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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Sunday Long Reads: India @ 75

As India steps into its 75th year of independence, an Indian Express special edition to mark India's 74th Independence Day and to kickstart a year-long journey to celebrate the 75th

By: Lifestyle Desk |
August 15, 2021 10:00:16 am
Colours of the land: In Kolkata, an elderly man stitching national flags in his shop. (Partha Paul)

Independent India marks the start of its 75th year of freedom divided between advocates of “Hindu nationalism” and those who cling to an increasingly derided secular pluralism. In the new Hindutva dispensation, dissent against the transformation of the state is denounced not merely as negative but as anti-national and unpatriotic. Who, then, is a patriot, and who a nationalist?

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Salt that Seasons: Postcard from Dandi

Salt Satyagraha Memorial First hand: The National Salt Satyagraha Memorial at Dandi, Gujarat, captures the experience of the march from 1930 (Photo: Nirmal Harindran)

When Mahatma Gandhi scooped a fistful of salt, he ignited civil disobedience movements across the country. His Dandi March in 1930 covered 390 km in about 25 days, had over 80 participants and 21 halts from Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad, to this village in Navsari, Gujarat, along the Arabian Sea coast. Dhirubhai Patel had only been born that year.

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Headlong into the Future

Almost simultaneously at two ends of the country, two events defined the quest for the new nation’s cultural identity. One is the formation of the Progressive Artists’ Group in the metropolitan city of Bombay in 1947, which heralded the arrival of the “modern” on the horizon of contemporary art in India. The collective brought together a motley group of artists (a Catholic from Goa, a Bohra from Indore, two Maharashtrian Hindus, a Dalit and a Kashmiri) on a platform that effaced regional or religious identities with an unfettered spirit of art. Each with an individual vision, these artists from diverse backgrounds were charged by their staunch resistance to colonial modes and narrow parochialism. The group emulated the international modern as a model to surge ahead with a passion for initiating a new era of vital and vigorous art. Shoulder to shoulder Gulammohammed Sheikh’s watercolour on arches paper, Undying Erasures (2021)
Courtesy: Vadehra Art Gallery

Almost simultaneously at two ends of the country, two events defined the quest for the new nation’s cultural identity. One is the formation of the Progressive Artists’ Group in the metropolitan city of Bombay in 1947, which heralded the arrival of the “modern” on the horizon of contemporary art in India.

The collective brought together a motley group of artists (a Catholic from Goa, a Bohra from Indore, two Maharashtrian Hindus, a Dalit and a Kashmiri) on a platform that effaced regional or religious identities with an unfettered spirit of art. Each with an individual vision, these artists from diverse backgrounds were charged by their staunch resistance to colonial modes and narrow parochialism. The group emulated the international modern as a model to surge ahead with a passion for initiating a new era of vital and vigorous art.

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All the Nation’s Men

Independence Day, Independence Day 2021, Indian Independence Day, cartoons, Indian Express chief political cartoonist EP Unny, Eye 2021, Sunday Eye Even as there are no dearth of newsmakers, not a day goes by without an anachronistic Indian political cartoon.

If you want our democracy, which steps into its 75th year, to look a bit ancient, you could say the British left us in the last millennium. Not many would be old and alert enough to remember the “Tryst with Destiny” speech by India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. But, the millennial moment is easier to recall; it was a mere 20 years ago. The prime minister then was the veteran parliamentarian from Nehru’s days, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

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A Tale for the Time Being

Independence Day Two veterans pen down poems as India celebrates 75th Independence Day. (Source: Getty images/Thinkstock)

Freedom Song

Hoshang Merchant

Politics without poetry is dry
Poetry without politics is effete
A Korean pianist plays
Chopin, Revolutionary Etude
On video
The video shows

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Play It As It Was

Independence Day, Independence Day 2021, Indian Independence Day, Independence Day films, 75 years of Indian independence, 75 films that define India, Indian cinema, Indian movies, Indian films, classic Indian films, eye 2021, sunday eye, indian express news The popular cinemas of India matched the new-old country, reflecting the staggering cornucopia of colour and noise, wary and scornful of Western understatement, uneasy with realism.

The idea of India has been constructed through push and pull, in which old and new, ancient and modern, traditional and contemporary are constantly rubbing up against each other, making room – adjusting – in an endless, eternal dance.

We sing, with equal passion and gusto, “saare jahan se achcha Hindustan hamara” and “jinhe naaz hai Hind par who kahaan hain”. Optimism, deep nihilism. We thrive on contradiction. Long live the argumentative Indian!

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