Tryst with Destiny
by Jawaharlal Nehru
Introduction .. This historic speech rated as one among the best 100 speeches made ever, was delivered in the Indian Parliament when India was just hours away from her independence. It was a moment of jubilation, hope, and exuberance. It was also a moment to reflect, look back centuries to history to remember the contributions of so many sons and daughters of the country. Many among them received recognition, many more died un-honored and un-sung. The grant of freedom also brought with it the Partition of the country. Religious fanatics fanned hatred and revenge and both India and Pakistan were plunged in mayhem and bloodbath. This obviously was in Nehru’s mind, and he referred to these events very regretfully, although indirectly.
But, the speech is so stirring that even today it inspires hundreds and thousands of Indians. A sense of pride, unity and optimism grips the reader.
The speech ..
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 stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India 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.
Explanation .. This speech was made as India was breaking into a new phase in its life – as a free, prosperous, united, but partitioned country. India had made efforts to shape her own destiny when the first spark of freedom struggle was ignited. That was in 1857, or even earlier. After nearly two centuries of struggle, sacrifice and suffering, that dream had come true, and India was on the throes of freedom. The citizens of free India stood ready to redeem the pledge they had made before Destiny to gain both political and economic freedom. At midnight, when the whole world is asleep, India will spring to her feet as a free, sprightly country. Very rarely, a watershed moment comes in the history of a country, when it renews itself to emerge in a new avatar. The soul of the nation, blemished by bondage, ignorance and poverty, finds its new moorings with an abundance of energy, confidence and vibrancy.
It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.
Explanation .. At this auspicious rare moment, we need to dedicate ourselves not only to the service of the country, but also to the whole human race.
At the dawn of history India started on her unending quest, and trackless centuries which are filled with her striving and the grandeur of her success and her failures. Through good and ill fortune alike she has never lost sight of that quest or forgotten the ideals which gave her strength. We end today a period of ill fortune and India discovers herself again.
Explanation .. For India, the quest for knowledge, prosperity, and progress has been a relentless one from the distant start of history. This long journey has been marked by many successes, and failures, many trials and tribulations. No matter, how bad was the time, India never lost sight of its purpose to go forward, and adhere to the proposals that it cherished. The dark period of India’s history ended today, and India re-invents itself in her majestic glory.
The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity, to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us. Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?
Freedom and power bring responsibility. The responsibility rests upon this assembly, a sovereign body representing the sovereign people of India. Before the birth of freedom we have endured all the pains of labour and our hearts are heavy with the memory of this sorrow. Some of those pains continue even now. Nevertheless, the past is over and it is the future that beckons to us now.
Explanation ..The achievement of today is only a step in a long journey. It is a gateway to the great strides we will make and the prosperous future that awaits us. Are we ready to confront this daunting challenge? We have the power to accomplish this task today. But, with power comes responsibility. The responsibility rests on this house (the Parliament). This house is a sovereign entity representing the sovereign people of India.
The path to freedom has been riddled with pain and suffering. Such pain has scarred our minds. We must leave the past behind, because the future is standing to usher us in.
That future is not one of ease or resting but of incessant striving so that we may fulfil the pledges we have so often taken and the one we shall take today. The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity.
Explanation .. The future has little room for indolence. It calls for untiring ceaseless effort to achieve the goals we have set for ourselves in the past, and the ones we will take today. By serving India, we will bring succor to millions of its suffering citizens. It envisions a fight to end the malaise of poverty, illiteracy, and disease.
The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us, but as long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over.
And so we have to labour and to work, and work hard, to give reality to our dreams. Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world, for all the nations and peoples are too closely knit together today for anyone of them to imagine that it can live apart.
Explanation … The greatest man of our times (alluding to Gandhiji) wants us to wipe every tear of our suffering masses. The task may take long to accomplish, but we must also persevere to work towards this task. Such vision is as relevant for India as they are for the whole world. The world is well-knit, and nations can’t isolate themselves from their neighbors’ suffering.
Peace has been said to be indivisible; so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and so also is disaster in this one world that can no longer be split into isolated fragments.
Explanation .. Peace, freedom, and prosperity are too closely intertwined to be seen as isolated goals. Disaster strikes one part, but its aftereffects are felt far and wide. So, the world is one single entity.
To the people of India, whose representatives we are, we make an appeal to join us with faith and confidence in this great adventure. This is no time for petty and destructive criticism, no time for ill will or blaming others. We have to build the noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell.
