By Nihal Bambulkar Aug. 14, 2018
We might have complained endlessly about school Independence Day celebrations back then. But it was the only phase in our lives where we truly understood what it meant to be a patriot, without the layers of nationalism and political stances that colour that notion as adults.
“Saturdays are meant for sleeping!”, said my friend Anuj, greatly upset over how Independence Day had fallen on a weekend that year, and our headmistress had demanded our attendance for the school’s event regardless. As school children, we used to think our freedom fighters had struggled against the British just so we could get a day off, and I find not much has changed as we’ve grown older.
As an adult, I often look back upon all those times our teachers took us aside to remind us of the importance of flag hoisting and how we groaned and whined about coming to school on Saturdays. This class of complainers graduated to become a generation that thinks of patriotism as a formality we fulfil at movie halls, which we visit ironically late so we don’t have to stand for the national anthem. Sadly, what we failed to realise was that Independence Day at school would the only phase in our lives where we would truly understand what it meant to be a patriot, without the tainted layers of nationalism and political stances that colour the notion as adults.
Starting the morning with an extravagant on-stage rendition of “Nanha Munna Rahi Hoon” or “Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon” sure beats logging on to Facebook and getting sucked into a debate over whether “lynching is justified”. And for all the exhausting practice sessions under the unforgiving afternoon sun, march past was still less draining than trying to keep up with all the UIDAI’s announcements on Aadhaar. Even with all our childish complaints about having to give up a holiday, by the time the principal was joined by the head boy and head girl on stage to unfurl the flag and lead the school in singing “Jana Gana Mana”, our impressionable minds were filled with strong sense of belonging to a country, of being united while surrounded by people from all backgrounds.
Now, we’re far too busy with our work schedules and misplaced priorities to stop for a minute and appreciate the occasion.
The lofty ideals enshrined in the Constitution, imparted to us via a heavily used blackboard during Civics class, would come home to roost on Independence Day.
“Youth is wasted on the young,” George Bernard Shaw once said, and his wisdom is applicable even in this aspect. In school, we were able to embrace the idea of India wholeheartedly. The lofty ideals enshrined in the Constitution, imparted to us via a heavily used blackboard during Civics class, would come home to roost on Independence Day. By the end of the school event, after the skits on the lives of freedom fighters and rousing singalongs, we would truly feel the sentiments enshrined in the National Pledge, that all Indians really were our brothers and sisters.
But now, the patriotic songs that once signified our freedom are now reduced to annoying ditties that echo through our localities, disrupting our sleep while we lie tucked in our beds, whining about our holiday being ruined… just like my friend Anuj did all those years ago. But perhaps by forgetting what we were taught in schools, we’ve led ourselves down this path of indifference, of being the proverbial ostriches with their heads in the sand, while the country is cracking along fault lines long ignored.
This Independence Day, maybe it’s time to remember we all have a responsibility toward the nation’s future. After all, we said as much ourselves as students all those years ago, when we sang out, “Nanna munna raahi hoon, desh ka sipahi hoon.”