Last minute option for 15th August “Package deals for Independence Day”, “Grab up to 30% off” the message popped on my phone. The resorts are offering exclusive holiday packages for Independence Day. Pretty cool! Huh?
The FOMO at the moment is such that I’m ready to miss out 14th August Independence celebration at my kid's school, but fun on a long weekend is too hard to let go. The glaring difference between a few odd generations and a couple of decades is that for us Independence Day has been reduced to a long holiday but for my parents and grandparents Independence Day was a special event. It is clear that we grew up in different India.
Stories That Keep Us Grounded
I always found my grandfather deliriously happy on Independence Day. He used to be on a private trip when he talked about the Jazba for independence, the tutelage of Gandhi, and the time of apostasy. I still recall listening to the social milieu around the colonial period, the air reverberated with slogans, ‘Vande matram’ phenomena running in the nerve of the masses.
Stories around the cold-blooded calculation of caste equations and the way partition bruised the hope of communal harmony. He often used to hum ‘sarfaroshi kee tammanna aab humare dil mein hai’. Mera Bharat was what he proudly proclaimed. My grandfather died at the age of 95 and till his last monsoons, he marked the Independence Day celebration by ordering jalebi and laddu. We have all heard stories around remnants of separation. We all grew up listening to stories of grit and gumption.
My mom told me about the end of the long innings played by Jawaharlal Nehru as the first Prime Minister of India. It was a national mourning in the true sense as people from every possible denomination, cult, and economic background came to pay homage and attended the last rites. I freaked out by this piece of information when my mom’s grandmother heard the news of Nehru’s demise she cried uncontrollably. She refused to eat anything till the time the last rites took place. She’d suddenly been seized with an inexplicable premonition that India wouldn’t have a leader like Nehru again.
I was completely baffled because I still could not figure out why the old woman cried over the death of a political leader. Maybe the changing times have changed the thickness of our blood or could that be that we do not see anyone worthy to idolise? Modern India has diluted the jazba for Independence.
Jazba over the decades has been restricted to India winning a match against Pakistan in cricket or India winning gold in the Olympics. As an Indian, I am conscious of not being dismissive or patronizing our country because everyone everywhere is proud of their country and it is just about the ways we express it.
As an Indian, I am also conscious that more emphasis should be there on bringing up children with a sense of pride when it comes to ‘Being Indian’. We all remember 9/11 as an unscrupulous mendacious mass murder, but it somehow also reminds me of how fatalities who knew that attack had taken place held hands and started singing the national anthem. Imagine, any of us singing ‘Jan gan man’ in such a distorted lifesaving situation. How you react in a crisis situation is also a part of who you are and what you stand for. The feeling of protection and duty for the home country has to be instilled in children so that they grow up respecting the roots of their identity.
Why Freedom Is Also A Responsibility
The realisation of being an Indian and the love for the nation is subtly entwined in us. Nationalism is not a dead emotion as long as it is presented to our children in their style and context. Circling back to how we keep the jazba of nationalism alive in our children is not by compromising the long weekend fun, but by telling them stories of Maharana Pratap and Chandragupta Maurya, by teaching them that women freedom fighters played, and continue to play an important role empowering the nation. Let them see India from the eyes of Mark Twain, who once said “This is indeed India! The land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty- of genii and giants and Alladin lamps, of tiger and elephants- the country of a hundred nations and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million gods, the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great grandmother of tradition…”
Ours is the last generation telling children stories about what we heard from our parents and grandparents about independence. Dining table discussions need not always stir up the hornet’s nest by discussing tomato prices, and inflation but also a plethora of achievements we have made in the past.
The appreciation or acknowledgement of our country’s historical journey, heterogeneity in culture, shared struggles and hard-won victories would give them confidence in their identity. Drill in them self-pride. Drench them in patriotism. Let them know that we are above and beyond the passport and we are incredibly proud of who we are, and how far we have come.
Suggested reading: Five Things That "Independent" Women Hesitate To Do For Themselves