August 15th, 2011
Happy Birthday, India!
Today was the most beautiful morning of the season to wake up to. I won't get poetic uselessly. It was not as if the air carried a whiff of freedom with itself, or that the first breathe I inhaled made me feel romantically attached to the land I was born in. It was simply a beautiful morning. I was wrapped up head to toe in my bed sheet, shivering as I woke up. A scene similar from last year greeted me. As I stepped into the wet balcony, bare-feet, the sight of a rain-washed street was the first to be registered at the back of my head. However, this time, there were add ons. I could hear the faint rhythm of drums from somewhere in the distance, making the otherwise quiet and lazy morning come alive for sometime. I was imagining, quite creatively, teenagers splashed with colors of the tricolor, dancing away to celebrate the 65th year of our freedom. My reverie was broken by the shrill voices of excited kids running right over my head, on my terrace, their attention fixated on the kites they had been flying since, I reckon, the moment the rain gods showed mercy. How did I miss it? Now that I looked up at the sky, I could not see many, but at least some kites. A celebration of our glorious Independence Day is incomplete without the ritualistic kite flying. I was happy that the rains had not spoilt the fun, and the custom. They had, rather, added to the day.
I am a die hard patriot. Having said that, I will confess to being a buffoon, and not exactly knowing what does being a patriot mean. I feel irrevocable attached to my country, and don't have notions of ever wanting to venture out. I am filled with, not violent anger, but some rage at least, when I see things going wrong and people doing wrong to my country. But do I concretely do anything about it? I am not sure. In a discussion with cynics, I always end up taking my country's side, sometimes adamantly, sometimes foolishly. But the moment I get time to reflect on what those cynics had to say, I find much truth and reason in their thoughts which can be easily labeled as 'anti-India'. I keep on my toes, doing my bit for the community, whenever I get a chance. In college, I got more than my share of chances to do good, be good, make a difference. But was that enough? And now that I am out, will I get such chances still? I'll have to work harder than just hum some patriotic tunes, and feel an intense attachment to this country I so pride upon.
I have never celebrated the Independence Day, except for a day or two in advance when I was in school and in college. Last night, however, there was a little family gathering, which, by chance, got extended to the north of 0000 hours. The first scene that I recalled as soon as the Independence Day officially began was that of a mad crowd of people outside a liquor shop in Uttam Nagar, hoarding for the Dry Day that is today. They were uncountable, and uncontrollable. I was left pondering if liquor was to be their means of celebrating our independence, or it was simply a need and a fetish they could not let go off even for a single day. Back at the family gathering, I was asked to sing. I wanted to sing something patriotic, given the time and the occasion, but the hesitance and the disapproval among the younger ones at my choice of song was more than palpable. The elders of the family intervened. Few stories were exchanged. We sang Saare Jahaan Se Achchha in a chorus. My elder relatives re-lived their college days. The nods and smiles as we fumbled on the lyrics and corrected ourselves was heart warming. This is one of the many songs we should know, must know- not for showing off, but to teach to our younger generations, to let them feel the vigor which comes with singing these songs in a chorus and absorbing the lyrics. My mother, father and many other elders have lived through the war years, the China and the Pakistan wars. A few more stories were shared. I was asked to sing again. And then, I hummed these lines-
"Thi khoon se lathpath kaya,
Phir bhi bandook utha ke,
Dus Dus ko ek ne mara
Phir gir gaye hosh ganva ke,
Jab ant samay aaya toh,
Keh gaye ke ab marte hain,
Khush rehna desh ke pyaaron,
Ab hum toh safar karte hain"
An epochal composition, this song resides in all of our hearts. No matter how many times I sing it over, it can never sound mundane to me. It mesmerizes me. However, the lines which echoed in my head on my way home, with cool breeze lashing against my face, as my car sped on a deserted road were these-
रहबर राहे मौहब्बत रह न जाना राह में
लज्जत-ऐ-सेहरा नवर्दी दूरिये-मंजिल में है
ऐ शहीदे-मुल्को-मिल्लत मैं तेरे ऊपर निसार
अब तेरी हिम्मत का चर्चा ग़ैर की महफिल में है
खींच कर लाई है सब को कत्ल होने की उम्मींद,
आशिकों का जमघट आज कूंचे-ऐ-कातिल में है ।
These are three of my favorite verses from perhaps the best patriotic poem ever written. I've recited these at the conclusion of numerous Independence Day functions in school and college. They induce a vigor which lurks in my heart till much longer. Right now, they make me want to fight towards a freedom, which rids the society of prejudices, antiquated traditions, opportunism, hypocrisy and corruption. Yes, corruption too. I do not know if I will go and be physically present to lend my support to the movement which our generation is fortunate for being a testimony to. It is not merely a chance for us to be a part of something good, but the most favorable opportunity to raise our voice against the hydra headed monster hell bent upon sucking the last of resources from our economy, and for once take responsibility on our own shoulders for heralding a change. I do not know if I will at all be able to lend visible support to the movement. But the lights of my home will remain off, at least in a show of mute solidarity to the cause. This is my country being debated about. And if today I cannot show that I belong to it, I do not know when will another chance come my way.