November 4, 2008… In all probability, we shall not see another day of more global historical relevance in our lifetimes! While I had hoped that Barack Obama should win the American Presidential polls (you all would know how less of love I have for George Bush and his party representatives), yet, I didn’t really believe six months back that it would be him standing as the President-elect of America today. That the majority in America could vote for a black, half-Muslim, with madrasaa education (in Indonesia, where he lived with his second Muslim father) – whatever his credentials were – was something I felt was quite tough a call. But the tough has happened today! Barack Obama might not be historically a great leader, but he has created history under his leadership. He may not have been a great revolutionary or may not have been identified with any cause-centred leadership – like Martin Luther King Jr had been – but he showed that having got the chance of being the right man at the right time, he had it in him to snatch the opportunity and create history... first by defeating Hillary Clinton and becoming the democratic nominee; and then by defeating McCain and becoming the President-elect of the United States of America.
But above all, it is the United States of America which won today – at least, the hearts of millions like me all over the world… because today, America has shown that it has in it to finally give respect to a black man at the highest level possible; and this surely will change world history forever. Every black man will finally walk with pride, instead of feeling shaky about his existence after years of being an American. Because the worst form of discrimination that has ever existed on earth is the discrimination of man by man on the basis of the colour of skin… The pain and humiliation could only have been felt by those who suffered from it. Today, every white man in the crowd did look proud that they finally could stand up and say that they have apologised, in the truest sense!
I know, by the time you all read this editorial, millions of words would already have been written about the historical significance of this event; and you would have read them too. Yet, there is someone whom we must not forget to thank today. It actually is about the beginning of this entire journey – the culmination of which, is Barack’s win… It is not just Martin Luther King Jr or Abraham Lincoln, with whom it all started. This historic journey for equality has its roots in a great book as well... As I saw hundreds of blacks and whites break down and cry hearing Obama’s victory speech, my eyes welled up too, and I actually went back to Class 6 and my love for ‘Uncle Tom’! My school did not provide me any path-breaking learning – unfortunately, most schools in India don’t – but by some major miracle, I had a great book in our English course for the sixth grade. The book’s name was ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ – authored by a lady, Harriet Beecher Stowe. It was the second-best selling book of the entire 19th century, next only to the Bible; and published in 1852, this anti-slavery novel had actually intensified the sectional conflict that finally led to the American Civil War, and ultimately resulted in the abolition of slavery under the leadership of Abraham Lincoln. The book’s impact was so great that it is said that when Lincoln met author Stowe at the start of the Civil War, he commented, “So, this is the little lady who made this big war.” Talk about the power of the pen – (and I still believe in it).
Of course, Uncle Tom was a fictitious character, but the pain of black slaves perhaps was never better written, and in a simpler manner (Alex Haley’s ‘Roots’ was excellent, but quite tedious).
As a child, I read Stowe’s book perhaps more than a hundred times, and cried my guts out at the agony of Uncle Tom – the black slave – and other slaves who were traded by their American white masters, kept in 4-by-4-feet cages for months (wherein they had to defecate and sleep as well!), and finally paraded in slave markets for trading, with their children taken away and sold separately, more cruelly… It used to make my blood boil. It gave me the most important lessons of my childhood that no teacher could ever have given. I always tell my friends, if you want to give a great upbringing to your kids, don’t force them to mug up their syllabus; make them read good books... and start with ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’! If they love that, they will become great human beings, at least. And today, as the world celebrates this historic win, I think we need to somewhere also thank Ms. Stowe for doing her bit to make this day happen.
Just a few days ago, a good friend of mine was talking about how Pandit Nehru was the only inspiring leader we ever have had. He also said that the other was Mr.Vajpayee (in his heydays), but lamented how, by the time the latter came to power, he had lost his total spirit and had simply started mumbling out – in a sleepy manner – uninspiring, prepared speeches written by useless people below him. As I sat watching Barack’s victory speech, I couldn’t help but wonder when would we Indians stop having shameful and spineless creatures ruling us at the top, most of whom who don’t even know how to speak; and those few who do, speak such utter rubbish and visionless garbage that it stinks! When will we get an educated, committed and inspiring leader, who will tell us ‘We can’, and we feel like giving up even our lives for him.
Having authored a book by a name that is as patriotic as ‘The Great Indian Dream’, I have never felt like saying this in the past, but I can say today – Long live America! And may we as Indians learn from America’s positives, sooner than later! Thank you, Barack Hussein Obama. I haven’t celebrated the victory of any Indian leader ever – in my adult life, all of them have been uncommitted, visionless, uninspiring and far too embarrassing – but I celebrated Barack Obama’s victory. A considerable lot of the anger inside me against America and its history melted away today… because I know that the spirits of millions of Uncle Toms would be in peace today. And finally, once again, thank you Ms. Harriet Beecher Stowe for making us – who were never a part of that pain – realise the pain, and realise the importance of this day today!