That is the terrible question you are asked on this site. This historical poll (they say it is historical, by the way, their slogan is: « Cast your vote, Make History! » Hou! Hou! What a responsability!), is organised by Reliance Mobile and TV channels CNN-IBN and History-TV18.
That is the Gordian knot! Which man or woman in India can compete with Gandhi? The Mahatma has influenced so many great men like Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela! Which sportsman or artist can stand on the second step of the podium? Rabindranath Tagore, maybe? Oups! The Greatest Indian must have lived after the independence!
This vote was all the more difficult for me as, of course, I did not know most of the Great Indians from the list. Dev Anand, Kapil Dev, RK Laxman…who are those people? Sometimes, the names themselves did not ring a bell to me but once I read the short biographies provided by the site, it was like « Oh, yes, this guy! I see.. » So, my choices have been really subjective.
First of all, I won’t vote for yogis or gurus because, well, I am a Paris dweller, my only religion is shopping and my only practise of yoga is when I strech my arm to turn the TV on…to be short, these people may have many qualities, they are not my cup of chai.
Secondly, I will avoid voting for someone like Indira Gandhi. She is fascinating but she did so many controversial things! But, after all, does the greatest Indian have to be morally perfect? In that case, what should one think about Sainte Mother Teresa who has been highly criticized for refusing birth control and, still according to critics, providing inadequate treatment to her protégés?
I could have voted for painter Maqbool Fida Hussainwho was chased from India and who died in exile because he had personified her as a naked woman but I do not really like the paintings I have seen so far and which are a bit like a poor mixture of Matisse and Picasso to me. It is the same about MS Subbulakshmi, a carnatic singer who got the Bharat Ratna, but whose way of singing freaks me out.
But, I had to make three choices, like in Aladin ( Well, actually I didn’t have to but I did it!):
So, Marilay’s Greatest Indians are:
Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhai Tata: To me, he is the symbol of modern and wealthy India; he was one of the first Indian pilots and I like old pilots like Charles Lindbergh. He is the name you can see on lorries in traffic jams, he is Nano’s daddy and I want a pink one, and he has been praised for considerably improving his employees’ work conditions. In addition, he was born in Paris, and his mommy was French, I know, that is not a good argument but I indulge myself this shameful and chauvinistic little pleasure! Oh, yes, and I have read on Wiki he was buried at the Père Lachaise Cimetery! If one day I feel like having a walk among graves, I will go and take a few pictures to show them to you on the blog!
Satyajit Ray: This Bengali director is one of the most famous Indian artists ever. He is extremely admired in the cinema industry. In short, he is a Master. I have not seen all his films yet, since French TV programmers always prefer broadcasting The City of Joy and Slumdog Millionnaire again and again but I love the perfect beauty of The Chess Players and Hirak Rajar Deshe made me die laughing.
Bhimrao Ambedkar: He is not very popular outside India but he is the father of India constitution and Indian democracy. He himself was an « outcaste » and got over it thanks to education. He was against the Hindu Caste System and is often considered by Indian people to be even greater than Mahatma Gandhi.
Voilà! And you, who are you going to vote for?
Click on the photo to see where they are from.