The Times Of India
Indians Of The Century

100 Who Made A Difference

Indians of the Century

They dared to dream. They dared to hope. They dared to act. And their deeds affected the lives of millions, not just on the subcontinent, but throughout the world. On the face of it, the four belong to different streams of life. But scratch just a little under the surface and you find one thing in common: True greatness.

And that is what you, the readers of The Times of India, voted for as well, naming Mahatma Gandhi, Dhirubhai Ambani, Lata Mangeshkar and Swami Vivekananda as the four Indians who made the greatest impact on India this century.

The Times of India Online's Indians of the Century poll was the biggest and the most comprehensive to be undertaken in this country. Voting under four categories - Leaders and Politicians, Creators of Wealth, Artists and Entertainers and Great Minds and Spiritual Lights - Netizens posted a total of 8,81,772 votes. And their choice, from among the 100 Indians who made a differece this century, tallied with the opinion of the editors of the paper.

A closer look at the top four names suggests several shared characteristics. All of them are self-made individuals; they did not have the advantage of wealth, aristocracy or caste; they fought adversity and believed in action - karma yogis in the true sense. They made India proud and gave the world new ideas, dreams and hopes.

The Mahatma was an obvious choice. Even today, his life and message transcend the generation gap. Though India might have departed in many ways from the core of his message, he still remains a forceful icon among Indians - a touchstone of their moral pretensions. A poet rightly called him yugshrishta, creator of an epoch and a yugdrishta, an epochal visionary. Today the Mahatma is hailed worldwide as the epitome of sainthood.

Dhirubhai Ambani, the man and mind behind the greatest business success story of the century, is clearly the Father of the Indian Stock Market. He has imparted respectability to wealth creation, changing the face of corporate India; Reliance stands tall with assets the market values at Rs 50,000 crore. He has made `Think Indian, Act Global' the mantra of modern India. His personal and corporate philosophy hinges on a single, timeless concept: Trust. He can be truly regarded as the moving spirit behind India, Inc.

Called the eighth wonder of the world, `a cultural phenomenon of our times', Lata Mangeshkar is the voice of every actress who has made it to the silver screen. She continues to enthral the `18-nothing' generation with an equal panache as she did their grandmothers. From Madhubala to Preity Zinta, all Hindi film actresses have sung to the masses through Lata's voice. Dhadakta hai dil-e-Hindostaan awaaz main teri (the heart of India pulsates with your voice) said Naushad of Lata. India is where Lata's voice resonates.

``Arise, awake, and stop not till the goal is reached,'' exhorted Swami Vivekananda, who remains the spiritual icon of the young. His message still remains relevant, timeless and youth oriented. He made Hinduism accessible, explained it to the West and made Indians themselves aware of their glorious spiritual wealth. He was the first of the `modern' Indian gurus, combining intellect, charisma and simplicity in spreading his message. It is Swami Vivekananda who gave India's spiritual traditions, especially Vedanta, a new lease of life and glory.

They nearly made it

The list of those who came a close second in The Times of India Online poll reveals a great deal about the heart and mind of today's India: eager to embrace entrepreneurship, avid for modern technology, enchanted by grace and daring in the battlefield, on the cricket pitch and on the silver screen and, above all, determined to root its modernity in the country's spectacular cultural and spiritual tradition.

Among Leaders and Politicians, Subhash Chandra Bose figured right behind Mahatma Gandhi and way ahead of other statesmen who shaped India's destiny in the 20th century. Netaji's daring and courage continue to cast their spell on successive generations of Indians, no doubt because they are a synonym for a militarily strong India.

In the Creators of Wealth category, J.R.D. Tata very nearly made it to the top. He is still perceived to be the gentleman-businessman par excellence: he proved that business could be conducted in a clean manner, that an entrepreneur could be endowed with a social conscience and that he could devote his funds and energies to promote the arts and scholarship.

Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar and Madhuri Dixit found extensive support in the Artists and Entertainers category. Indians thereby demonstrated, yet again, how attached they were to their twin passions: cricket and the cinema.

In the category of Great Minds and Spiritual Lights, two personalities almost pipped Swami Vivekananda to the post: Homi Bhabha and Swami Chinmayananda. Here, too, Indians revealed their ambitions to explore, at one and the same time, the frontiers of science and technology and the vast expanses of their spiritual heritage.

100 Who Made A Difference