History was created on 15th August 1947 when freedom was granted to India after a period of more than 100 years of imperial rule. A 100 year long quest for Swaraj, which cost millions of young lives, ended with the British Empire finally bowing its head. As Mahatma Gandhi spent the day fasting and praying for the betterment of the new nation, Pandit Nehru, elected as the 1st Prime Minister of the country hoisted the national tri-color on top of the Red Fort in Delhi.
The stories and struggles of independence have been an integral part of our school textbooks. We've read about lathi charge and jalianwala bagh episode, 'Satyagraha' and the Quit India Movement, bhukh hartals and bloodshed. To bring to life this blazing part of history, Bollywood has made movies on people strongly associated with the movement'Bhagat Singh, Subhash Chandra Bose, Gandhi and Mangal Pandey. But after more than five decades, does this still touch a chord among the young citizens of this country?
Kumud, a final year MBA student explains, 'I don't really identify with the symbolic view of Independence Day, but I do feel strongly about the independence of our country.'
For a few, it's an occasion devoid of any emotion while for some it's a time to delve in patriotism. Says Conrad D'cruz, a Business Solutions Manager, 'Independence Day always evokes a sense of pride, honor and great respect for the many who selflessly laid down their lives for our country. It also hurts to know that nothing much has been done to improve the living conditions of the millions still suffering in India.'
This feeling is mirrored by his colleague Parag Shekhatkar who says, 'I feel proud of being part of such a great nation but am disappointed at the way we have handled it and the truth that I alone cannot do much about it.' Anant Kumar, a Technical Manager, too has mixed feelings about Independence Day, 'I like seeing the tri-color all around, but the exhilaration fades away when I see people disrespecting the freedom.'
A feeling of pride is shared by many but Tanya Munshi, an Instructional Designer, has something more to say, 'I couldn't be luckier to be born an Indian and live in such a wonderful country. 15th August is just to celebrate the fact that we are an independent country and independent first class citizens. Not many countries enjoy privileges that we Indians do. Apart from discrepancies and various short comings, this country is still worth being proud of.' She goes on to add, 'Independence day is not a one-day thing for me. One has to let the feeling of pride be a long lasting one'ideally for a lifetime.'
Dr. Mukta Kampllikar, an Associate Consultant at a leading management training institute has a similar point of view. '15 th August is not like other festivals where I celebrate and enjoy that particular day and then forget about it. I'd rather feel the 'swaraj' each day of my life, take pride in being a citizen and enjoy the freedom this country gives me. I also feel a deep sense of duty towards it.' When asked what significance it holds for her, she elaborates, '15th of August is a very special day for me. I love to attend the flag hoisting function and make it a point never to miss it'seeing the 'tiranga' high up on the mast instills a sense of pride in me. I also love singing the national anthem aloud. The day brings enthusiasm and instills a feeling of togetherness, greatness, vastness, strength, energy and faith. There is a touch of nostalgia when I spot school children going for the Independence Day function in their school uniforms.'
For Charudutta Peshkar, 15th August brings a cherished feeling of being free'free to learn and do what one wants.
Living in a country without any rights seems as unimaginable as fish without water. This day does make all of us take stock of how lucky we are to be citizens of a free country. And some of us take this as an opportunity to celebrate the special significance of 15th August.
Charudutta does this by watching the Prime Minister's speech on television and listening to patriotic songs while for Conrad it is a bunch of patriotic movies. Tanya buys paper flags and puts them around the house. Parag doesn't have any particular agenda for the day but he makes it a point to attend the flag hoisting function at the Church.
When asked about his POA for the day, Anant replies, 'I don't do anything special and treat it like any other mid-week holiday. Considering that it is a common public holiday, and with this year's condition of roads, I'd rather stay at home and relax.'
15th of August also presents many of us with an occasion to delve into a cache of school time stories and brings back cherished childhood memories'starched uniforms, parades, flag hoisting, sweet distribution, cultural activities.
Parag shares some snapshots from his album of memories, 'I remember how eagerly we would sing the National Anthem during the flag hoisting function at school and march in the Independence Day parade at school. We'd buy miniature national flags with wind wheels and proudly stick them on the handles of our bicycles on our way home.' He also tells me about the activities that his school organized for the students, 'We were asked to work on a project where we had to prepare charts and collages of the various freedom movements of India'like the Quit India Movement or the Uprising of 1857.'
Conrad was part of the National Cadet Corps (NCC)'Navy Wing at school and explains, 'It was a matter of pride to represent the Navy during the Independence Day parade.'
So as the Independence Day unfurls this year, it brings back golden memories and golden opportunities and choices that we as young citizens of a free India have today. This vision, which is a reality today, was a distant dream for many young people who lived under the oppression of the British Rule'those young people who lay down their lives for our today.