Received an IM this morning from my brother with a ‘Happy I-Day’ greeting (Independence Day that is). I’ve never really been patriotic, and had no political leanings when living in India. For some reason, today my mind flashed back to my school-going years in Bombay. I recall rising up early every August 15th to witness the flag hoisting ceremony on the school grounds, (which required compulsory attendance) after which we would sing the national anthem Jana Gana Mana (ok, I admit I tried to re-harmonize this every way I could when I played the accompaniment at the school assembly). After prayers and announcements, we would file in an orderly manner toward the school auditorium where a sweet ‘boondi’ laddoo, glistening with sugar and ghee, nested in a thick dark green almond leaf would be handed out to each kid. Seated crosslegged on the mosaic floor, we’d pick at this round gob of indulgence with our fingers, settling down as the room darkened, to watch an English movie. It would have to be a chaste film with a harmless story line, preferably with nuns in it. No westerns, murder plots or hollywood glam.
I’ve asked my parents a few times what it was like for them in the year 1947 on this day. They were in Poona at that time, but say they were too young to recount any personal experiences. Every year around this time, I read of horrendous Partition stories, and see shocking photographs of Hindu-Muslim riots, the dying and dead. How blessed am I to have seen peaceful times. I now live in a country that has seen its independence well over a century ago. In contrast to the US, India is relatively a young country, the weight of its problems totally out of proportion to her size. It is a cauldron of cultures, ethnicities & religions. I see the complexities and challenges – the apathy and evils on the one hand, and the human spirit that wills itself to make things right in the face of all odds on the other. For the most part, this is somewhat inexplicable to an outsider. However, with a camera, and some insightful narration, I thought ABC news did a fairly good job in their recent segment on India: ‘A Billion Reasons To Care‘.