Explanation .. We as representatives of the people call upon them to unitedly participate in the endeavor with a positive spirit and hope. There should be no rancor or recrimination. The mansion of free India must be so built that it has space for all her children.
The appointed day has come – the day appointed by destiny – and India stands forth again, after long slumber and struggle, awake, vital, free and independent. The past clings on to us still in some measure and we have to do much before we redeem the pledges we have so often taken. Yet the turning point is past, and history begins anew for us, the history which we shall live and act and others will write about.
Explanation .. The day we all were looking for has arrived. Now India stands awakened from its long stupor. Now, she is full of energy and vigor. The past still haunts us, but we must stride ahead. We have arrived at a point of history that could be decisive and remarkable. What we do today must be what others write about tomorrow.
It is a fateful moment for us in India, for all Asia and for the world. A new star rises, the star of freedom in the east, a new hope comes into being, a vision long cherished materialises. May the star never set and that hope never be betrayed!
We rejoice in that freedom, even though clouds surround us, and many of our people are sorrow-stricken and difficult problems encompass us. But freedom brings responsibilities and burdens and we have to face them in the spirit of a free and disciplined people.
Explanation .. For India and Asia, a new star of hope and cheer appears in the sky today. Let this star never fade, and let our hopes not be dashed in future. We are rejoicing today, but the dark cloud of sorrow and mayhem still looms for many among us. No matter what might be the fate, one must face it with a spirit of sacrifice and discipline.
On this day our first thoughts go to the architect of this freedom, the father of our nation, who, embodying the old spirit of India, held aloft the torch of freedom and lighted up the darkness that surrounded us.
Explanation.. On this occasion, we must remember the sacrifice and struggle of the man who was the architect of our freedom –Mahama Gandhi. He dispelled the gloom and darkness that had engulfed us.
We have often been unworthy followers of his and have strayed from his message, but not only we but succeeding generations will remember this message and bear the imprint in their hearts of this great son of India, magnificent in his faith and strength and courage and humility. We shall never allow that torch of freedom to be blown out, however high the wind or stormy the tempest.
Explanation .. We have too often wavered from his path. Despite this aberration, we and our future generations will always remember him. His character, courage and charisma will remain vivid in our minds. We pledge this hard-earned freedom to be permanent for us.
Our next thoughts must be of the unknown volunteers and soldiers of freedom who, without praise or reward, have served India even unto death.
We think also of our brothers and sisters who have been cut off from us by political boundaries and who unhappily cannot share at present in the freedom that has come. They are of us and will remain of us whatever may happen, and we shall be sharers in their good and ill fortune alike.
The future beckons to us. Whither do we go and what shall be our endeavour? To bring freedom and opportunity to the common man, to the peasants and workers of India; to fight and end poverty and ignorance and disease; to build up a prosperous, democratic and progressive nation, and to create social, economic and political institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman.
Explanation .. We must gratefully acknowledge the acknowledge the contribution of countless fellow citizens who contributed to the freedom struggle without expecting any reward. We need to be thankful to our brothers and sisters who have drifted politically from us, and can’t participate in this celebration.
The future beckons to us. It wants us to chart our plan of action. We need to fight poverty and deprivation. Same way, we have to build institutions that will ensure the rule of law, and ensure justice to one and all.
We have hard work ahead. There is no resting for any one of us till we redeem our pledge in full, till we make all the people of India what destiny intended them to be.
We are citizens of a great country, on the verge of bold advance, and we have to live up to that high standard. All of us, to whatever religion we may belong, are equally the children of India with equal rights, privileges and obligations. We cannot encourage communalism or narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thought or in action.
Explanation .. We have very daunting task ahead of us. We can not lower out guard, nor relax our efforts till we reach success. We must shun communalism, and narrow-mindedness both in thought and in action.
To the nations and peoples of the world we send greetings and pledge ourselves to cooperate with them in furthering peace, freedom and democracy.
And to India, our much-loved motherland, the ancient, the eternal and the ever-new, we pay our reverent homage and we bind ourselves afresh to her service. Jai Hind .
Explanation .. We greet our friends overseas, and other nations. In their journey towards prosperity and peace and democracy, we pledge to stand shoulder to shoulder with them.
To our motherland, ever youthful, we pay our homage and reiterate our commitment to her service.
