AN “INDEPENDENCE DAY” DAY
– Satyajit Roy.
She: Dadu, what should Independence Day mean for me?
Dadu (Grandfather): Why this question?
She: I know you won’t like me 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.
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 calendars. We let new rulers, new dynasties keep us in chains, using the same old techniques that our old masters from 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, worse, 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 subjected. 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.
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.