And no! Bizarre it may seem, I am not narrating the Hindi numericals! Anyone in Dublin,Cork or Galway would attest to this! Yes these are Irish numericals! The similarities between them and the Hindi (or for that matter Urdu and Bangla) numericals is simply amazing!
No country in Western Europe has had stronger links to India than the Republic of Ireland. Traditionally a part of the British Isles ,it was able to gain independence from Britain only about 95 years ago after a protracted guerilla battle. It had remained a British colony for over 700 years and the hostility to the British,in particular to the English remains deep even to this day. The infamous potato famine for which historians have tended to blame Britain lead to massive emigration to the American continent.
Unlike most Western European countries , Ireland does not carry a colonial legacy- primarily because it was a colony itself! When granted independence in 1921, the British retained nearly one-fourth of the island with themselves on the pretext that this particular region had a Protestant majority (the Republic overwhelmingly Roman Catholic). This action of the British generated intense resentment in the Irish Republic and the entire island was a victim of intense terrorism which was resolved only after the Good Friday agreement in the 90’s.
My own medical career started in Galway ,Ireland where I spent some of my most memorable moments as a newly qualified medical graduate. I was made to feel welcome and within no time became a part of the ‘gang’. The friendships that I made during that period have lasted until now.I,like many of my generation, was raised by Irish nuns most of whom were from Galway.
Personal angle apart,I think it is apposite to remember the strong links Indian freedom fighters,both revolutionary and non-revolutionary ,had with the stalwarts of the Irish freedom movement. When the Indian Constitution was being drafted , the leaders of the Constituent Assembly corresponded frequently with the Irish statesman Eamonn De Valera who generously shared his experiences of constitution making.
Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose regarded De Valera as a personal friend.Their correspondence that has been released displays the high regard they had for each other. This columnist has also perused several correspondences that De Valera had with the President of the Constituent Assembly.
Small wonder that the Indian Constitution resembles the Irish Constitution more than any other Constitution in the world.The Directive Principles enunciated in both these documents are almost identical. The constitution-framers in India also took De Valera’s advice and made the Attorney General a Law Officer governed my the Civil Service rules rather than a politician ( as is the case in the UK,the US,Canada and a host of other countries). It is also worthwhile pointing out that DeValera had expressed concerns about the first past the post electoral system as being appropriate for a diverse society such as India suggesting a multiple choice system as had been adopted in his country. The constitution framers clearly did not agree with this suggestion .
We also tend to overlook that many of our legal luminaries who trained as barristers underwent their training in Dublin. This included a former president viz V.V.Giri.
And how can one not recall the great George Bernard Shaw and the influence his writings had in India-not to forget the popularity of William Butler Yeats, Jonathan Swift , James Joyce and Seamus Heaney in this country.
It is therefore flabbergasting to note that despite these strong links, the last Prime Minister of India to visit the Emrald Isles was Jawaharlal Nehru in 1956! Narendra Modi therefore deserves to be commended for bringing Irish Republic in his list of priorities.
By Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad