There are few things quite as inspiring as the sight of children discovering the significance of Independence Day. Today is a holiday in all schools except that arrangements are made for the daylong excitement of a march-past in school uniform to the accompaniment of drumbeats, sports events and sit-and-draw competitions that seek to draw out the best talents in different streams. It is all about freedom of the spirit that had ushered in the euphoria of 1947.
The new generation still has to discover the achievements and sacrifices of those who had paved the way for the events that are now organised to demonstrate the power of the common man. Schools make it a point to get the children to organise photo exhibitions that include everything from the midnight session in Parliament that showed Jawaharlal Nehru delivering the “tryst with destiny” speech to gatherings of leaders who were entrusted with the task of determining the country’s future.
There are also photographs of achievers from other streams – writers, musicians, sportsmen, administrators, industrialists, doctors and countless professionals – who spearheaded the hopes of a newly independent nation. There are several organisations and clubs that choose Independence Day for social service or charitable work. There are others who organise quiz contests that make good entertainment while enriching young minds with sentiments that are reflected in patriotic tunes, skits, recitations and distribution of sweets.
Members of a classy club had a pleasant surprise in store for them last year when they turned up for the flag hoisting ceremony. It ended with the arrival of a gigantic cake where the creamy top had the tricolour. It was a treat that they hope will be repeated this year.
There are home-bound citizens as well – grandfathers with cherished memories or those with restricted movements – who can sit in a drawing room somewhere in Kolkata and log in to inspiring stories of a 13-year-old girl unfurling the tricolour in Lal Chowk, Srinagar; rescue teams evacuating people from a flooded area of Allahabad; blind women making rakhis for a big celebration of personal bonding round the corner; or a Coast Guard ship rescuing the crew of a stranded fishing trawler in Kakdwip, South 24-Parganas. These are soul-stirring images of a nation that makes 15 August a memorable occasion 69 years after the National Flag was hoisted at Red Fort in Delhi. Since then the flag is not just a symbol of national pride but a prized possession in the drawing room.
But then there are noisy processions with pictures of freedom fighters adorning trucks that roll along with streams of people of all age groups down the streets – with no one complaining about the noise. Some of the best songs composed by Tagore, Nazrul, DL Roy and Atulprasad Sen are heard all over again because they have not only captured the sense of nationalism but also survived the tensions that have erupted over the years. It is a coincidence that the Olympic Games are being held in Rio when Independence Day is being celebrated. A medal or two, or a sterling performance by the Indian contestants, would provide the right thrust for an explosion of joy to add new hopes to the rituals. Freedom stories are all about the survival of hope.