The concept of “Indutva” regards the cultural DNA of this country as being made up of three strands, the Vedic, the Western and the Mughal, the trio fusing into a powerful whole that has refreshed and strengthened national unity and resilience. Dress, diet and language have become a happy melange of the three powerful cultural traditions, which together form the entirety which represents India’s ethos and spirit. Few exemplified this happy fusion of traditions better than the gentle scientist and statesperson Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, former President of the Republic of India, whose passage evoked a swell of emotions seldom seen in the demise of politicians. It is irrational to divide the people of India on the basis of faith, given the multi-hued tradition which flows in each citizen, but the history of the subcontinent has shown the extent of sway of divisive doctrines that gets exercised on susceptible minds. Indeed, India was rent asunder under the false belief that individuals belonging to two faiths could not co-exist within the same country. Thanks to M.A. Jinnah’s stubborn advocacy, Britain bequeathed a divided country to the people of the subcontinent. Rather than save lives as promised by votaries of the Two Nation theory, more than a million lives were lost as a direct consequence of Partition.
Throughout his life, Abdul Kalam both believed in and adopted in his behaviour the reality of India, which is that the bonds uniting each citizen of India with others are greater by far than stray items separating them. Ever on the lookout for excellence, he ignited the spark of creativity and scientific ambition in thousands of young lives, besides promoting scientific discovery in the organisations which he was associated with. The fact that India has a successful rocket and space programme is in no small measure owed to Abdul Kalam and his colleagues, who braved international sanctions and discrimination to ensure that world class technology got developed within the country. Unfortunately, the rush for foreign solutions on the part of both private as well as public sector entities in India, to the neglect of indigenous alternatives, shows the continuing grip of a culture of servitude. President Kalam had none of such an attitude, instead being filled with confidence in this country and its people. Rarely in the life of a country, which seems to be far too divided even on matters of general interest, does the public witness the coming together of political foes to mourn the passing of a great child of India, an individual who in his life, attitudes and work embodied the unity of this country and the fallacy of seeking to divide its people on the grounds of faith. That we as a people are united at the core, and that any differences between citizen and citizen of the republic are superficial. The confluence of influences which characterised President Kalam needs to be reinforced in each of our lives in a context where divisive trends are once again on the offensive.