The clock chimes at 12 midnight as 15th August 2014 strolls in. 15th August, The Indian Independence Day. The strains of Jana Gana Mana, playing in some lane, as part of the Independence Day celebrations, seeps in the otherwise silent house as everybody sleep their peace. Somewhere, some fireworks go off, lighting up the sky. Pride and happiness lights up my blood, especially when the light of the fireworks dazzles up my eyes, as I gaze up from the balcony. Yet, there’s some kind of disappointment and dejection that is mixed up in my pent-up emotions, that I never felt before. Since the first time in years, I decide to take shelter in my recourse to writing.
15th August 2014. Yet another Independence Day, since its inception on 1947. The only and most viable difference? It’s the 68th Independence Day. I was born in the 90s, the 21st century generation. I have possibly, no idea about the feeling or the emotions the people experienced or went through during the time of Independence. This grows more intense, when I see the eyes of many a people, whose families had been there, that fateful night, welling up with tears, whenever they talk of the same. Tears could symbolize pride of being independent at last, through in-numerous sacrifices. Tears could also symbolize the pitiful state of affairs that our country lies in, right now, after the journey and the lives, it had to go through, to achieve this ‘independent’ status. Either way out, such an emotion is a passionate one, something which could only be a part of my visualization of the same.
Mine was a defense army school. Every Independence Day or Republic Day, we all had to be decked up in whites, with hairs tied into ponytails and arrive at the school early in the morning, to be a part of the grand celebrations. Rigorous march-past on the ground, patriotic song-and-dance routines, inspirational speeches by the principal and the authorities, you could bunch them all and we were all a part of them. The flag would be unfurled, amidst the flying of the national-colours-themed balloons and the singing of the national anthem by all of us aloud. Distribution of sweets and food packets followed next and we would be a bunch of happy lot, munching on them, while on our back home, with the thoughts of enjoying a holiday on our mind. Sounds too good, too normal for almost all of us. After all, that is why we come to treasure our school lives, where we all had these little moments to later savor our nostalgia on. However, all that seems a little, if not whole, vain now, given that as you grow up, you come to understand, the word ‘independence’ has a whole lot of different meaning and not simply a school holiday, when it comes to the biggest battleground, which would be the reality of our lives.
I would not go on the been-there-done-that route of what the word ‘independence’ actually stands for, how that goes for a much deeper meaning and all that blah. For all we know, theory and reality are a different ballgame altogether. Ask the normal girl whether she feels ‘free’ when she walks alone, on a secluded lane, on an otherwise busier night. Ask her, whether she feels ‘free’ even if she walks in ‘all-covered’ clothes, with a bunch of rowdy guys nearby. Ask a modern girl, whether she feels free, walking in western clothes, in a so-called modern atmosphere. One might ask, has it to be only from the point of a girl’s reference that we have to judge our ‘independence’? Absolutely not. But being a girl myself, the temptation to ask the questions becomes all the more irresistible. If you want some more evidence, why not ask that average poor man, if he feels any difference in his normal life, in this 68th independent Indian society. Better still, why not ask yourself whether you feel ‘free’ in the strict and deeper sense of the term, in this society.
The national heroes of our country, both sung and unsung, laid down their lives for the extradition of our country from the cruel and despotic hands of our colonial rulers. Many years after, films, documentaries are made in honor of their sacrifice. We watch them, shed a tears, if need be and forget them the very next moment or day. Pretty normal, just like the celebrations of our Independence Day and many such days. However, what really remains is the rotten state of our affairs of our society. It doesn’t change and thus we find ourselves lamenting or sympathizing with the family of the next random girl who gets raped or murdered or both, the every other day. Free, anybody?
Some hippie guy might be waking up late on 15th August, muttering, “Whatever the hell’s with Independence Day, only rudely interrupting my late-night sleep, with those age-old retro songs” and the next moment he knows, he is lambasted by almost every other people for being utter insensitive. Actually, come to think of it, we just belong to the same group of ignorant community. The difference is we are a bunch of aware, conscious morons who do remember positively to celebrate that single day of independence, but duly forget the next day, the essence of implementing the very importance of it. He is just an ignorant, good-for-nothing moron, who doesn’t even care to remember the day, for which, in the first place, he is able to sleep a night of peace.
I will admit it unabashedly; I am not a saint to spout some inane stuff about what is right and wrong. In fact, I am no less similar to you and others. Just I care to not act like the biggest patriot of this country, when it comes to Independence Day and Republic Day. Because I am not and nobody probably is. Patriots are those soldiers who patrol our borders, even when we are taking our night of sleep. Patriots are them, whose lives are constantly on the edge of precipice, never knowing what the next moment might bring along it. They are the true patriots. You and I are just the mere mortals.
As the night weans on, so does my restlessness, with all kinds of emotions welled up. From the radio, breaks in the strains of the song ‘Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon’ by our very own Lata Mangeshkar. Goosebumps prick all over me and my eyes glaze over the India map strung on a pin near my study corner, lighted by the lone study-lamp. Images flit across the panels of my mind, the turmoil of our country in 1947, the sacrifices of our heroes, only to be replaced by the constant breaking news and headlines of various depressing issues of our country of recent years/months. A lone tear finds its way out and falls, blotting the ink in the middle of the page. With a heart full of dejection, I whisper, “Happy Independence Day, India”.