A leading English magazine of the country recently conducted a poll as to who would be the greatest Indian or Indians after Mahatma Gandhi. There are two things here, one, without trying to be irreverent to the Father of the Nation, is the assumption that ALL Indians would consider him to be the greatest. The second is what do these 'polls' achieve, what are we trying to discover, or for that matter rediscover. And, who would qualify as Indians, only post independence people?
Fair enough, or was it?
We are also told that there was a jury consisting of eminent people, who I suppose are either so eminent, or not at all to be considered worthy of this honour, so they are in the panel of the jury! I tried to find out who they were, but could not, the magazine shrouded their names in a kind of clandestine oath, and a swearing in ceremony.
The names bandied for this coveted 'honour' were people like Nehru, Ambedkar, Indira Gandhi, A.B.Vajpayee, Mother Teresa, Satyajit Ray, Sachin Tendulkar etc. A pretty eclectic range, no doubt, but one wondered what Sachin Tendulkar was doing there! The judging was based partly on polls and partly on the verdict of the anonymous jury. It was perhaps, enough to know that they were 'eminent', there is no dearth of such people in the country.
Ambedkar topped the list, and there were sly digs at the choice, in the articles that followed in the magazine. And why were people like Mother Teresa or Ray not in the running, a former editor of the magazine, who I suspect was in the panel of 'eminent Indians' who constituted this less celebrated, if not unsung panel measured it in such terms, with blazing intellectual acuity and precocity: You see, the person would have to impact change in such radical manner so as to bring about a noticeable change in lives of people. Mother Teresa was a good person, but not a great person. She brought some respite to shattered lives, but she could not bring life back to them. They died cradled in her arms!
I wish this former editor attempts to do an iota of what she did. Honestly, I do wish so ...It was after all Sunanda Datta Ray who remarked after her death, that she was nothing short of the enthusiastic proselytizer, preaching God's word with elan. We Indians have a bitchy habit of bad mouthing behind backs, or after death. What do these polls serve? Nothing and something. The former meaning, that the average Indian could not care less, and the latter; to spotlight some 'eminent' Indians! And people like Vivekananda or Ramakrishna cannot fall in this pantheon of greatest Indians, because they lived ahead of times- prior to independence!