61 years ago, the Brits packed their bags and left the Indians alone to mind their business. We celebrate this date in India as the Indian Independence Day.
Stop at a traffic signal and a child approaches you to buy a plastic replica of the Indian tri-color. You buy it in the spirit of celebrating the liberation of your country. Do you notice this child’s ragged clothes or his withered hands? Do you notice how sad it is that this child, who should be studying and enjoying a childhood has a mighty sales target at the tender age of 9?
Moving on… We make plans for the day. Meeting friends, sleeping at home, watch a movie and a lot more. It is nothing but a holiday for a majority of people. They see the parade on the road or catch a few TV shows (which are oozing of patriotism only to raise their TRPs…)
School kids attend the mandatory flag hoisting ceremony at school, run back home to study for the upcoming mid-term exams. ‘It’s so unfair… We are independent now, so what’s the big deal. I’d rather sit at home and finish the history chapters,’ says a student who’s swamped with homework. I want to tell her to jump to Chapter 11 in her history textbook that describes the moment, the midnight hour when Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru welcomed freedom into a nation that had been ruled by the British Empire for a century and a half.
But no, she shouldn’t jump to it. She should read through the text and understand how many lives were laid down to get to that moment. She should know about the magnificent lives who strived hard to give us this Independence that is ‘no big deal’ for her.
‘So the Brits were pretty damn mean haan?’ her young mind asks.
My mind says yes and no. I truly believe that it is the British rule that instated the feeling of patriotism amongst us. Before they arrived, we were a bunch of states ruled by Kings, who fought amongst themselves.
The Brits, united these territories, for ease of administration for them, but thus bringing us under one roof. They brought with them modern western education that taught us to rationalise beyond religion. This education created a class of Indians who went on to fight against age-old customs. If it wasn’t for the Brits, individuals like Raja Ram Mohun Roy or Maharshi Karve would have found it hard to fight the staunch beliefs of an orthodox society.
As an Indian woman, I feel grateful to the Brits and people like Roy, Karve and Phule. They fought together to introduce education for women. They helped us come out of the kitchen and see the world. They fought hard to abolish the Sati ritual. Can you imagine jumping into your husband’s pyre, because without a husband your life is invalid? You can’t! So say a small thank you to these guys today.
As a citizen of this country, which is developing at a fast rate, one thinks of JRD Tata who pioneered industrialization in this country. The technology and the know-how came to India, thanks to the Industrial revolution in England.
Our public transport system, our impeccable postal service, the governance, education, has been set up by the British rulers of that time. The systems they installed were good enough to withstand corruption and million other hiccups that an independent country suffers from.
As a journalist, I feel grateful to Mr. Benjamin Horniman. His name has been eternalised in Mumbai with a magnificent garden opposite the Asiatic library. Have a hard look and you will know why this gentleman was important. As a pro-freedom editor of the Bombay Chronicle, he promoted the feeling of nationalism. With his coverage of Jallianwallah Bagh massacre and his propaganda to plan Satyagrahas against the Imperial rule, this man made a monumental contribution in creating the strongest platform to unite all Indians in thought and opinion.
Take some time and try to imagine what life was like before 15th August 1947. And then think of the day today. It’s not just a mere holiday, it’s a day for us to value our freedom. It is a day to remember our rights and more importantly remember our responsibilities as the citizens of a free India. While doing so don’t look at the British era with hatred. They are a huge part of the reason why we are what we are today. What we will be tomorrow will be defined by our thoughts and actions.