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In the Heart & at the Feet

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By Roli S
The word ‘Unity’ has carried a lot of weight throughout the making and progress of our nation India. In our schools, at home, on the sports fields we have witnessed and experienced the meaning of the word ‘Unity’ while growing up. As children, time and again we have heard the fable in which a father gives a very important lesson on ‘Unity’ to his squabbling sons. He gives them a wooden bar each and asks them to break it, which is broken easily by all of them, after which he asks them to break a group of wooden bars tied together in a bunch, and all his sons fail to do that. This tale has taught literally every child growing up about the importance of being united.

How much we have learnt from this story and how much we have tried to incorporate its teaching in our lives is a different matter altogether. The words: unity, united, unified, unification, etc., are always used in a positive way in our day-to-day life. For Indians, ‘Unity ‘generally means an integrated and united India and communal harmony.

On 31 October, we celebrate ‘National Unity Day’, every year. This day is the birth anniversary of the ‘Iron Man of India’, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Modern Day India stands as one of the most diverse countries in the world, a subcontinent that is home to over 100 languages, over 700 different tribes, every major religion in the world, and to some of the world’s largest cities, as well as remote regions with almost no people, which is why the significance of ‘National Unity Day’ cannot be downplayed. But the vision of a unified India was first envisaged and conceived by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

On 26 October, I had the privilege to visit the monumental ‘Statue of Unity’ built at Kevadia, Gujarat. To see the tallest statue made in the world in person was a very inspiring moment for me. Just before noon, as we approached the ‘Statue of Unity’ area, the first thing that struck me was the vastness and openness of the landscape along with the lush green background of hills and the shiny silver lining of a lake. The amalgamation of nature and technology displayed at its best took my breath away. There are very few man-made structures that I have visited which have generated such awe in me. My eyes kept being drawn towards the magnificent statue of the grand visionary, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who could visualise India as a unified nation.

Before visiting the ‘Statue of Unity, we had done our research, questioning friends who had visited the place before, watching videos, etc., to understand the layout and connectivity of the place. We knew there were so many worth visiting places at the Statue of Unity site. In fact, one is spoilt with choices. There is so much to delight in for nature and environment lovers. There is a jungle safari, Asia’s largest aviary, a cactus garden, a butterfly garden, a valley of flowers, Ekta Nursery, etc. All the places are well connected by buses and electric vans. There is an Ekta Mall, as well, showcasing the handicrafts from around the country and there is Ekta Sthal, which is made from soil brought from many different places of India. There is enough to inspire one to understand and appreciate the idea of a united India at this place. The idea, the thought, and the vision behind each of these places are a purposeful blend of the traditional and modern, spread out very tastefully. The entertainment and amusement do not end during the day but continue through the night with the laser shows that are world class. Then there is the not to be missed ‘The Glow Garden’!

Speaking for myself, I was so mesmerised by the ‘Statue of Unity’ and its grandeur that everything else became sort of dull in comparison. I was standing at the statue of Sardar Patel, the tallest statue in the whole wide world! I won’t mention the dimensions and comparisons with other tall statues because my poetic heart had so many other things to feel and experience at that moment.

The first thing that struck me while standing at the bottom of the statue and looking up at it was the poise and dignity with which Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel stood, as if from the western corner of the country, he could move his neck around in all direction to keep a watch on everything that is happening here in India that he envisioned and brought into existence.

The 182 metre tallest statue of the world, I discovered, had a lift that would take me right to the heart of the Sardar. Oh! What a nice idea, I thought, to be reaching to the heart of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel! Quashing my fear of lifts and heights I decided to reach the heart and listened to the information shared by a guide. What fascinated me was when she said that his vision was to see a dam constructed on the Narmada River and, now, the statue is facing in such a way that he can always see his vision come to life. How romantic I thought. I could feel his heart beat under my feet at that moment. My claustrophobia and my romanticism are not a good thing together, so I quickly came down in the lift to the museum in the first zone, which catalogues the life of Sardar Patel and his contributions. It has an adjoining audio-visual gallery that provides a 15-minute-long presentation on Patel and also describes the tribal culture of the state.

After visiting the museum, we came out of the hall. When I looked up, the Statue of Unity was again inviting me to itself, this time to ‘the feet’ of the Sardar Patel. Larsen and Toubro constructed escalators not one or two but four that took us up and up to the feet of the monument. This is where one realises that this gigantic statue constructed in the memory of Sardar Patel with symbolism of ‘Unity’ just suits the gigantic stature of the ‘Iron Man’ himself in the history of united India.

What unity means for India is a world known fact, but this ‘Statue of Unity’ generated so many other emotions in me. Love, that Sardar Patel had for his motherland. Potential and power, that India and Indians have that can make them achieve anything if they set their heart to it. Willpower, to go on as a nation, despite the setbacks. Positivity, that nothing is impossible and with grit and determination India can take a big leap into the future and establish itself as a creditable, progressive, united, democratic nation of the world!

So those who wish to experience the symbolism of India’s strengths in the past and India’s upswing into the future must visit the ‘Statue of Unity’ at Kevadia, Gujarat.

(Roli S is an Educator, Teacher Trainer, Author and School Reviewer based in Thane)