THE INDIA THAT IS IN OUR DNA - Address by Ambassador Amit Narang for Independence Day Celebration at Indian School Al Ghubra - 15 August 2023

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Independence Day Celebration at Indian School Al Ghubra
August 15, 2023

Address by Amb Amit Narang


President and Principal of Indian School Ghubra, 

Dear teachers, parents, grandparents 

Dear children,

A very happy Independence Day to everybody!

It’s a privilege for me to be here at the Indian School Al Ghubra to celebrate the 77th Independence Day of India. 

I look forward to the opportunity of visiting one of the Indian Schools in Oman on our national days - Independence Day and Republic Day. It is a special feeling to watch the next generation of India celebrating the birth of their nation and India’s journey as an independent country. 

Dear Children,

India today is 76 years old. Or shall we say 76 years young.

76 years is a long time in a person’s life. However, 76 years is but a blip in the sands of time, especially when you are talking about a culture and a civilization that is as old as time itself. 

It’s a short time but a momentous journey. We rejoice today on our nation’s happy birthday. 

Yet, it is also a day of remembrance. Today, when we celebrate our Independence Day, we also remember. 

We remember the courage and sacrifices of our freedom fighters. Some of them known, countless others unnamed who gave up their today for our tomorrow. 

We remember the determination of the countless number of Indians who contributed to building India after Independence - our farmers, our workers, our teachers, our soldiers, our scientists and our leaders. It is they who have made this country what it is just today. 

We remember also the scholars and thinkers who have taught us to have the courage in our hearts to look at the future with confidence, but at the same time to have the faith to hold on to our past, to our glorious traditions. 

So when the tricolor flutters outside with pride on Independence Day today, it serves as a reminder. 

It is a reminder that today whatever we are, we stand on the shoulder of these giants and that owe it to the memory of our ancestors to continue the struggle. So that the future of India is better than its past; so that the future of India is more glorious than the present.

Dear Friends, 

76 years is a short time in history, but we have a great story to tell about our journey so far. We have indeed come a long way. 

In 1947 when we were born there were many like Winston Churchill who believed that India was a basket case. The country is too large they said. It is uneducated, illiterate, poor, and ungovernable. It is just an unwieldy experience that will not last, they predicted. 

And yet, we have not just survived, we have thrived.

We are today not just the most populous country in the world, we are more importantly the world’s largest democracy. 

Today India is the envy of the world. Because what we accomplish almost as a matter of routine, like peaceful transfers of power periodically, remains a chimera for so many others. 

Democracy is ingrained in every Indian citizen whether he is a rickshaw puller or an industrialist and despite our challenges, people of India remain the masters of their destiny.

From being one of the poorest and most backward countries when we were born, today we are the 5th largest economy in the world. And give or take a few years, we are well on our way to becoming the 3rd largest. Indeed a remarkable turn around.

Some of those present would perhaps remember 1956 when India was forced to import wheat from United States under the infamous scheme that was called the PL-480. Those were difficult times for the country.

Fast forward to today, and India is the largest producer of wheat in the world. Not just that, we are the largest exporter of rice in the world including to this country Oman. From nuts to fruits & vegetables, today the country, which could not produce enough wheat to feed its people, is the food basket of the world.

From 1963 when our first rocket was carried to the Thumba rocket launch pad on a bicycle – some of you would recall that iconic photograph – to today as the Chandrayan-3 is orbiting the moon as we speak and our lander Vikram, with the collective wishes of all of us, will soon be making a glorious landing on and send pictures of Chanda Mama to us. 

So, on Independence Day clearly there is so much we can talk about. Especially for benefit of our children. There are so many stories, so many attributes of India that deserve mention.

But I thought today since I am speaking in a school I will talk about ‘people’. Because ultimately it is people who make a country what it is and I fundamentally believe that if today India has done so well, it is because what Indian people are. 

