Singapore August 15, 2009
Independence Day … Swatantra Divas … the day India got its freedom from British colonial rule.
May the happiness and joy of this freedom, achieved through the struggle and sacrifice of thousands who fought and gave up their lives, be with us through out our history and may we forever be indebted and beholden to those sons of our soil, that made it possible for us to live and breathe in a free and independent world.
I was born in 1942, in the middle of World War II and at the beginning of the Quit India Movement initiated by Mahatma Gandhi against the British. I am a child of pre Independence. During the 8th month of my Mother’s pregnancy with me in her womb, she had bolted out of the house where we lived in Allahabad to join a ’satyagraha’ procession in Katra, a busy market area, slogan shouting the voice of millions of Indians who were demanding that the British leave India. There had been a ‘lathi charge’ by the forces to disperse the crowds. Protestors were being baton beaten and my Father’s friends had rushed in to save my Mother from any harm and escorted her back to her house. My Father was not in at that moment, but on coming to learn of this passionate and patriotic outburst from my Mother had reprimanded her, not so much for her act, but the inconsideration she had shown towards the life she was carrying. Later that evening, when tempers had cooled, some of those that had been a witness to the incident, joked with my Mother and suggested that if the child to be born would be a boy she should consider naming him Inqilab Rai - from the prominent slogan of the day, Inqilab Zindabad ! Long live the revolution !!
Just got saved from being pet named, Inky !!
There have been numerous Independence Day celebrations since and each one has invoked in us pride for the nation, pride for the flag and a pride in our free state. Many among our forefathers that fought this silent non-cooperative battle along with Gandhi ji, were inspired from similar struggles being conducted elsewhere in the world at the time. The Irish Revolution to be more precise, was a great and live example. And many nations after witnessing our struggle were inspired to fight for their own freedoms. The joy and ecstasy of identity, the selfish pride with which we connect and applaud our own land, our own people, is an emotion that has always surpassed all other. The rush of blood within us on holding the National Flag, as the strains of the National Anthem builds itself into a crescendo has never had an alternative expression. It has always been a face that has glowed with pride, with just that hint of moistness in the eye.
A dear family friend and one that had been in the forefront of our Independence Movement, was once narrating an incident she had witnessed at the Bastille Day parade many decades ago on the Champs-Elysee in Paris, when India was still ruled by the British. On one of the armored vehicles that were part of the parade, a large flag of France had been unfurled on its roof. Almost spontaneously and without warning a young woman spectator, watching the ceremony from the crowds on the side of the road, broke the cordon, ran and jumped up on to the roof of the vehicle grabbed the flag and wrapped herself around it in an expression of uncontainable passion and pride, screaming ‘Vive la France’ !! And our friend had said, what an emotional moment it was for her to see this, for, she wondered at that time, when it would be for India to be free and to have its own flag !!
Our flag - saffron, white and green said to, respectively, represent courage and sacrifice, peace and truth, and faith and chivalry. And the Ashoka Chakra in the middle in navy blue with 24 spokes came from The Lion Capital of Ashoka, the figure of four lions with their backs together, facing in the four directions. This was on top of a column during the time of Ashoka the Great, now secure at the Sarnath Museum. The wheel is taken from the base of this emblem, where it was prominently displayed.
Dr S Radhakrishnan, who later became the first Vice President of India, clarified the adopted flag and its significance thus -
“ Bhagwa or the saffron colour denotes renunciation or disinterestedness. Our leaders must be indifferent to material gains and dedicate themselves to their work. The white in the centre is light, the path of truth to guide our conduct. The green shows our relation to (the) soil, our relation to the plant life here, on which all other life depends. The “Ashoka Chakra” in the centre of the white is the wheel of the law of dharma. Truth or satya,dharma or virtue ought to be the controlling principle of those who work under this flag. Again, the wheel denotes motion. There is death in stagnation. There is life in movement. India should no more resist change, it must move and go forward. The wheel represents the dynamism of a peaceful change.
How beautiful and wise the significance and how inspiring the thought.
In India, our flag that is officially flown, can only be made from Khadi, the home spun yarn, made so popular by Mahatma Gandhi. It has to be of given specifications and is only available in the city of Bengaluru, erstwhile Bangalore. For long years the flag could only be flown at specified buildings and on the vehicles of specified national heads, but a young industrialist, Navin Jindal, recently moved the Supreme Court of India, on why flying the national flag could not be permitted on private buildings and structures, homes and offices, after he had been denied permission to fly it on his office building. Jindal won a historic verdict and thanks to him I now proudly fly the national flag on all my residences, following designated protocol.
Many from the media made fun and ridiculed me, when they first saw these flags on my house, questioning me first of how I was allowed to fly the flag; they not being conversant at all with the judgement from the courts, and later, on being apprised of the law, accusing me of sham patriotism. I cannot even accommodate a smirk at this most despicable taunt !
Jaya left this evening for Mumbai after having spent more than a month by the side of Amar Singh ji during his ailment. I stay back till he is sound enough to travel back. Abhishek is back today from Mani Ratnam’s ‘Ravana’ shoot in Ooty, now Udhagamandalam its original name. ( Must have been a tongue twister for the Brits when they came in so they named it Ootycamund and then for convenience Ooty). Aishwarya has taken ill and is down with chest infection and flu like symptoms. Had a high fever yesterday but is settling down today. Its worrying to be so far away from children and not be there to look after them. Yes, they are mature and married and responsible, but children will always remain children !
I have been lazy today. No, nothing to do with the promise of gymming - that incidentally was restricted to a milder form, due to a strained back - I did not make any attempt to give responses to comments. One of these days I hope I can surprise all of you.
In closing -
‘Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us, than what we think of ourselves.’
And that is for all you EF and FmXt that squabble among yourselves within the confines of a space, meant for healthy discourse. You do not set a good example for the medium you are on, and neither do you show respect to the person asking you to refrain from such unwanted activity.
‘Funny how simple it is for people to trash age old teachings whether they be based on a Godhead or not and then wonder why the world has become so unsafe, unstable and seemingly out of control.
Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what our religious teachers of all faiths have taught us for centuries .’
Ponder dearest ones .. or are we laughing !!