India turns 61.... Independence day...and I am working in office. When the client pings me in instant messenger, I give him not too subtle hints that even though its our Independence day, we are still slaving for you on a holiday and he in turn asks me what are we doing to celebrate it...as if working for him isn't enough...
Since my childhood days (that was a long time back), Independence day has been a very important day for me, just like to millions of Indians. Yeah its a holiday !!!. I said millions instead of billion cause out of the billion there are millions who don't even know that its a holiday and have to work on this day to earn their daily bread. But now even I fall in to the latter category.
It was a day to go to school, stand in line fidgeting and quarrelling with your friend, while the chief guest or the principal droned away with words of wisdom, which has not changed in years. If you are unfortunate enough to get picked to perform one of those many drills that you perform on the occasion, then you practise for it and pester your parents to get you those tri-coloured head bands, wrist bands and what not the teachers have to told you to get. At the end of days programmes , you would get a chocolate or a bun and you run home happy that you have the rest of the day to celebrate real Independence. Those were good old days !!!
Even after I finished college, I still visit my Alma mater to see the celebrations every year. Every year I along with my friend turn up at the school stadium early and watch the proceedings with a benevolent air of grandfather who watches the grandchildren playing around. Every year there will be a chief guest who hoists the flag and doesn't know when to salute when the NCC cadets march past him or walk in step with the captain when inspecting the parade. He of course gives a speech, which no one hears including himself.
Then the programs start which depict the cultural heritage of our nation and the importance of the Independence day. There will be kids from the lower primary school whose parents have woke them up early in the morning and got them ready and bought them to the ground, only to wait for two hours. By the time, they are called upon to perform, they are sleepy again and their 3 minutes of performance is a mix of good coordination in the front row to I-don't-care-if -I-don't -get-chocolate in the last rows.
Then there are these drills from high school kids and every year watching them I say 'Hey, I too used o do the same drills when I was in school !!'. Nothings changed there. Only that every passing year, the average height of a high school kid is diminishing and they look like 10 year olds.
Invariably there will be a dance highlighting our culture. Only difference is the songs, which has progressed from 'Mere Desh ki dharthi' to 'Des Rangeela' or 'Rang de Basanti'. On one occasion I even watched them dance away to a popular duet. Yeah bollywood love songs are a irreplaceable part of our culture.
On occasions there are a few surprises. Such as today, there was a montage, acted out with a back ground of 'Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon'. It would have put many of the mega budgeted movies to shame. It had everything in it. Action, where our freedom fighters fight the British. Family sentiments and emotions, when a young soldier heads to the front leaving his loved ones behind weeping. Sacrifice, as he falls trying to save the motherland. It was a wonderful portrayal, reminding us not to forget those who sacrifice their life so that people like me can sit in office and bitch about having to work on a holiday (and then again not work but blog during office hours !!). It would have bought tears in my eyes if I was not the cynic that I am.
Of course, you meet your old teachers, who have this vague recollection that you were in his/her class years ago and ask us what are we doing now and we reply back the same every year and escape before they recollect that you were the one who broke the beaker in the lab or the one who gave the excuse of laryngitis when asked to answer a question in the class.
You get to see all old classmates, who are as foolish as you to attend the function rather than sleeping late on a holiday. You see how they have changed over years. Some of them have grown horizontally, some bring along their wives/hubbies and kids. and some have not changed at all.
A special mention has to be made of the speaker system that's used during the function. Its been the same since my school days. The upshot of it is that it effectively drowns the speech of the chief guest in static and all we get to hear are some sounds as if somebody is being strangled (for all I know, probably the chief guest too would be feeling like being strangled for being asked to speak in front of a large crowd and the only speech he has ever given before was on the same morning, practising in front of his bathroom mirror). This speaker system also muffles all the songs and A.R.Rahaman's synthesised beats sound as Naushad's tabla sounds.
In spite of all these, I go there every year. Just standing there, watching the tri-colour being hoisted, the singing of national anthem, the teachers, kids running around takes me away from the daily tribulations and reminds me of the innocence lost.