An Independence Day Story

She:  Dadu, what should Independence Day mean for me?

Dadu (Grandfather): Why this question?

She: I know you won’t like my saying this but, for me at least,  Independence Day means nothing. When I was younger, I used to think of it as fun. Standing in line at school and waving little flags, no classes, coming home and watching yet another rerun of Gandhi. But now that I can think for myself, I find this…I don’t know…

Dadu: What don’t you know?

She:  I don’t know what I am supposed to feel. I don’t see what’s special. I really don’t.

Dadu: Hmmm.

She: I mean, they force it on you everywhere.  As if making you stand every time before a movie isn’t bad enough every day of the year, here is one day devoted solely to standing up and saluting.

Dadu: Well, some might say, that this is a little sign of respect for those that made it possible for you to watch a movie, as first-class citizens in your own country.

She: Aww come on.  As if freedom-fighters and soldiers are watching over our shoulders, to see how many of us are saying “thanks”.  And honestly, how does it matter this saying “thanks” thing? Why be so needy for approval or appreciation anyways? And why make people stand for that?

Dadu: You are right. One should seek approval and appreciation through, what do you call it, “Likes” and “Follows”. Nothing needy about that at all.

She: Very funny. You miss the point. Why should I be forced to stand up? What’s the independence in that?

Dadu: You are right. There should be no force. Respect should come from within. If it doesn’t, you have the right not to stand. And I also have the right to call you an ungrateful whippersnapper.

She: It’s so difficult to make you understand anything.  Independence Day is a relic of the past, it may have meant something for you because you saw the British, but for me, it’s just one whole day of random token gestures that we are socially and sometimes legally obligated to perform. And I don’t like that.

Dadu: And that’s why you do not understand the significance of Independence Day. You think it is something in the past.  A relic. Done and dusted and locked in a glass showcase.

Independence, my dear, is a moving target. Getting rid of the British was only the beginning of something much bigger. Yet it all stopped  there.  Happy that we had driven out the British, we called “Mission Accomplished”, raised the flag and took the day off for the next sixty-six years.

I take a look through the papers and I find what? Men being beaten up in Mumbai for no other crime than because they belong to the north.  Women and children still being killed for nothing other than their religion. Women scared of going out at night in our cities. People being thrashed and put into jail for drawing a cartoon, being dragged to court for political dissent. Books being banned, websites being blocked under the guise of “preventing hurt sentiments”.

And you know why this happened?

Because we forgot what Independence Day means. Because we stopped fighting for our freedoms.

We put Independence day in our history books rather than in our daily calenders. We let new rulers, new dynasties keep us in chains, using the same old techniques that our old masters from the across the sea did.

We forgot that August 15 is  not just a day for looking back, but a day for marching forward.

She (roll of eyes): Uff, there you go.  Problems, bad, problems. Can’t you say anything positive about India on Independence Day at least? We have achieved so much since independence, we are a rising superpower…

Dadu: Oh I am sure we have achieved a lot. No doubt.  When we were a colony of the British, the world’s only superpower then, we were technically superpowers too. But we all knew that we weren’t.  Because we were afraid of those that were in power. They ruled us. And we were subjects. And, in a way we still are, we still are. Different rulers of course.

I don’t know, maybe we always will be ruled. Maybe there is no perfect freedom. I am willing to accept that.  But what bothers me is that we stopped caring, we stopped fighting, and we became satisfied and smug.

She: Whatever.

Dadu: I guess what I am trying to say that the struggle for independence is still on. August 15th lives. It breathes, It challenges. And if I were posting a job in a newspaper, I would write “Freedom fighters wanted.” Because there are many many vacancies available.

She: Ooh you are so old. No one puts jobs in newspapers. They post on Linkedin. And you are too dramatic.

Dadu: Yes I suppose you are right. I guess I have become old. And dramatic, maybe our generation always was.

She: Well anyways, Happy Independence Day.

Dadu: Same to you.

26 thoughts on “An Independence Day Story

  1. Superb, poignant and very Archerish!

  2. Reblogged this on anusuyamitra and commented:
    something that reflects in some ways what i feel about Indian independence. Happy Aug 15th India!

  3. Felt almost identically. Today is a day when we really should think what freedom and Citizenship mean, what our responsibilities as Citizenship are, how to safeguard the freedoms we already have, and how to move them further. It is good to know that not everyone’s treating this simply as a festival when you sing the anthem and salute the flag.

  4. Felt almost identically. Today should be less of a Navratri-style celebration (with Bharat-mata instead of Durga-mata) and more of a day of contemplation, so we understand what freedom means, what Citizenship means, how to safeguard our freedoms and how we as Citizens can press for new ones. Glad to read this.

  5. average for ur standards

  6. sometimes I wonder what if Britishers were still ruling us?
    better rulers than congress…?

  7. Same thoughts. Would have loved it more, had this been a bit longer. The ending seemed slightly abrupt.

  8. The best post on independence day I’ve read. I was disappointed the whole day with how people have become so negative and among all the negativity and all the disappointment this post came as a lighthouse of hope for me.. Amazing as always…

  9. Great post! And to add my 2 cents patriotism and nationalism needs to be about more humanity and the greater good then just about the country. Maybe thats why its so hard for all of us to have any sense of national pride. We are too busy focusing on the differences.

    1. Excellento comment!!

  10. Does an American feel the same on 4th of July ?

  11. The essence of independence day nicely captured. I am sure, your Dadu (grandfather), Jyotirmoy Ray – a freedom fighter interned in Andaman Cellular Jail – would have entirely agreed with you, if he were alive today.

