Incredible India – Happy Birthday!

"""At the stroke of midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom" – with these words Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India, announced the arrival of a new nation, born after more than a century of British rule.

For years, Indians were chafing under Britain’s imperial yoke, although their resistance lacked unity and direction until Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (later was titled as Mahatma Gandhi ) assumed leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1920, and fought for India’s independence. On Aug. 15, 1947, India got its freedom from the hands of the British.

After sixty-one years of gaining its independence from Britain, India has grown both economically and scientifically, but still struggles to balance its political ideals with a populace that pulls this union in profoundly different directions. Stare at the underbelly of Asia and behold the Indian behemoth: nearly 2 billion and still growing – one-sixth of the world’s population who live in a country one-third the size of the United States, who speak more than 1,000 languages and dialects and who support more than 20 political parties in the world’s biggest and perhaps boldest experiment in democracy. The overwhelming majority in India are Hindus, followed by Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and countless adherents of other faiths, projected to be the most populous nation by 2015, India itself is being transformed.

India is changing the world through its invention of modern technology and advanced industry, including high-tech computer industry. So welcome to India, a land of fantasy, mystique and color – where visitors call their travels here the journey of a lifetime.

An ancient civilization that thrives both its rich history and modern influences, India – comprises 28 states and six union territories. Food specialties vary from region to region, as does the native dress; though English is spoken everywhere, there are 18 officially recognized languages. As further proof of India’s variety and the noted tolerance of its people, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism are all practiced forms of worship, with festivals and holidays celebrated by one and all. For visitors, this diversity translates into the chance to change to enjoy a variety of cultural activities, culinary specialties and iconic monuments in one endlessly fascinating land.

India is one country, but hundreds of cultures and traditions to explore. From the eternal snows of the Himalayas to the cultivated peninsula of the far South, from the deserts of the West to the humid deltas of the East, from the dry heat and cold of the Central Plateau to the cool forest foothills, Indian lifestyles clearly glorify the geography.

""Indian cuisine, renowned for its exotic gravies, can seem complicated for any newcomer. The best word to describe Indian cuisine is masala: a blend reflecting culture, history, health and flavor. In Indian cuisine, food is categorized into six tastes – sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bitter and astrigent. A well-balanced Indian meal contains all six tastes, by using a wide variety of spices in different combinations to create depth of flavor. Bon Appetite!.

Indians believe in sharing happiness and sorrow with one another, and a festival or a celebration is never constrained to a family or a home- the whole community or neighborhood gets involved in the fun. The beauty of the Indian people lies in the spirit of tolerance, give-and-take and a composition of cultures that can be compared to a garden of flowers of various colors and shades of which, while maintaining their own entity, lend harmony and beauty to the garden – India!.

For Indians who were not born in India, and also non-Indians- who have never wrapped your food in a piping-hot naan ( an Indian wheat flat bread ) or savored any Indian spicy curries or Basmati rice or had your eyeballs singed by a Bollywood spectacular – there is a good chance you encounter some piece of India every day of your life. It might be the place you call (although you don’t know it ) if your credit card is stolen or your burger was stale or you had technical trouble with your software or to talk to guys to whom your company has outsourced its data processing. Every night, young radiologists in Bangalore, India, read CT scans e-mailed to them by emergency room doctors in the United States. It’s a place where every night English speaking, low-wage techies do the software programming and back office tasks that United States companies used to perform in-house. It’s where a phone operator who calls herself Jane ( but is really Janalakshmibhai ) or a guy who calls him Jay ( but is really Jayaramachandraprasad ) sell Americans two-week vacation packages that include the Taj Mahal sightseeing and cut-rate heart surgery or hip replacement.

Many Americans have experienced a dentist or chiropractor or family physician or lawyer of Indian origin, or are shocked to hear how vital Indians have been to California’s high-tech industry. In ways big and small, Indians are changing the world. India’s gross domestic product topped more than $ 900 billion in 2007. India’s Internet technology industry generated revenues of more than $ 100 billion in 2007. A surging stock market has boosted the number of Indian billionaires to 50 this year. India’s $3 billion film industry is the largest in the world. India makes more than 1,000 movies a year, five times Hollywood’s output. Tourism to India has risen high – last year more than 800,000 Americans traveled to India. The average household income of Indian immigrants in the United States is the highest of any ethnic group.

