Today we celebrate India’s 70th Independence Day and I am trying to retrospect a bit, and also to see what has changed in all these years as I consciously feel my spirit to gesture upon this day has feeble down manifold. As a nameless individual, my introspections of these kind might not even mean much, but they hold a portion of rumination to me, a loosely held meaning that might even answer the long standing proceedings of mine. Also, I don’t intend to prove any point in my intended expressions, for me the inert thread of reflections are what comes to me as one of the myriad emotions that I feel, this write-up as one of them.
22 years back…
I would get up early, there would certainly be some incomparable aura on this day which was marked by our striking energy. Instructions would be given to us on the previous day to reach school half an hour early for flag hoisting. The Principal would hoist the tri-color, then the Cadets from N.C.C. and Scouts & Guides would march past the flag. The cadets who were our class seniors would rehearse their march-past since a month to showcase it on this day. For some reasons I never saw the cadets could parade in unison, their marches would never match with each other. But there was no dearth of zeal and their utmost dedication for this day. Then, our principal of the school Mr N.P. Roy would start the day with his jubilant “Good morning, Children” followed by his speech to grace the eve. Certainly, I didn’t use to enjoy the long paced speeches back then, but when I think about it, I miss them dearly. The speech was followed by Abha Kalita madam’s number of patriotic songs which she would present with a group of students. Although, those days we would feel that singing some nonchalant patriotic songs was a torture under a scorching sun, and at times we just used to move our lips without uttering anything. If not for anything else, we would be definitely waiting for our share of bundiya ke laddoo (sweets) and singara (samosa). At times we would try our hands on more than one packets, and that would depend solely on one’s ‘reach hierarchy’. We would come to know that we are free to leave after we had shouted together “Bharat Mata Ki Jay!” right after singing the ‘National Anthem’.
Those days are gone, they left me like a betrayed spring which made some eternal promise to never come back. As did my emotions, these were like the celluloid novel where you could remember them, feel them, laugh or cry with them but you can’t have them, they were simply gone and locked someplace inside you.
Seventy years since independence and till this day we are still beating our victory drums over Britishers against whom we achieved this fete. It’s time to move on! Before I write further let me mention that I am not even qualified to pay my respects and homage to those who led us to Independence with their lives. However, it doesn’t matter how bitter the truth is it shall finally rise to the surface. We have become so divided that the phrase, “Unity in Diversity” appears nothing but a farce verbalism to me. There is diversity without unity that is functioning at present India, positive thing will be to recognize it, understand it and become unified again. Although I am not hopeful about it, human beings are perhaps the worst creation of the almighty. He never learns but only when it suits his interest. If a guy from north India ventures in the northeast he is termed as “Bihari” and similarly a guy from northeast is called “Chinki” or “Nepali” in north, on that note south Indians are wholly called “Madrasis”. For a sane person this is nothing but an instigation for further damage. We have witnessed already that how these harmless slurs can take an ugly turn which have both resulted in loss of life and mass panics.
The curse of knowledge is perhaps that you start questioning everything at your disposal, it starts with the question ‘Why?’ When someone once asked me “Why our anthem never stretched beyond Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat, Maratha…Dravida, Utkal, Banga?” I never put that emphasis on it, after all I have sung this song religiously, with pride, without fail, daily for 12 years. It didn’t matter much to me. Every time I heard the anthem I would get a goosebump. The other day I heard someone questioning in a primetime debate that “The concept of a country goes beyond the mere layers of a state-district administration, and is inter-connected and intertwined on emotions”. Why not? I would like to agree on that thought, but then if that is true then the doubt raised with the question on the beginning of this para also stands true. Moreover, the non-repeal of AFSPA in the northeastern region forced me to have this shift in my outlook. I have my own valid reasons to feel like that.
A citizen of a nation is the reflection of a nation itself. When we are busy exploiting its natural resources and our womenfolk I don’t have the audacity to shout out- “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” anymore. May be our leaders are referring to some imaginary figure that I am not sure about. But where is the jai-kar in the shout when women and nature are raped every day and every moment.
These perspectives have also shaped due to my interactions with the torchbearers of those of believe in the idea of a world which is without borders. I don’t know what is the intention of these bunch of believers but the idea itself is of altruistic essence, don’t get me wrong here, we might understand this concept when we are probably technologically advanced enough to view Earth from the Moon, and think “What have we done?” after looking at its remains. Looking at the progress that we have made in science by now we could have at least understood this fact that this planet Earth is unique, and evolution of life didn’t take place only for the nature to witness men to destroy everything at its disposal including its very own kind. We fight and go to wars in the name of religion and in the name of protecting its own boundary to help gain someone’s vested interests.
Few people shun me away or rather the question by saying “Don’t ask what your country has given to you but ask yourself what you have given to your country?” These are nothing but some genuine thoughts which is spun by years of discord with what the people usually feel. I don’t want to celebrate any genuine gesture as symbolic impression although it has its own importance. I would like to have the feeling of nationalism beyond the Bollywood caricature, beyond hoisting of a flag, a reason based on higher grounds, a higher purpose. I want to be a part of a nation whose citizens are proud intrinsically, who gestures each other with mutual respect combined with good intentions. I want people to become humans and act as humans and not to discriminate against each other not only in terms of caste and creed and also in terms of food habits and different backgrounds. A country’s prosperity does not just lie on economic reforms and development but also on enhanced positive social structures.
However, I have become indifferent and may be a pessimist because we don’t want to change, we have become a country of hypocrites and allow ourselves to be led by corrupt leaders- corrupt both from heart and mind. We have become a bunch of ‘patriots’ who would often point fingers at others on social media ranting their naïve jingoist feelings. These people would talk about “Swacch Bharat Mission” but won’t think twice before dumping their garbage on other’s backyard, these lot of people won’t think twice when they talk about child rights but the very same bunch would abuse and exploit a child. For me any nation is not a utopian dream of some vague idealism but a place where every person is respected for his being and thoughts, being heard and an opportunity to being heard and prosper.
But I don’t see it happening, the more we go march ahead I only realize that we are becoming insensitive, crippled from the minds with the inability to empathize with others. We are being so blinded by ‘reality’ of development.
I would like to conclude with a tender remembrance of someone with whom I encountered some 9 years back. I was staying in West Delhi, and I had to make a demand draft for my semester admissions. I didn’t know much about it, so I went to the nearby post-office as being suggested by someone. As expected the guy in the counter laughed at my ignorance and told me to try somewhere else. I felt bad and angry, and told him that if he couldn’t help why was he even laughing at me. An elderly man probably sixty years of age was listening our conversation. He called me and said, “I have heard everything. Listen son, being Saturday its already late, so there is no use going to the bank today. If it’s alright I can go along with you and help you in filling the demand draft, don’t worry”. At first I was bit surprised, then understood that this old man really wanted to help. He gave me his phone number and asked me to call him. On Monday, he spent almost the whole day with me at the bank because of some link failure. When I apologized he told me not as it was not my fault, he was so patient with me. Usually it is very difficult to find a person of his stature and attitude. I was a complete stranger to him but I think this very same emotion binds us together which we are seriously lacking in these desperate times. I couldn’t thank him enough, I don’t remember his face properly but the feelings that I feel for this person is of utmost gratitude, the feeling of selflessness and attitude of being helpful is what we are lacking in today’s time.