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Tragic tale of the Independence Day farce
Published Date: 05/02/2019 (Tuesday)

By Don Manu

So splendorous was the spectacle on that Friday 4th morn in the year 1948 when Lilliputia’s tribal chief rose from his makeshift bench to hoist the Flag of the Lilliputian Lion, that the attendant members of his clan could hardly contain their euphoria at the lowering of the alien standard and the raising of the old of their forefathers.

And as Britain’s  Union Jack came tumbling down from its high mast from which it had blown for 133 years to fly no more over the little Lilliputian isle that   lay  south west of the Bengal Bay, so did the clamour rise from the masses ‘cry freedom’ and hail their tribal chieftain as he assumed the purple.

Now, even as the nation divested the vestment of British Colonial rule, the chieftain of the tribe, saddled on his horse attired in a bespoke Saville Row suit,  read out his speech, lines borrowed from the neighbouring giant mass of land that lay across the narrow strip of sea called the Forked Straits, a land called Bharatha, but  commonly referred to as Big Bro.

He said: “Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially.

At the sunstroke of morning’s blaze, when the world sleeps, Lilliputia will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. In this hot sun, in this scorching heat of a February day, attired in suit made from the worsted wool of a sheared sheep,   Lilliputia makes its tryst with destiny.”

And the crowd clapped and cheered to hear those words coming from their chieftain. Of course, they knew they were borrowed lines from Bharath’s Pundit who had expressed it when the British had finally renounced its 200-year lease over the nation’s massive terrain.

But borrowing from its big brother neighbour was nothing new to the Lilliputians. It was but second nature to them. They had borrowed descent from them. According to the Lilliputian litany of their genealogy, they were the proud descendents of a vagabond prince, an offspring born out of incest, whose parents were born out of bestiality.

And it didn’t stop there. The borrowing continued even as it does now. They borrowed Buddhism from Bharath, they borrowed the Hindu pantheon of gods from Bharath, they borrowed the Bodhi from Bharath,  the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha sent by a Bharath king for safe keeping only when it was under threat in Bharath, they borrowed the artistic culture from Bharath but had and still has the audacity to claim its religion, its gods, its wishing tree, its sacred relic, its arts and its culture, even its language which owes its origins to Pali as its own. With the trade mark stamped on it: Made in Lilliput.

In the psyche of a race, it was indeed a remarkable and unique trait the Lilliputians possessed. The genius to borrow at large and, then without qualm, without blush, claim not only possession but also the right to ownership on account of having fathered it.

And on that glorious February morning seventy one years ago when the sun stood still over the Lilliputian sky for a moment in homage and the band struck the newly made independent nation’s stirring new national anthem with a martial melody and inspiring “No more, no more, no more our ma ma, we are Lilliputians, oh yes, oh yes we’re Lilliputians’, the shinning hour held bewitched  the thousand and one hopes of a people who had for long dreamt the rise of their star to be self ruled.”

For the Lilliputians came from a long and proud lineage. Their heritage was a recorded history that dated back to over 400 BC. Though the feats of their ancestors were chronicled in papyrus, the legends of their heroics handed over generation to generation by word of mouth, beyond all doubt and scepticism the massive stupas the their kings of yore had built for public worship which rivaled the Giza pyramids still stood witness as proof of the genius of their forbears. The island’s ancient capital of Lilliputinapura had withstood the test of time by lasting for over a thousand and three hundred years until it succumbed  to a score of invasions by Big Bros’ troops across the Forked Straits.

But still the feudal kingdom had survived the onslaught resisted unto the end all attempts by western powers to conquer it whole. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive with their gunpowder and religion to take control over the maritime provinces in 1505. When they were nudged out in 1658 after a period of 153 years from the coastal area by the Dutch, all they left behind were their churches and forced conversions. The Portuguese inquisition was one of cruelty and greed.

It is said that some were forced to convert to Catholicism or else their infants would be thrown to the air and impaled on their bayonet on their fall. To win their bread for the family meal they had to forsake their Buddhist faith and adopt the Christian creed. The Dutch took over the coastal areas, which the Portuguese had ruled over till 1658.

The Dutch were more interested in trade than in faith, despite the zeal of the priests of the Dutch Reformed Church, their main sin being, giving too little and asking much. And when they surrendered their colonial property to the British in 1802, all they left behind were some fortresses, some legal jurisprudence and lamprais. Ah, almost forgot, together with the Portuguese, a progeny of mixed ancestry. It took another 13 years for Lilliput to completely fall; and, when it finally fell, the loss of sovereignty to the British was contained in a treaty guaranteeing Buddhism as the state religion and not in abject surrender with its populace reduced to a slavish state.

And when the British bade their last farewell and boarded the ship that lay rigged and ready to sail them back to old England, they left  behind them a blooming garden of herbs and spices which included the two in one nutmeg, an orchard of fruit like Jak and Breadfruit. Not only that. They brought the rubber seeds from Brazil and planted it first at the Gampaha Gardens which became the founding sires of all the rubber trees grown even today in the whole of South Asia. They brought the Chinese tea to Lanka and finding the Lilliputian soil and the cool hill climate ideal conditions for its growth brought down indented labour from India to clear the  hills and thereafter pluck the leaves that made Lilliputian tea the best in the western world. And they didn’t take it away when they said their last farewell on board their ship to old England.

If that was the commercial gains that modern Lilliputians still enjoy and boast as if it were the creation of their own effort and toil, then there were the other benefits that cannot be measured in terms of monetary gain that they bequeathed to  the nation. Even as they set up a rail network to link the country from coast to coast they also stamped upon the Lilliputian tongue the lingua franca – the international language of English, the lingo that linked the natives to the rest of mankind.

