Captain Lakshmi

Lakshmi Sehgal (“Captain Lakshmi”), doctor and fighter for Indian independence, died on July 23rd, aged 97.

AS SHE moved, pert and bird-like, round her tiny rented clinic in industrial Kanpur in northern India, Lakshmi Sehgal made her patients feel completely safe in her hands. Lightly but firmly, her fingers moved across the swollen bellies of pregnant women, or felt for a pulse, or probed a wound. Her sister said she had always had the technique to reassure. Those same hands, in West Bengal in 1971, had massaged the scrawny limbs of Bangladeshi refugees, and in December 1984 had soothed the burning eyes of victims of the explosion at a chemical factory in Bhopal.

They also knew how to fire a revolver and prime a grenade, change the magazine on a Tommy gun and wield a sword. They were as skilled and ruthless as any man’s, for Dr Lakshmi had been trained beside the men to become a killing machine. From 1943 to 1945, in the jungles of Singapore and what was then Burma, she commanded a brand-new unit of the Indian National Army in the hope of overthrowing the British Raj. The Rani of Jhansi regiment, set up by the independence leader Subhas Chandra Bose (left of her, above), was for women only, the first in Asia. It was named after a heroine of the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny against the British, a widowed child bride who cut her saris into trousers to ride into battle. For Dr Lakshmi, another rich tomboy who had married too young, a rider of horses and driver of cars who had eagerly thrown her foreign-made dresses on a nationalist bonfire, the rani made an irresistible model.



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  1. Praveen Kumar Anshuman says:

    Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit, not happy for Dr. B. R. Ambedkar as chosen THE GREATEST INDIAN

    History TV18: Negation of Ambedkar, The Greatest Indian in Subtle Way

    I am in total disagreement with the verdict passed by the greatest Jury of 28 Members (perhaps if my memory doesn’t distrust me) in the survey made in connection with Who is the Greatest Indian after Mahatma Gandhi. My objections are on two grounds: one in retrospect and the other in present.

    The first: this survey says that Gandhi was the greatest Indian which I totally deny on the ground that each of the persons included in the top 50 list is as valuable as anybody else. They all have contributed in their respective fields; they all are great in themselves undubiously. There is no question of creating an unnecessarily assumed conviction that Mahatma Gandhi is the Greatest Indian. (You would have understood had you included Gandhi Ji in the list prepared.) I ask, “Why has the assumption been made as a rendezvous? Who is the authoritative in Gandhi’s being already the GREATEST?” If this survey was going on Jury’s especially recommended criterion along with the support of the country men via sms or electronic media, then why the jury was afraid to test Gandhi himself into this fire? Why? Why? Why?

    And the second one is the total negation of Baba Sahab Dr. Bheem Ramji Rao Ambedkar in the show by History TV18 displayed today on 14th August at 7.00 pm for which I myself was very curious, inquisitive and enthusiastic. In addition, I updated my status on facebook regarding the timing of the show, sms-ed to as many people, making complaints to my cable operator about a very important programme at 7.00 pm today 14th August 2012, saying him that there should not be intervention and interruption at any cost in these very moments.

    But while going through the show, I had very depressingly repugnant feeling that I updated my status immediately when the programme ended.

    I don’t know how many of you like Osho and prefer his iconoclastic-no-ideas. He extensively spoke on all possible issues and persons of the world in such a charismatic way which is really unsurpassable. His eloquence can’t be challenged if you really know him.

    The reason I am quoting Osho here is in connection with the criticism he made on Gandhi. If one goes through and probes into that long talk on Gandhi which is in the most exquisitely dexterous and adroit way possibly, one will really not be able to believe Gandhi as Greatest Indian. Then what to say of making an assumption about him in advanced terms! He put Gandhi on heavy questionnaire pedestals. Everything that had any connection with Gandhi was interrogated and shattered into thousand pieces. Gandhians were openly challenged by Osho but surprisingly there were none (including Morarji Desai and Vinoba Bhave and others BIG names) who had the answers and guts to face him. I mean to say this survey should not have been something like After the Mahatma Gandhi Who is the Greatest Indian? Rather the survey should have been among all the persons in a democratic manner.

    Gandhi can’t be conceived as a monopolized Greatest Man in India when there is a big row of 50 people from different fields and even especially when there were some differences at the level of ideas, thoughts and practices of both Gandhi and Ambedkar, the Greatest Indian as chosen by the people of India. Looking from this angle which is the truest possible one, it is categorically unfair to acquire one way of already-conceived-assumption for someone and A Big Jury and Voting System for rest of the others. Gandhi should have also been taken into the list without any dispute. And if you really believe him to the best one, he would have corroborated it by coming on the Top and shifting Ambedkar on the second stair.

    Besides, one thing I am very much surprised for someone (Though I don’t emphasize any more yet stunned for sure) for his exclusion in top 50 people, is none other than Osho who showed Gandhi his real face when he was just 16; waiting for him continuously for 20 hours on a platform; and for whom Nehru kept Morarji Desai waiting for many hours for many days outside the room, not forgetting on the cost of cancellation of his appointments with him. Osho has always been found giving higher pedestal to Ambedkar than Gandhi whenever he has been talking of the two. I reiterate I can’t digest Osho (When I am talking of Osho, I mean him not his sanyasins in red robde in simulated meditation, ashrams or any other thing) being excluded from the list 50 great people of the country. I Keep him aside thinking that the Indian sensibility has not been evolved enough to absorb him as a Rishi (If we trust our granthas to be true) even after 22 years he has disappeared.