I am not saying Indians are more intelligent than the other people - may be we are! - but that’s not the point. The point is that there is something else about Indians that makes them succeed, that makes them do well in different settings. 

Dear Children,

I want to talk to you today and give 3 examples.  I am not talking about the bigger names like Gandhi and Nehru. Those you already know about.

I wish to talk of 3 Indians who have made a difference in global settings. Hopefully two of them you would have heard of. One is someone with whom in fact I was also not familiar with till I read about him in the newspaper about 3 weeks ago. This 3rd person is a very relevant example for this particular venue of an Indian School in Oman.

It so happens that all 3 Indians that I am talking about are from the IT industry, but that is purely coincidental. I can just as easily take any field of activity and I can give you three names of equal importance with equally big contribution. 

When we talk about the Information Technology Industry, we of course know about the likes of Satya Nadela, Sundar Pichai, Shantanu Mukherjee and other such Indian-origin CEOs of top global corporations. 

That by the way itself is a huge story. How come it is that so many of the world’s top companies are all led by Indians? Please don’t let anyone tell you that it is a coincidence. There is something to this story that speaks about the nature of our country, our culture. But of course that story is already well told. These names are well known. 

I want to talk about Indians that are relatively lesser known, if not unknown. 

So, when we talk about the IT industry in India, I am not sure if you know that the father of the Indian IT Industry was a person called Faqir Chand Kohli, better known as FC Kohli. I would encourage the children to read about him. 

He was the first CEO of Tata Consultancy Services. He was not a software engineer, he was not an IT engineer, in fact if I am not mistaken, he was a chemical engineer who grew up in the Tata group and moved to Tata Consultancy Services later. 

This is the person who transformed the IT industry and literally invented the ‘IT services’ industry, something that became synonymous with India later. After the success of TCS under him, you had Wipro and Infosys on the same model, and the rest as they say is history. 

Even today, the world talks about this model - the IT services model. It was thanks to the ingenious vision of this one visionary, the father of Indian IT Industry Faqir Chand Kohli. 

The second equally important person is someone that I will bet 70% of the audience would not have heard of. Sardar Narinder Singh Kapany was born in Moga, Punjab and did his graduation from Agra University. He grew up in Punjab, hopped on to the UK, went and settled in the US and came to be known later as the father of fiber optics. In fact, the name ‘fiber optics’ itself a coined by him. He did not get a Nobel prize for his work but if you read up about him, he is genuinely seen as one of the visionaries who gave birth to a whole new industry that is the backbone of the entire IT communications platform. 

So today when you send a message, send pictures of your dog, your friends or Independence Day videos, all this is happening on fiber optics cables and the credit of germinating that industry, of that revolution goes to this man from Punjab. 

The third example which I thought is very topical incidentally has has a connection with Oman. I was reading an article in Financial Times a few weeks ago. The title of the article was ‘Transformers’. This was not about the Japanese robots. The transformers was a name of a team of engineers in Google. 

A group of 8 young scientists who in 2017 wrote a paper which was called “All you need is Attention”. This paper is credited with heralding the revolution of next generation artificial intelligence or what is called Generative AI; which you and I better know as ChatGPT. 

The genesis of ChatGPT i.e. generative artificial intelligence or large language modeling is apparently connected to this paper, which was written by a group of 8 young scientists then working in Google. The magic in this story is that out of these 8 scientists, 2 were Indians. One is an Indian woman engineer who studied in Pune. The person I am talking about is Ashish Vaswani and I read in the paper that he grew up in Oman. 

I don’t know if was from this school, but we can safely assume that he must have been from one of the Indian schools here. I have not spoken to him, I don’t know him and I don’t have his permission to use his name so I hope he would not mind. 

An Indian kid grows up in Oman, studies in an Indian school, does his graduation from India and then moves on the US and makes a seminal contribution to the next revolution of artificial intelligence at a very young age. I thought it’s a remarkable example and we should find out more about him.

