on to introduce the actual theme of this post.
This post is about some of what I was reading during those days. About politics. Yes, I was actually reading political speeches. But not just any ordinary political speeches. I was reading some speeches of Sri Aurobindo that he had given in his early political career (early 1900’s). Interestingly, I felt such a great comfort and joy reading those political speeches that I even forgot how bad my leg was hurting.
I think it was because these speeches are not the typical political speeches – typical in the sense that at least I have generally come to understand political speeches since the time I have become old enough to realize that politics exists and politicians play this game. Sri Aurobindo’s speeches are gentle and fiery at the same time; his words compel one to look inward and simultaneously motivate one to sincere action and flare up one’s aspiration and effort for a better future for the nation. His words stir the deepest and purest feelings of love for the nation, for the people but steers away from a jingoistic, egoistic fervor that is at the base of virulent ill-will and hatred towards other nations.
Resting in my bed, reading those speeches stirred up my imagination fervently as to what it must have been like to be an audience when Sri Aurobindo was saying those words. What was the scene like? What was the feeling of that time and place? What must have been going through the minds of those people who were sitting in awe as Sri Aurobindo was saying those beautiful words?
“A nation is a living entity, full of consciousness; it is not something made up or fabricated. A living nation is always growing; it must grow, it must attain its loftier heights. This may happen after a thousand years or in the next twenty years, but happen it must” (Speech delivered on 15th January 1908).
How could he give us all of that depth and truth in those few words? Remarkable.
I just felt transported to another place as I kept up with my imagination. It certainly took me away from the difficult reality of pain in my whole right leg!
“Swaraj is life, it is nectar and salvation. Swaraj in the nation is the breath of life. Without breath of life a man is dead” (Sri Aurobindo’s speech delivered on 24th Jan, 1908).
Reading some of Sri Aurobindo’s speeches during those days in May 2006, and reflecting a bit on his idea of the nation-state and its applicability to Indian experience provided a fair amount of order and organization to some of the mental chaos I had been experiencing in my thoughts regarding India’s present and future social and political scene.
Part of the chaos also had to do with my evolving view of my Indian identity. What does it mean to be an Indian? How important is it for me to get connected to the parts that I missed out through my colonized educational experience in India? Why is it important for me? Why is it not important for many others? Why do I need to hold on to this way of being Indian which while emphasizing life as a series of opportunities, a medium and a means of inner growth and evolution doesn’t find it necessary to let go of an outer interest in understanding India as a social, cultural and political unit?
TO BE CONTINUED….