1. What is the pledge we shall redeem? .. At the outset of the freedom struggle, many eminent and patriotic Indians had conjured an India that would be free, prosperous and vibrant. The foreign yoke had to be cast off for India to find her feet. This is the pledge Nehru wants to renew.
2. What does Nehru mean when ………… to life and freedom? .. Nehru gave his speech as the clock struck 12 at night. From then on, India was to be ‘free’ nation. Around this time, most Indians had retired to bed, oblivious of the precious moments in our history. When they awoke, they would be citizens of a free country. The morning rays of sun would dispel colonial rule and the gloom associated with it.
3. What is the moment that comes rarely in history?
There are moments in the history of most countries, when they are born, or are subjugated by an invader or are re-born breaking free the colonial stranglehold. Such transitions may come at interval of a few centuries. Obviously, such moments are very very rare.
4. What, according … , quest?
From time immemorial, India has been a land of ideals, discovery and introspection. Its people are deeply inward-looking, spiritual, but never afraid to explore the unknown. Its history has been punctuated bysuccesses and failures, but the journey has seldom ceased. This striving to discover itself is what Nehru refers as ‘quest’.
5. How do we end a period of misfortune? The best way is to open a new page in the life and resolutely move forward. One must not lose one’s vitality lamenting the misfortune or sorrow.
6. What does Nehru ….. future?
We are promise-bound to remove the scourge of poverty that has bedeviled us for ages. Poverty brings illiteracy, disease and backwardness. The great son of India (alluding to Gandhiji) had to wipe sorrow from the lives of our deprived countrymen. They had succeeded, but only partly. Nehru wanted us to rededicate ourselves to accomplish this unfinished task of bringing wealth, prosperity and all –round progress to our countrymen languishing in poverty.
7. What responsibility ……………. rest?
When we became free, we can’t indulge in acts that break the law or hurt others sentiments. The new-found power must never be mis-utilized to the detriment of the collective interest of the nation. This self-imposed restraint is ‘responsibility’. The Assembly (now known as parliament) is an elected body chosen by the people. Responsibility rests on this elected body.
8. What does Nehru mean ……………. star?
By ‘star’, Nehru refers to the emergence of India from colonial slumberto un-bounded energy and enthusiasm. India is a dominant country of the East, and India’s freedom must bring good tidings for the entire region. India’s creative energy must unleash similar energy in other countries in the region to re-build themselves.
9. In what spirit ……………….. freedom?
Nehru wanted the celebrations to be somber and dignified. The continued communal violence had pained Gandhiji so much that he had thought it wise to spend his time in areas where Hindus and Muslims were still fighting each other. Nehru called upon his countrymen not forget him, nor his idealism deeply anchored to non-violence, peace and harmony.
10. Which aspects of Gandhiji’s ………… Nehru?
Nehru understood Gandhiji’s deep appreciation of India’s traditional values, the core of its soul, and its yearning for freedom. Gandhiji rebelled against the prejudices and the oppression entrenched in the Indian society and worked hard to remove the muck. Such commitment and untiring effort to lift the Indian society out of its morass inspired Nehru.
11. What are Nehru’s thoughts about …….. border?
Nehru felt a lot of goodwill for the people of East Pakistan [now Bangladesh] and West Pakistan. Although in both places Hindus were at the receiving end of communal frenzy, Nehru’s heart was surprisingly free of any rancor or vengeance against them.
12. What should Indians ………. freedom?
Nehru dreamed to banish poverty, strengthen the roots of democracy and propel the country towards high growth and prosperity. He wanted to remove the symptoms of poverty like ignorance and disease. Simultaneously, he wanted to foster an atmosphere where democratic institutions like free press, judiciary and parliament could grow.
13. What does Nehru mean ………….. us?
India had inherited myriad problems when it was born. The communal fire was ravaging communities, and superstition and prejudices ran deep. To compound the problem, poverty was rife. Nehru knew how difficult the task of nation-building was. It was going to be a long arduous haul. The government could not do it alone. So, Nehru wanted the citizens to come forward to lend their shoulders to the task of nation-building.
14. How can we ….. peoples?
We can cooperate with them in a collective effort to strengthen democracy, fight poverty and promote global peace and harmony.
15. What is our duty to our motherland?
We must proactively propagate communal and ethnic understanding and counter the venom of inter-religious intolerance. We need to be steadfastly resolve to work hard in our respective spheres to promote prosperity and integrity. We must repose our faith in our deep-rooted ancient values and never allow corruption to creep in. Our commitment to our motherland must be unshakable.