    Coming to the point, the second objection I am absolutely hurt with is the kind of programme the History TV18 has show cast. In the programae there was adulation for all the ten enlisted great names in the top ten. Everybody was given brief elaboration and description by many of the guests there. But in fact, the question is why I feel agitated? I would have preferred the programme to be carved out by focussing on the Ambedkar exclusivley in major terms though History TV18 is not mine nor I am the producer of this show. Ambedkar should have been the main stuff to talk about, to discuss and to debate for, for the simple reason of him having been neglected since long. But the similar analogy goes in the same stream that the chosen one is neither their property that they can manipulate the programme in their tiny, priggish way.

    I may appear crude on these people in saying but it is true that the man who is chosen by the whole of india as the Greatest Indian has not really been appreciated by these showmen in History TV18. A man from a Dalit Community (underdogs and expect them all Indians were dogs) though chosen to be the greatest is not given proper and expanded elucidation. Madhuri dixit says in the show that the new generation will know about him and surprisingly she herself doesn’t know much about him and facing the stage to speak of him. Amitahb looks pale and perishing and a dumb like baboonery when he was to speak about him. And there it was quite evident as the case everywhere that he seems to speak from his heart only about his father (undoubtedly he is the gratrtest poet I myself have ever loved and I claim I have learned more poems of him than Amitabh himself might have done) but for everybody else he uses words in political terms. Never from the heart but from the surface. For example: He will abruptly interrupt by saying that very few people know that he is a great fan of Sachin especially when he is said that Sachin is a great fan of him. But in the show so far as Baba Sahab B. R. Ambedkar was concerned, he really perished in speaking about him. Every word he spoke did not belong to his heart. He, in fact, really does not know anything about the Greatest Indian. It’s not a surprise because I myself know very little about Baba Sahab, though it won’t be the same in future. But it’s embarrassing for Amitabh Bachchan who is known for having gone through countless number of questions through KBC.

    It is to remind all of you that the declaration for the announcement of Who The Greatest Indian on website: on 11th August, 2012 . Everyone including those who spoke about Baba Sahab already knew who has been chosen the Greatest Indian but surprising these so called great people of India whose contribution is just nothing in comparison with people like Bhagat Singh, Azaad, Gandhi, Nehru and Couless names. They have not prepared even some brief notes about the life, struggle and the ideological conceptions of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. And in the beginning of the show it voiced something like Dr. B. R. Ambedkar upliftedfted harijanas. Did he only contribute only for the chamars (I don’t prefer the word ‘Harijan’ given by Gandhi, for it’s something like covering up ugly realities with beautiful and charming names) in particular? Was it not the universal voice inherent is us that wants that the blood flowing in each of us should settle and feel equal? Everybody aspires to have the equanimity.

    We the people of India feel it when Shah Rukh Khan is insulted at some country’s airport; when Indian are misbehaved, beaten, killed in abroad. Then these great names feel. But the expliotaion on a massive level had been the history of Hindus and Brahmins in India does not melt their hearts. They just bypassed. Why don’t you yourself open the pages before the young generation? How this Greatest Indian now chosen by the country people was treated so badly, not allowed to drink water, not to study with other students, and what not. But despite all these difficulties he excelled himself to such an extent that this country has welcomed him to rule over constitutionally. He has given the most venerable constitution for our country. Why is it only the verdict of lower class people that they keep on speaking about Dr. B. R. Ambedkar? Even when he is chosen the Greatest Indian, why you people did not open your mouth about his journey of life, how he suffered and how he culminated into Supreme. Does Madhuri Dixit want all the young generation to open Wikipedia in order to know Ambedkar? In fact the young generation has opened the pages. There is need of for her and for all these very people to open the pages of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar which has been kept safe by Dalits for long. Ther is need for the History TV people to have gone deeper and deeper in him.

    I am ashamed that so great names Amithabh, Madhuri, all just proved façade and bypassed Dr. B. R. Ambedkar with some words and the finale declaration.

    Oh My God! Oh My God!!!

    I bet about my being 100% certain for them having adulated, elaborated in details, and devoted all the hours specifically had there been any other person from the list other than Ambedkar. These people say that our constitution is one of the best constitutions ever made in the worldbut on the contrary they did not bear any good feeling for Ambedkar. How can anyone then believe that they trust in democracy, a key to it?

    It would have been better if Amir Khan would have hosted this serial. I really give infinite number of claps for him as he raised his voice in so many diverse ways which I think will not cease to exist, rather on the contrast it would continue to flag itself in the heart-beats of ours that Amir has lit. Amir, in addition, rather read the opening page of our constitution in his fire Satyamev Jayate. I just salute you Amir. If you can listen to my voice (which will really reach you in abstract and transcendental form I believe), I on the behalf all the young generation around me in Delhi University who love me give a salute to you. You proved yourself respectful to our country and constitution in genuine terms that no person of the similar calibre could initialise and initialise in such a way which I think will never go off.

    So enough for these frustartions I had since this survey began, continued and resolved today finally.

    But remember this new world of ours and the young generation does not depend on you. Though you have made the survey but depressingly you could not fall to be adherent to it, we don’t need you THE BIG NAMES to decide who is greatest.

    For me Dr. B. R. Ambedkar is a phenomenon and really the greatest India as chosen by the common mass. Gandhi doesn’t stand anywhere. And really Ambedkar has not been so much familiar with us yet beacuse of particulerization of a community but the now the world will not be in the same trodden way. We have found and will try to understand and assimilate his very philosophy that has instilled into our country India a democratic feeling in its soul.

    Praveen Kumar Anshuman

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