This is a song that brings deep emotion into many of my generation. This was sung, live, by our most famous singer, Lata Mangeshkar on the 26th January 1963.
“Ae Mere Watan Ke Logo” means ‘Oh the people of my country”.
The word “Watan” signifies much more than country. It is where you come from. Where your roots lie, where a little bit of your soul and heart lie. It is where the souls of your ancestors rest. It is a deep word, with many shades of meaning built into it.
This was sung in the shadow of the 1962 war against China. It is a war for which we were wholly unprepared.
Nehru had been warned repeatedly by his advisors to be careful of the Chinese. Yet, he went in on the basis of the advice of his Defence Minister – Krishna Menon.
The war was fought at an elevation of over 4,000 metres, and we were ill-equipped and ill-prepared. As a result, we lost a crucial bit of land to the Chinese.
The song called for the people of India to remember the sacrifice that the soldiers had made for the country.
In India’s new, callous present day culture, we forget the sacrifice that our armed forces make for the country. We are quick to criticise.
There was, it seems, pin drop silence when this song was sun, and the Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru was seen to be crying.
Luckily for me, I went – many years later – to live in China. When I went, while I was filled with curiosity about China, I was also apprehensive. The memory of 1962 was deep inside me. To my surprise, no one in China knew of the war! I discovered that they like South Asians, but not the Japanese. It was good, because I was able to make some very good friends in China. These are friends that I have even today.
This song runs deep in many of our hearts. It is a song that calls us to remember the people who lose their lives to defend our borders.