When the midnight clock struck 12, and the day of 15th August 1947 began, ‘India awoke to life and freedom’. The whole country must have been awake that night to hear ‘India’s tryst with Destiny’ by its first Prime Minister, and also to witness the sunrise of freedom after more than hundred years of foreign rule. Today, on the 15th of August 2012 I was awoken by ‘Hum Honge Kaamyaab Ek Din’ sung by little school children with full enthusiasm and grandeur. What is remarkable about these children is their spirit. Not more than eight years old, each one of them was present in the school by 7:30 in the morning to celebrate Independence Day.
The little ones reminded me of my own school days – days when I used to head the school parade, address the gathering with the Independence Day speech, participate and coordinate cultural events to celebrate our day of freedom. Right from the age of eight to eighteen I saluted the National Flag on every 15th of August. Today, Independence Day is only a national holiday for me. I don’t go to attend any celebratory events neither do I hear the Prime Minister’s speech from the Red Fort. I am afraid that one day, the little ones singing Hum Honge Kaamyaab Ek Din’ will stop singing it.
When I was in school, I was young. I did not understand the complicacies in being an adult – the complicacy to understand the truth, and yet be a bystander. As I grew older I wondered why we celebrate Independence Day. Is it to give speeches? Is it to salute the Indian flag? Is it to sing the national anthem? Is it to hear about the stories of struggle our freedom fighters underwent? Is it to eat the sweets distributed post flag hoisting? All these are just ways of showcasing our happiness that we are a free country. But do we ever ponder why it is important to celebrate this freedom? It’s important because freedom is hard-earned, and once earned it brings the responsibility to not take it for granted. After 65 years of freedom can we proudly say that we have not taken our freedom for granted? We all know the answer to this question, and yet we continue to give and hear speeches, which seem nothing more than the annual report of the country to me.
About a week before, the talk show Satyamev Jayate (Truth always triumphs) came to an end. The show brought forth and urged people to discuss and act on some of the most challenging issues our country is facing today – female feticide, dowry, caste discrepancies, issues of unfair reservations, lack of amenities and support for the handicapped and the elderly, inhuman practices in the field of health and medicine, problems of inter-caste marriages, drug-alcohol abuse, child labor and molestation, misfortune suffered by the women, and many more. India is the largest democracy, and a country with a vastly diverse culture. This fact postulates that our countrymen must be the most forward-thinking and modern, and hence would always appreciate efforts of people who conceptualized the show. I was aghast that it’s not true; if it would have been true, then Satyamev Jayate would have received a far better response than what a one-day-international cricket match receives. We all have adapted ourselves to be bystanders, and worse that we have lost the spirit to be supportive of causes that need to be fought for.
On a good note, I would say India has progressed very well since it broke the shackles of servitude. We have come a long way, and have achieved so much in science, engineering, literature, arts, and sports, and are still making advances. What is lamentable is that along with this we have not been able to let go our orthodoxy that we misname as our tradition and custom. I know a lot of readers would find the content of this post a load of nihilism. However we may feel it is not going to change what is true. The other way to look at it is that there is still hope. The fact that talk shows like Satyamev Jayate are being made is an indication that we have not shut all the doors. It also emphasizes that we are willing to accept what is true, and have the courage to speak and act for it.
I think we should come up with new ways of celebrating our freedom. We should organize workshops to educate children who do not have the opportunity to go to schools, to educate our older generation to let go of superstition, to educate our children to be alert and safe, to educate our sons that girls are not be drooled at but to be respected, to educate the people around us that the world cannot survive with men alone if we kill all the girls even before they are born, that children are not meant to be slogged at homes, that we should learn to look beyond our homes and care about what is happening around us, that Independence Day is nothing but a day – it becomes special only if we are free of our ostrich-mentality and frog-in-the-well attitude.
India is a beautiful country, and indeed I am very proud to be born here. Despite the ugliness in many realms, I can confidently say that I can never leave India and go elsewhere. India has a unique quality – the quality to be resilient, to enthrall whoever comes to her, and once enthralled to assimilate the individual in her blood and soul. Each Independence Day brings this solemn realization to me, and this year it beckoned me to write this post. I wish India the very best in all the years to come. I reminiscence these lines from the tryst with destiny- ‘It is a fateful moment for us in India, for all Asia and for the world. A new star rises, the star of freedom in the East, a new hope comes into being, a vision long cherished materializes. May the star never set and that hope never be betrayed!’
Happy Independence Day