  12. I wrote this on my FB page yesterday. I believe I was conveying the same message but very differently –

    The big difference between pre- and post- independent India is that the people now have a right to decide who governs them. What is often not understood is that right is exercised through voting. So if the majority of the population chooses not to vote, the question they must ask themselves is – Are we really free?

    Before independence we were governed by the British who were arrogant and often disregarded local sensibilities. However they were also very efficient administrators. Post independence we have managed to elect a class of people who may cater to the local sensibilities only when it suits them, who are just as arrogant as their predecessors and are extremely poor administrators. Can we not as a group do better than this?

    Instead of shouting slogans on independence day to celebrate it, I would respect much more a person who pledges to participate in keeping us free. The war for freedom is not yet over. It is a never ending battle and it occurs with every election. So do you want to be a “freedom fighter”?

  13. Your post sends all those crores of bharat nirman ads down the the drain. Soon we will have each state’s own independence day and going by the way the new states are getting created we might run out of days in a year.

  14. I like the intent of the post, but it fails to work as a literary work (for me) but may be that really wasn’t what you were after. Still, in the spirit of constructive criticism, here are my 2 cents.

    The ‘She’ in the article comes across as too much of a caricature of today’s self-absorbed snarky teen and the Grandpa sounds too preachy. I think the relevant points could have been made with more subtlety. Still that is not my biggest gripe with the article. The big problem for me is that both ‘She’ and ‘Dadu’ speak in Greatbong’s voice instead of their own. For instance when ‘She’ says “watching yet another rerun of Gandhi” and when Dadu says ” ‘we called “Mission Accomplished’, raised the flag and took the day off for the next sixty-six years”. These snarky comments sound so much like what Greatbong would say instead of what a teen would say or what a 75 year old might say.

    Of course, my comments are not relevant if you were only looking to create a thoughtful post instead of a real conversation across a generation gap.

  15. That was fantastic! I loved the way Dhadhu had explained to the little girl as in why there are still atrocities plaguing us; it is because we forgot what Independence Day means. A very thoughtful piece of work!

  16. Your article on Independence Day is poignant sans melodramatic rhetoric

  17. Venkat Raghunandan August 17, 2013 — 7:43 am

    As usual very well written….

  18. I wonder what you are trying to accomplish here. Giving voice to the tussle between the devil and the angel on your shoulders? Quite conveniently dadu is an old gentleman who knows things too well but is too frail to do anything about it. He can only feel sorry. And those to whom it matters deeply are too disconnected with realities to act. The characters you have picked tells me a lot about what position we tend to take towards our country – resignation or apathy.
    The country does not require martyrs. It does not needs Bhagat Singhs and Gandhis who gave up their lives for the cause of nation. This constant comparison with them for today’s problems is utterly misleading (“Freedom fighters needed”). India needs people who can think, feel and and spare some time to become participants in its political and social landscape. You are doing disservice to yourself and others by creating this aura that puts the challenges of our country beyond almost everyone’s reach.
    Across the class divide of India we are just waiting to be led. Nobody wants come forward. The best among us spend their energies reading and writing blogs and forming think tanks! Tucked away in some corner of the world behind a computer with busy personal lives most would not know the first thing on how to get a JJ cluster in Delhi to vote for Sardar Patel as opposed to Shiela Dixit if he were fighting elections today. Instead if they just open their hearts (instead of minds) a little they will find it is not blood the country needs but just a little sweat. I think the time has come where this entire exercise passing as an alibi for our inaction, even if unconsciously, is no longer respectable.

    1. Nice one Anand. But why did you stop? List at least one actionable-item here. I am now a voter but I am realizing that voting is must but not at all sufficient. What is the next step that can be achieved with a little-bit more sweat? Participating in apartment-committee? Paying higher donation to a charity of my choice?
      Please list one action-item that you will like to do.

  19. Durr ki hoba r sadhinotar goppo sune.. Amra ekhono poradhin, r edikay dollar er dam ki sanghatik vabe barchey..Boidesik mudra aamdani holai naki obostha valo hoba..goodnews is dat CHENNAI express emrged as a hurricane at the boxoffice both in India n abroad, which i predicted n its pulling foreign currency in India too, jai ho lungi dance..sobai ektu nacho dekhi

  20. Fantastic Idea Arnab.

    People forget that “Eternal Vigilance is the price of Liberty”. Freedom that came to our generation as a gift, is something that we have to pass on to the next generation without corroding it’s value. Hence, it become increasingly important to stand for it, everytime somebody tries to strangulate it.

  21. I work with a government organization where ‘Celebrating’ Independence day is a must. I remember my CEO saying something like this at the function: “We have always taught our children that 15th August is a holiday. We dont tell them about the importance of this day. Even our schools say the same” I guess that is true.. And hence this idea of the ‘Importance’ of Independence day is vanishing.. We rather spend the day at the mall than going to the places where such function is being held..

    The tussle between the generation that has seen the struggle and the generation that has not is beautifully brought out by you. And indeed some superb thoughts as well.. Loved reading it..

  22. All that Independence day seems to mean to anyone anymore is a tribute to something so far back in the past that only the oldest among us remember it. In a few decades, those Indians won’t remain and the relevance of celebrating an achievement from so far back will fast fade or turn into an excuse for having a holiday. Sadly, we young Indians don’t know what it’s like to turn into a sovereign. Most of us don’t know what it’s like to not have access to global brands and franchises. And while the problems a country faces keep evolving, the essence remains the same: a struggle for human rights and freedom. This truth will never change, though we’ll always face the challenges in different forms. Perhaps the celebrations need to be modified to be more relevant. Instead of just being stuck in a time frame, maybe we need to enlarge the view and encompass more of history to create a time line for our Independence Day celebrations. Thanks for making me think through all this! 🙂

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