As part of our specials on Independence Day, here’s Sajita Nair, an Indian Air Force officer’s daughter and an ex-officer herself who reflects on her idea of independence.
As a child, Independence Day celebration in school meant a pack of sweets and a day off. Being the daughter of an Air Force officer also gave me the opportunity to witness Independence Day parades. It was enthralling to watch uniformed personnel march in tandem to the strains and drum beats of Sa Re Jahan Se Accha. But although I enjoyed everything about the day, the idea of ‘independence’ itself was vague and something that I couldn’t comprehend.
One could be a teacher, a doctor, an engineer, a banker, an entrepreneur or in any other profession and yet serve one’s country.
It was only much later, when I adorned the army uniform that I began to understand the deep significance of this day. When I took the oath at the Officer’s Training Academy, owing allegiance to the tricolour, I knew that I was signing up to protect my country. From then on, I became part of an esteemed apolitical institution, which was responsible to ensure that we celebrated this day, year after year. During the border skirmishes when some of my colleagues were martyred, it broke my heart. It still does. But having visited the borders, I now understand that protecting this massive subcontinent, encompassing some of the most extreme Geographical features, is an enormous task. Our soldiers, sailors and air warriors work relentlessly round the clock. And when they rise above petty differences, dedicating themselves in preventing fragmentation of a great nation with its many cultures, languages and people, martyrs are born.
During the border skirmishes when some of my colleagues were martyred, it broke my heart.
Independence Day also fills me with deep gratitude and reverence for our freedom fighters, the leaders and ordinary people, who braved unspeakable torture for a larger cause. Even as they languished in jails and lived lives of servitude, they fought for their vision of a free India. In the cellular jail at Port Blair, the melancholic silence in the gallows still resonates with loud cries of Inquilab Zindabad. The walls of the dingy cells are etched with indelible marks of their grit. They paid with their lives for something most of us take for granted today. If we are not oppressed by another race or nation, if we can express ourselves freely and not be discriminated against on the basis of our colour and race, we owe it to them.
Today, as a writer, I feel fortunate to be able to express my opinions, my creativity and individuality on any platform I choose to. Like most citizens, I have many opportunities before me and can harbour dreams that I wish to pursue. I can plan my future and take decisions on my own. But I’m also aware that there are those who aren’t as fortunate. There are many areas in our society that need scrutiny. There is much work to be done. In a large country such as ours, visible changes are slow, but I’m optimistic that the transition is on.
Often I meet people who express regret that they are unable to serve the country as they are not part of the army. But I reason with them that one doesn’t need to wear an army uniform to serve one’s country. One could be a teacher, a doctor, an engineer, a banker, an entrepreneur or in any other profession and yet serve one’s country. When we contribute our best in our sphere of work, we not only help in the upkeep of freedom – the legacy that we have inherited from our forefathers – but also contribute in nation building.
Instead of riding on a wave of jingoism on specific days such as Independence Day and Republic day, let us take pride in being who we are and in the work we do, everyday. And most of all let us never take this freedom for granted.
Views are the author’s own