On this Sunday, the 15th of August 2010, ‘Free’ India will celebrate her 63rd Birthday…63 years of self-governance & freedom from British rule, with the usual pomp and ceremony! The hoisting of her flag, an address by the Prime Minister or is it the President (?!) and a Parade to end all parades – in fact, all the staples of Independence worldwide 😉 Most Indians including moi, will watch in bits and parts on TV whilst munching snacks and surfing channels. The National address (In Hindi & English as if once were not boring enough!), most will skip. Who wants to listen to an ageing leader read out a list of accomplishments that for the most part, we don’t understand, in a dry, diffident tone? How I miss leaders with vision, with passion that shone in their manner and through their oratory…sigh! O brother, where art thou?
The Parade is worth watching, with India’s military might and men in uniform on display,wowing us all with their skill, precision and immaculate army threads! The State floats are rather boring these days, each one with some relevant message or achievement on display, which I’m sure are interesting to some, but not for me. Then there the hoards of children who dance and march and create human flowers and rings and all manner of geometric shapes and the like! I’ve always wondered what they really feel while marching obediently in formation, concentrating on the drum beats – these young denizens of a modern, free India. Are they proud to be a part of the ‘Great Indian Circus of the Day’ or are they secretly cursing their rotten luck for having to forego a welcome holiday? I’ve taken part in a lot of State parades during my school days and I totally hated it! We had to practice endlessly, marching up and down, keeping to the beat, looking suitably proud and forfeit most weekends, for a cause most of us had no understanding of and little sympathy towards, like most kids our age! Flag, freedom and country were just parts of a history lesson (not a particularly interesting one at that!) and the loss of a Sunday was a serious blow to our freedom! The freedom to laze, play and generally be kids! Unforgivable more so, because both school and parents made it compulsory (unless we were seriously ill, and I mean seriously!), and so deprived us of the most basic freedom of all – the freedom of choice!
Well, am older now, don’t have to march in any parades I don’t want to; freedom, flag and country mean a little more than a mere history lesson; but weekends are still sacrosanct! In my previous post I wrote about my own personal freedom struggle. I’m beginning to wonder whether a country’s freedom struggle is any different. I think India is in the midst of a freedom struggle that makes the one she fought and won all those years ago against the Brits, look like a cakewalk. I don’t mean disrespect at all – I just think the greatest and most important struggle in life is the one that involves the betterment of self –often hard and painful involving strict discipline and much courage, yet miraculously cathartic and fulfilling when the goal is finally achieved!
Isn’t it the same for a country? In her last freedom struggle, India and Indians united against a single usurper, an outsider who invaded her shores and was rightfully cast out. That was the last time, in my opinion, that we were truly united as a country, not counting the times we fight Pakistan of course, whether in battle or on the cricket field! But what next? Is India truly free? Yes, in an obvious way, we’ve driven out the invaders and achieved the freedom to abuse ourselves instead, some might say, given the current state of affairs! There is no outsider now, no indeed, India’s battles are now well and truly internal, and that’s what makes them so much more difficult, delicate, dangerous. The enemy (or should I say enemies) within are many, some old and well-entrenched, others recent and emerging. Poverty, illiteracy, the caste system, the growing influence and interference of religion in politics, the abysmal quality of our politicians, known worldwide for their narrow minds and wide-open pockets, our excruciatingly slow and cumbersome judicial system…I could go on, but you get the drift. This is the flip-side of all the growth and boom that our government & media love to focus upon. Yes, we have come a long way and yes, we have much to be proud of, but this is one struggle that has no true end, ‘coz what is true freedom, if not constant evolution and change? Every generation defines it’s own brand of freedom, sets its own goals and fights it’s own struggle!
And so, on the eve of her 63rd Birthday, here is my Freedom Wish list for India. I wish her freedom:
From all forms of prejudice
From self-doubt & fear
From false pride and vanity
From violence and wars
From corrupt leaders and unbending bureaucracy
From religious fanatics, intolerance & fundamentalism
From antiquated attitudes and crippling superstitions
From arrogance and laziness
From the need to prove a point, to anyone other than Herself!
Go India! Happy Birthday 🙂