Today marks the sixty-seventh anniversary of India’s declaration of freedom from British colonial rule. It’s a time to remember the remarkable achievements of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, each of whom fought for independence using different tactics. It’s also the anniversary of the partitioning of India into two countries (later three) — areas in eastern and western India were appropriated to create Muslim-dominated Pakistan. Nevertheless, these recent developments in India’s history, however significant, are but the thinnest layer of India’s history, which stretches back to the Stone Age.
There is an apt fable [.doc] that we can use to illustrate how difficult it is to fully grasp the essence of India. Six blind men hear that an elephant has come to their town. Since none of them have any knowledge of elephants, they rush to discover what it is like. Using their hands, they each touched a different part of the elephant, thus:
“Hey, the elephant is a pillar,” said the first man who touched his leg.
“Oh,no! it is like a rope,” said the second man who touched the tail.
“Oh,no! it is like a thick branch of a tree,” said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.
“It is like a big hand fan” said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.
“It is like a huge wall,” said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.
“It is like a solid pipe,” Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.
When they begin to argue, a wise man stopped to explain how they had all been partially right. The elephant is much like India. Some find it sprawling and messy, some find it highly spiritual, some see economic opportunity, some see disgraceful abuse of women. All of those things are true, but none of them are the whole truth.