India turns 65. When I was a school girl living in college campuses (as my father was a professor), I always woke up to cries of ‘Vande Mataram’ on 15TH August early morning. Prabhat feri was the buzzword on Independence Day.Young students walked inside the campus singing patriotic songs much before the rays of the sun welcomed the morning.
Today it’s a different story. The Day earlier always marked flag hoisting, listening to speeches. It ended with a very special warm feeling. The joy of growing up in campuses meant experiencing many things in a different way. I was in Delhi when India turned 50. There was a feeling of exuberance in the air in 1997. One felt happy that August without any special reason. The mood was upbeat. The South Block and North Block, the Parliament buildings were lit up beautifully. One just couldn’t stop looking at these beautifully illuminated buildings. We just took bus rides in gay abandon just to soak in the soul- elevating mood. And I remember we had a jamming session with some friends on 14th August night— promising to ourselves that we would meet once again when India turns 75.
Today when I woke up to screaming advertisements of ‘Experience freedom with 42 inch LCD’ or ‘Taste freedom with a new microwave (at an unbelievable price of Rs ….), it did feel very strange, odd. The commodification of 15th August really hit me hard. But then the market is the answer to everything — from relationships, looks to freedom too. I don’t know what the ride ahead will be.
PS: Even thought of a touch of romance to 15th August? I was 18 when I read this beautiful lines written by late poet Amrita Pritam in a letter to Imroz, “Could anyone give personality to the 15th of August then I would say you are my 15th of August. With you came the emancipation of the being i.e myself.” In subsequent years, I borrowed these lines from Amritaji’s while writing letters to men whom I treasured at different points of my life. They failed me in due course of time. But then I guess it was meant to be like that. Something very much like a deep sense of freedom which also comes with a rejoinder. Nevertheless, it’s intoxicating.