Beef is not what’s for dinner in most of the homes and restaurants in India, since Hindus adore cow as one of their Gods. Revered enough by Hindus to roam the streets freely, a bull still is not as sacred as a cow, which is surrounded by a great mythic aura. An ancient Hindu verse says that he who kills, eats or permits the slaughter of a cow will "rot in hell for as many years as there are hairs on the body of the cow so slain." Therefore if you are looking for a all beef burger at a fast food place anywhere in India, you are out of luck. All fast-food shacks in India, including McDonald’s serve food that is "beef- free"""

India is modernizing so fast that old friends are bewildered by the changes that occurred between visits. When I visited India few months ago, I was astonished and shocked to see new shopping malls, multistoried buildings, western fashions, fast food outlets, etc.- the West has taken over the East by storm. I felt India was like just another America away from America!

Chicago and its surrounding areas are home for thousands of Indian immigrants who have been serving the community as doctors, nurses, engineers, businessmen and in other fields. I met a few of them and asked their opinion on India’s 61st birthday and asked about their life in the United States.

"What is most remarkable is that rather than rising with the help of the state, India is in many ways rising despite the state," said the Rev. Lourduraj Ignatius, assistant pastor, St. Patrick’s Church, Ottawa ( a farwest Chicago suburb ). " It’s really amazing to note India’s tremendous growth, both scientifically and economically. I feel blessed to be born as an Indian and at the same time feel lucky to serve as a pastor here in America. May God bless both India and America!"

Austin Prabhu D’Souza, Founder President of Mangalorean Konkani Christian Association, Chicago, says "Even though Indian citizens earned independence from British Raj 61 years ago, we feel like we are still the slaves of corrupt politicians who make citizens life miserable by prioritizing their personal/party agenda and ignoring basic peoples needs like infrastructure. It is time to keep religion completely out of politics and come together as a team with two party system to prosper the lives of one billion plus Indians who are number one democratic in the world, thathasthu!"

Bharat Patel, who owns a business in ?Indian Town’ Devon Avenue, Chicago, says "I feel proud to be an Indian. But it’s a pride and privilege to be an American citizen. I want to keep both status, so I am applying for dual citizenship. I praise God for the better life and good friends here in U.S."

John Kurian, of Chicago suburbs, who has started a software firm in India and travels between here and India, says, "I don’t see myself as an expat in India, but I don’t see myself as an Indian either. I still consider the U.S. my home. I am straddling both places. (The) U.S. is a great country, but I still love India."

"""India possess one indispensable asset that has sustained its democracy and catapulted it to the cusp of global power: the ingenuity of its citizens. India is growing enormously, and Indians are responsible for that. I adore and respect my motherland, India- and in the same time I love America, for it’s a great place on Earth to live."

India is on the U.S. mental map. The economic boom is taking place at a time when the United States and India are forging new ties. Making friends with India is a good way for the United States to hedge its Asian bet. India has the skills, the people and the sort of hustle and dynamism Americans respect. It deserves the new notice it has in the U.S. And we are all about to discover this "baby" can dance.

India is simply awesome. Whether you are looking for adventures, exotic journeys, spiritual awekenings or just some fun in the sun, the choices are endless. Luxury abounds throughout the nation: High-end beach resorts, health spas and five-star hotels dot the coastline and cities; world-class shopping and dining, fine art and architectural wonders both new and old entice sophisticated travelers. For further glimpse of India has to offer, you can log onto: .Whatever your fantasy vacation is, India is ready to give it to you.

I welcome you all to explore my birthland, India- for a unique, memorable and personal experience, and carry back memories to last a lifetime. And that’s "incredible India"

Jai Hind!

About The Author

""Alfie D’Souza is a well know name in Ottawa, Illinois – a suburban community in the outskirts of Chicago.  He is the member of WriteTeam for "The Times".  The Daily Times of Ottawa and The Times-Press of Streator have merged into a new newspaper called "The Times." Alfie is a regular columnist for this newspaper who covers various stories of Indian and Western origin on various events.  He is also a regular contributor for the magazine "Mangalore Today" which is published from Mangalore.

Author: Alfie DSouza- Illinois