By Jyothi Venkatesh
Independence Day for me means going down memory lane and reliving cherished moments of childhood. Getting up early, bathing quickly, hoisting the national flag in front of the house with family and singing the National Anthem. It was as important a day as a birthday or Dussehra or Diwali, perhaps even more.
It was also an acknowledgement of being a free country. My father was a freedom fighter and he spent around 3-4 years in jail. He was a Gandhian too though he was associated with Subhash Chandra Bose, briefly as I know. Why did India, which was not one united India then, fight to be the consolidated country we have now? For one, you might say, our ethos, our philosophy, our culture, our way of life, our habits, our Gods or whatever else that was common the length and breadth of the country.
Human beings are born free but don’t experience it if they are not in an equal society; if not amongst their own and if they don’t get acknowledgment or understanding of who they are and what they are about. The British attitude of looking down upon us as Indian natives in spite of a rich heritage and culture was not acceptable. There was no experience of being equal. We are so used to the independence we have now, that I can’t even imagine going to some place and reading a board that says’ Dogs & Indians not allowed’.
However, it’s not fashionable to talk positively about the country any longer. With social media giving voice to the millions of silent voices having gone unheard for ages, there is a humongous amount of every kind of opinion. Opinions are fine as long as they are not used as poisonous barbs. Trolling has become the new weapon where tongues don’t lash to lacerate but words do. Words always had power – they were considered sharper than a sword.
Coming to Independence day, the country finds itself in a conundrum regarding patriotism, nationalism etc. There are no clear answers to the question of what they can be defined as. There is no freedom either to choose your own brand of nationalism without being trolled.
What you call nationalism or nationalistic spirit is a real emotion. India winning those medals and gold at the Olympics was not a false emotion. Peoples’ hearts did swell with pride. And people did celebrate much to the discomfort of those who didn’t feel it or thought people overreacted or found it very down-market. It’s the same when you hear the National Anthem in the theatre. I sing loudly with emotional fervour. People may think I am nuts! And I am okay with that – each to his own.
It was my father who gave his blood, sweat and tears for what we enjoy today. I remember as a child, he had a newspaper and a small printing press in which they used to print anti-British pamphlets and distribute them clandestinely. It was not easy for him to be away from his family and be incarcerated in jail. It was not easy either for many who were bullied, tortured and beaten by the British and mercilessly shot down. It’s something they did for us – the gift of a free country! What are we doing for the generations that come after us?
Freedom personally or at a national level does not come easy. With freedom comes responsibility. The western world has its own way of thinking – it’s about individual rights but in India and much of the eastern part of the world, it is about what works for everyone – family, community, country. In That context, personal wants become secondary and what arises is duty and responsibility not only for your own well-being but for that of others too. In India the weightage has been more than individual rights but that’s seen much less now.
National spirit or Nationalism has no colour except the colour you give it! That’s freedom for me! I may not fly the flag outside my house anymore, but I can just say that I am proud to be an Indian!