India’s Independence Day Celebrated at Embassy Residence

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August 22, 2013

By Geeta Goindi

Indian Ambassador Mrs. Nirupama Rao addressing the gathering at her Residence on India’s 67th Independence Day.  Photo credit: Embassy of India, Washington

August 22, 2013

By Geeta Goindi

Indian Ambassador Mrs. Nirupama Rao addressing the gathering at her Residence on India’s 67th Independence Day.  Photo credit: Embassy of India, Washington

WASHINGTON, D.C. – At one of the most heart-warming and meaningful events of the year, the Independence Day anniversary of the world’s largest democracy, on August 15, Indian Ambassador Mrs. Nirupama Rao spoke about the significance of this momentous occasion and the role the Indian diaspora can play in contributing towards India’s development.

Reflecting on the progress that India has made in the last 66 years since Independence, Ambassador Rao told INDIA THIS WEEK, that “the task is still not over because we have many milestones to complete as far as India’s development, as far as its prosperity, economic growth is concerned.  And we must not slacken in our efforts”, she said.  “We can work together with the Indian diaspora in achieving these goals because the Indian diaspora, particularly the Indian-American community here, has recorded so many stellar achievements and great successes in all that they have done.  In many ways, they exemplify a ‘Can Do’, a ‘Never Give Up’ spirit which can help India a great deal at this point of time”.

Indian Ambassador Mrs. Nirupama Rao (fourth from left) with students of the Gandharva School of Music based in Richmond, VA, at her Residence in Washington on the occasion of India’s 67th Independence Day celebration.  Photo credit: Embassy of India, Washington

The envoy underlined, “We must work together with a spirit of optimism, with a spirit of conviction and confidence about what we can achieve as a nation.  On the occasion of Independence Day, I think this is really the message that we should take home with us”, she said.

A large gathering of Indian-American community activists and achievers in diverse fields, Indian Embassy personnel and their families, uniformed officers of the Indian army, navy and air force, converged on the grounds of the Ambassador’s Residence on a picture-perfect day in Washington!

The function began with a flag hoisting and the crowd joined in singing the Indian national anthem.  Ambassador Rao conveyed “greetings to all members of the Indian-American community and to all Indian brothers and sisters who are here in the US on the occasion of Independence Day.  My sincere greetings and good wishes to everybody”, she said.

Indian Ambassador Mrs. Nirupama Rao (standing in front – right) leads the gathering in singing India’s national anthem on the occasion of the country’s 67th Independence Day

The envoy proceeded to read President Pranab Mukherjee’s message to the Indian nation on the eve of Independence Day.  For the cultural component, students of the Gandharva School of Music based in Richmond, VA, sang patriotic songs under the tutelage of Mrs. Nirmal Bajekal.  It was an uplifting performance featuring ‘Vande Mataram’, ‘Saare Jahan Se Achha’ and ‘Jankarini Bharatam’, a Malayalam song rendered especially for Ambassador Rao who hails from Kerala.

On an emotional note, Ambassador Rao told us, “Independence Day is for me a day written in golden letters because all of us whose motherland is India are always reflecting on this spirit of freedom and democracy that is enshrined in the concept of independence day.  We think of the sacrifices made by our forefathers, the founding fathers of our Republic in the struggle for independence and how they fought against colonial domination and succeeded and won a victory against those forces”, she said.

It is noteworthy that President Mukherjee’s address on this occasion was refreshingly candid, pleasingly powerful, even as it inspired!  In his message, he asks: “Are we heading in the right direction”?

The President pointed out that “Democracy is much more than the right to vote every five years; its essence is the aspirations of the masses; its spirit must influence the responsibilities of the leaders and duties of the citizens every day.  Democracy breathes through a vibrant Parliament, an independent judiciary, a responsible media, a vigilant civil society, and a bureaucracy committed to integrity and hard work”, he stated.  “It survives through accountability, not profligacy.  And yet we have allowed unbridled personal enrichment, self-indulgence, intolerance, discourtesy in behavior and disrespect for authority to erode our work culture.  The biggest impact of the decay in the moral fiber of our society is on the hopes and aspirations of the young and the poor”.

A cross-section of the gathering at the Embassy Residence in Washington to celebrate India’s 67th Independence Day.  Photo credit: Embassy of India, Washington

Reflecting on the advice and ideals of Mahatma Gandhi, father and founder of the Indian nation, President Mukherjee emphasized that “the ideals of patriotism, compassion, tolerance, self-restraint, honesty, discipline and respect for women have to be converted into a living force”.

He bemoaned, “Today, we see widespread cynicism and disillusionment with the governance and functioning of institutions in our country.  Our legislatures look more like combat arenas, rather than fora that legislate.  Corruption has become a major challenge.  The precious resources of the nation are being wasted through indolence and indifference.  It is sapping the dynamism of our society.  We need to correct this regression”, he underscored.

The Indian leader made it clear to the nation that “our highest priority has to be the elimination of poverty”.  He believed, “India has the talent, ability and the resources to overcome this challenge”.  Among other goals, he mentioned a sound educational system, the need for a world class university, a successful economy, inclusive governance and inclusive growth.

On the security front, the President pointed out that India faces “grave challenges”, both internal as well as external.  Within the country, he mentioned the Maoist violence in Chhattisgarh.  Regarding the external threats, he didn’t mince any words even without naming the country.  His message read: “Despite India’s consistent efforts to build friendly relations with neighbors, there have been tensions on the border and repeated violations of the cease-fire on the Line of Control, leading to tragic loss of lives.  Our commitment to peace is unfailing, but even our patience has limits”, he warned.  “All steps necessary to ensure internal security and protect the territorial integrity of the nation will be taken”.

The President offered condolences to the victims of the deluge in Uttarakhand and he commended the security and armed forces, all the organizations who did so much to alleviate the suffering.  “This tragedy owes as much to the avarice of human nature as to the rage of Mother Nature”, he stated.  “This was nature’s wake-up call.  And it is time to wake up”.

Indian Ambassador Mrs. Nirupama Rao (right) with guests at her Residence in Washington, on the occasion of India’s 67th Independence Day celebration

We queried Ambassador Rao about the President’s address.  “It was a very direct and candid speech”, she told us.  “At the same time, it gave a lot of confidence.  It was a speech that was aimed at encouraging people to look inside themselves, to reflect, to introspect and, at the same time, look to the future with optimism and confidence”, she said.

In the early part of his address to the nation, President Mukherjee quoted Mahatma Gandhi who advised all citizens to avoid “politics without principles, wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice”.

He concluded his message by quoting from the Bhagavad Gita where the Teacher says: “Tatha icchasi thatha kuru (even as you choose, so you do).  I do not wish to impose my views on you.  I have presented to you what I think is right.  Now, it is for your conscience, for your judgement, for your mind to decide what is right”.

The President added, “On your decision rests the future of our democracy.  Jai Hind”.


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