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60 Great People

60 Great People

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Published by Che

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Published by: Che on Aug 23, 2010
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10/11/2010

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The story of a nation is the biography of its people. India is a confluence of a billion life stories, an expansivenarrative whose structural variations are only matched by its thematic abundance. Get into it and be swayed bythe whirl of passions, paradoxes and ironies. So it is not surprising that, in the panegyrics of geopolitics andglobalism, India is the exclamation mark of the East. Its democracy is the only reassuring drama in a regionwhere the show is still about less evolved civil societies.Its marketplace has already shed all those socialist inhibitions and become the playground of the so-calledwealth multipliers.And in the digital planet, Indian is an adjective to be reckoned with. When India performs at its best, in wordsor on the screen, the world is transfixed—and such moments are not rare.We are not some remote oriental exotica any longer. We are an interesting bunch of people, capable of a fewmiracles.We are here because our national back story is populated by people who are more interesting. Canonised byhistory, exaggerated by memory, they are not just the protagonists of a great yesterday.They are the ones who set the stage for those who came after them to play out their romance. Pioneers, warriors,revolutionaries, innovators, dreamers, adventurers and creators, they stretched the limits of the freedom theywere born into. They challenged the dead certainties of their times with the power of ideas, conviction—andfaith in themselves.They shattered the idyll of consensus and pitted their own will against the scepticism of the majority. Some of them played god as they gave themselves to the temptations of the alternative. Some of them pointed theiraccusatory fingers toward the self-styled gods of the era.And all of them, in varying degrees of originality and audacity, acknowledged the indispensability of questions— and the uses of dissent.They are the men and women who have made India a place of perpetual astonishment, a country whose stabilityis built on a million imperfections. Most of them are the people we read about in textbooks. They are thepermanent residents of the mythology we make out of hero-worship. (See graphic: Poll survey — Top 10 greatestIndian leaders )They are known by a simple word: great. It is an adjective overused in history books and by popular media. It isnot necessarily synonymous with fame; it is given to a chosen few in gratitude, by a people indebted. It evokesawe and admiration, and owes its origin to achievement.The India Today list of the 60 Greatest Indians does more than showcase the familiar. Nevertheless, they are allthere, certainly, from those who were in the vanguard of the freedom struggle to those who managed thefreedom.From those who stood up to the Empire to those who built empires of their own—of the mind and the money.From those who have made politics and morality seamlessly compatible to those who have redeemed India intheir imagination.This list captures the evolution of the Indian story in portraits of individual exceptionalism. It is the history of anation personified, and a celebration of the spirit that breaches borders.The poll
 
The poll began on March 14 and ran for three weeks through the India Today website and SMS.A total of 18,928 votes came in, with Bhagat Singh leading with 6,982 votes, Subhas Chandra Bose comingsecond with 5,193 votes and Mahatma Gandhi trailing at 2,457 votes.Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who forever stepped aside for Jawaharlal Nehru, has been redeemed in posterity, atfourth position with 8 per cent of the votes, compared to just 2 per cent for Nehru.Another steely nationalist, Indira Gandhi, is sixth, with 3 per cent of the votes.It is, most tellingly, a reflection of the changing perception of those who are remembering. Greatness, it seems, isnot static, or absolute. It continues to be reappraised in the mind of the indebted.The one who tops the India Today list is not the most obvious, the Mahatma, but the Martyr. In our poll, theaction hero who struggled to give a revolutionary rejoinder to the British Empire pushes the savant of passiveresistance to the third position.And next to Bhagat Singh is another rebel and adventurer who too didn’t take the Gandhian road to nationalliberation: Subhas Chandra Bose.The top 10 subvert many assumptions about greatness and how it is perceived by a generation that is notentirely conditioned by the one-dimensional wisdom of the classroom.The pioneer, the poet and the scientist coexist with leaders who were not conformists; and surprisingly, Nehru— nation-builder, moderniser, secularist, socialist—is at the ninth position, between Homi Bhabha andJayaprakash Narayan.With Sardar Patel at the fourth and Indira Gandhi at the sixth positions, the list is a celebration of nationalistswith iron in their soul—or in their fist.Is it that, as India, which at any rate is hardly Gandhian or Nehruvian in its political expression, strives forglobal power status, someone out there, someone disillusioned with the conformism of a smug state, is missingthe romance of the revolutionary leap—and the martyr’s war cry, Inquilab Zindabad?Is it that the mystique of the deviant, the transcontinental adventurism of the rebellious, is more alluring thanthe intimate humanism of the fakir? Is it that a steely nationalist like Patel and a strong, overpoweringhelmswoman like Mrs G are missing in an India of wishy-washy pretenders to the throne?Is it that India is nostalgic about the moral power of a JP at a time when the so-called socialists, products of his‘total revolution’, are an embarrassment to his memory? The hierarchy of greatness on the list reveals the mindof India. It brings out the way in which a nation comes to terms with its past and how it argues with the present.Its iconography essays a people’s aspiration, their nostalgia, their disillusion, their hope, their joy—and thegaping absences in the bestselling story of India Rising.Greatness, in the end, is a creation of the beholder. It is not the suspension of judgement that ensures thedurability of the greatest. As in the following pages, the march of the 60 greatest is led by the questioning mindof an India inspired.List of the 60 greatest Indians 
 
Amartya Sen — Global Indian Mulk Raj Anand — Free radicalAmrita Sher-Gill — Brush with beauty Munshi Premchand — Pen drive writerC.N. Annadurai — Letter and spirit Jawaharlal Nehru — The architectBaba Amte — Man of action P.C. Mahalanobis — The plan manBal Gangadhar Tilak — Street fighter Dhundiraj Govind Phalke — First showmanB.C. Roy — Bengal tiger Ravi Shankar — Sultan of stringBegum Akhtar — Queen of melody Prakash Padukone — Feather touchBhagat Singh — The patriot R.K. Narayan — Tale spinnerS.S. Bhatnagar — The catalyst Raj Kapoor — Dynasty’s childBhimsen Joshi — Song and trance Raja Ravi Varma — Royal touchBimal Roy — Romantic realist Raja Ram Mohan Roy — The modernistBismillah Khan — The enchanter Raja Ramanna — The energiserB.R. Ambedkar — Eternal fighter Rajendra Prasad — Son of the soilC.V. Raman — Bright spark S. Ramanujan — Perfect equationDhirubhai Ambani — Guru of growth Ramnath Goenka — The kingmakerDhyan Chand — Sorcerer’s score Rukmini Devi Arundale — Poetry in motionE.M.S. Namboodiripad — The pragmatist Sarojini Naidu — Civil crusaderHomi Bhabha — Nuclear maharaja S. Radhakrishnan — Guiding lightIndira Gandhi — Triumph of will Sachin Tendulkar — Beyond the boundaryJ.C. Bose — Ahead of the curve Sam Manekshaw — Warrior kingJayaprakash Narayan — Lead factor Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel — Iron in his soulJ.R.D. Tata — Steel in his spine Satyajit Ray — Universal eyeA.P.J. Abdul Kalam — The visionary Subhas Chandra Bose — Supreme soldierLata Mangeshkar — Voice of India S. Tripathi Nirala — Freedom’s verseRam Manohar Lohia — The provocateur Rabindranath Tagore — At home in the worldM.S. Subbulakshmi — Endless echo Viswanathan Anand — Lightning kidM.S. Swaminathan — Roots of change Verghese Kurien — White knight

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