What is the point behind all these stories? Why I chose these examples is not just to show how we have among us in Indians, so many well-qualified visionaries, but rather to show how today India is important to the world. I believe that people like the ones I mentioned are today making global contributions, taking the world on a higher  trajectory, making human progress possible. 

But how is it that so many Indians are able to do this? What makes them ready and able to come up with such things, succeed in the global environment? What is this India thing that people talk about? 

In other words, what makes India and Indians tick globally?

One clear factor is education. It doesn’t matter whether he or she is from Tamil Nadu or from Himachal Pradesh or from Assam or from Gujarat, one thing that is common to every Indian parent is that they know that education is the only passport for success of their children.

This emphasis on education in turn leads to the Indian tendency of seeking excellence in every field. We are trained, we are ingrained, we are taught that we have to continuously seek to excel through education. Indians learn from early in life that they have to excel, they have to get educated and if they are educated they will perform. 

That is the first attitude of why I thought Indians are so successful. But there is something else and that is the real point that I want to talk about.

There is something else that is related to the Indian mindset. There is something else in the Indian DNA that makes us succeed in the global environment. 

That chromosome in the Indian mind is ‘inclusivity’. The diverse environments in which we grow up and more importantly the intangible heritage that we carry in our minds that has been given to us in our culture makes all of us naturally talented to perform in inclusive environments. 

I am not talking about a particular culture or region or language. I am talking about the Indian heritage, which is common to us all. If you are an Indian, you have this in your DNA.

There is something in the Indian heritage that makes Indians adaptable, resilient and adjustable. It is this quality that enables us to settle down in any environment and in any society and yet contribute to our fullest. Like all of you expats here, all Indians have a natural ability to integrate. And we do so without losing our Indian touch. 

Each one of the Indians sitting here carries the flame of India in their hearts that never diminishes. It comes out during our festivals, our marriages, our customs. But when we perform in any given society we integrate completely. This remarkable ability of the Indian mindset is something very unique. 

This is something that has been given to us intangibly. Nobody comes to you and tells you to integrate. It is there is your mind, almost a part of our national personality.

For 5 thousands years our scriptures have taught us about these attributes. 

When they say एकम सत् विप्रा बहुदा वदंति- the truth is one but the learned ones talk about it in different ways. This is the attitude of inclusivity that is being given to you.

Or, आकाशात पतितं तोयं यथा गच्छति सागरम- Every single drop that comes down from the sky ultimately ends up in the same ocean through different streams. A powerful way of expressing the inclusivity of humankind. 

Or एकवर्णम यथा दुग्धं भिन्नवर्णासु धेनुषु। तथैव धर्म वैचित्र्यं तत्वमेकं परं स्मृतम ।।.  The cow may be brown, the cow may be black, but they all give white milk. Likewise all religions might talk about the Almighty in different ways, they might look different but they all ultimately talk about the same truth.

Indians are therefore hardwired for inclusivity. Indians have there in their DNA to be inclusive, to accept diversity, to see - as our Prime Minister Modi Ji very fondly says – the world as one family. 

वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम.

It may sound like a cliché, but frankly it is there in each of our minds, imperceptibly but surely. We see the whole society, the whole earth as one family and that’s the unique attribute of Indians. 

And that is why, so aptly and so appropriately, the theme of India’s G-20 presidency is ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’. As India seeks to lead the world community to a consensus on the most important issues of our times, the Indian mindset seeks to do so in a spirit of oneness. 

This theme captures in my view the wider philosophy of the Indian mind. That India may or may not have been the part of the problem but India and Indians everywhere in the world will always be a part of the solution. 

So on our 77th Independence Day of India, let us resolve dear children, to take the country of our dreams even higher but more importantly lets also resolve that no matter where we are and in whatever capacity we will always contribute to the global good.

Because that dear friends that what India is all about. 

Happy Independence Day!

Thank you very much.