They also left behind them the common law of England based on equity and which prevails in every Lilliputian court even today and grants justice and fair play to all who come before the judicial altar. Not to forget, of course, apart from leaving behind them a code of conduct and etiquette, they also planted cricket, soccer and rugby on the playing fields of Lilliput to bloom and flower.

And on that glorious February 4th morn 71 years ago when the Lilliputians inhaled the first fresh draughts of freedom’s air and celebrated the dawn of self rule, perhaps they never imagined that their descendents would still be dancing on the streets, holding military parades at the capital’s grassy promenade, their rulers — some of them not even born that day — would be engaged in a perpetual rite of national genuflection to the British Raj who gave independence on a platter as a parting gift after suffering the loss of the crown jewel of the Empire: India without even a single shot fired and not a single man martyred.

The Lilliputians won their freedom from the colonial yoke all because, in Churchill’s words,  a onetime Inner Temple Barrister turned to a half naked Indian fakir, strode up the steps of the Viceroy’s Palace in India’s New Delhi to parley with the representative of His Majesty England’s King George the VI, on equal terms. His name was Mohandas Gandhi, who had carried the Buddha’s staff and the Jain’s crutch of non-violence as the weapon to triumph the injustices of colonialism and make an Empire, the greatest the world had seen, bow down before the doctrine of ‘ahimsa’.

And even though the Lilliputians adorn their hall of independence with granite statues of their own double-breasted suit clad Lilliputians as having won the independence for their little Lilliputian land, they should have, sculptured in marble, the loin cloth clad figure of the austere Mahatma to grace supreme the symbolic square of the nation’s independence.

That is the history. And two questions rise.

The first is why the Lilliputians who often charge the British of having exploited their island still kneel before their departed figure year after year, even seventy one years after their departure? Are they to do it ad nauseam? For what purpose do they do it, staging dress rehearsals, spending millions on the event?

Hundred and thirty three years are but a blimp on the historical radar of a nation that boasts 3,400 years of recoded history. It’s but a passing phenomenon. It was a mere blot on the Lilliputian historical landscape. But every year the Lilliputian leaders do so, spending millions from the people’s treasure, they make the whole nation acknowledge British supremacy and spend millions from the public purse, to daub the rest of the island mass with the taint of bending the knee before the very royalty it accuses of having plundered its resources. On February 4th when the Lilliputian tribal chief accepted the gift of independence, earned without sacrifice, earned without a blood drop, earned without an Indian  widow’ s tear, he should have told the Governor ‘thanks a lot for the tea and lingo, and now be gone.” For good.

If every annual feast of independence day celebrations was motivated by the compelling need to pay gratitude for the bounty of ‘untakeable’ goodies the British were forced to leave behind in their Lilliputian land of conquest, it must be mentioned that even the Buddha, having attained Enlightenment under the Bodhi at Buddha Gaya paid his gratitude for a week meditating before it for giving him shelter, but after having done never returned to the site to pay his gratitude year after year. That is the way of the wise. The way of the Lilliputians is ignorance. Spurred only for the leaders to make a capital speech how the war was won, even tough, let alone a war, there was not even a single battle nor a single tear shed but going away gift presented to imperial hands that did not truly deserve it.

The second question: If celebration is called for, what is there to celebrate? What have the Lilliputians done for these last 71 years of independence that merit celebration? What do they have to show for being free?

On the political front, each successive government has tinkered with the constitution, even now, piling the blame on the constitution and trying to bring in a new one as if it will be the panacea for the Lilliputian ills. The constitution has been the red herring, the scapegoat to escape their own sins. As last year showed, the constitution is but a scrap of paper unless the powers that be adhere to it. Upto now, they have not played by the rule book. They have chosen to tackle the man.

On the economic front, the scenario gets bleaker year after year. The remedy of successive government is merely to increase taxes to bridge the budget deficit and heap the burden on the poor whist simultaneously increasing the privileges and perks of their own parliamentary kin at a scandalous rate.

The previous government’s main boast is of the massive development that had taken place during its ten-year tenure. Look, they say, we set the foundation to build the Port City – and thus gave China to a piece of Lilliputian sovereignty. We built roads, we built a coal power plant, we built a new habour down South, we built a new alternative international airport. Good. If the Lilliputians had done it with their own money. But it was done with Chinese money, with Chinese labour. And the Lilliputians have been snared in the Chinese debt web and today lie entangled in its mesh awaiting the China Spider to pick its time of choosing to swallow the Lilliputian fly whole.

On the Northern front, the Indians are making their presence felt and actively lobbying to promote Palaly airport. Today the Indian intervention goes far beyond the parippu drops it made in the late 1980s before it sent its army, euphemistically named as the Indian Peace Keeping Force to occupy the northern sector of the island.

In Trincomalee, the Americans are now coming to stay.

All very good. What more can a poor lass like Lilliput ask for. They must understand the reality of the global situation. And adopt the poise of the Saigon slut. Make hay while you still have it.

And thus whilst the Lilliputian isle is put up for sale slice by slice to form a threesome, enough of the hypocrisy of celebrating seventy one years of freed from the British Raj.

If the Lilliputians got rid of one master seventy one years ago and are still singing hosannas in tribute to that day when the nation became free, isn’t it ironical that, even as Lilliputia celebrates another independence day tomorrow, she should find herself encircled by three big powers — a Chinaman in the South of the island, an Indian in the north and Uncle Sam in a baseball hat in between the two, all waiting to gang rape her.

Source: Sunday Times

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