Thank You… For freedom…

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.

Jai Hind…

June Songs

So June has come and gone. I have been blogging heavily and just reading through the past posts makes me realise that I can revisit my life anytime. So I am going to put down stuff that needs to be maintained (Remember my worry that my memories might go?)

So here’s how my past month was:

Mood: more or less mad

Work: it was a busy month. Had the CJ contest and a whole lot of other stuff to organise

Happiness: I appreciate the lovely time with the sister while the parents were on vacation. The sister has finished her Ogilvy internship and we’ve had a whole new wardrobe courtesy parents’ trip to UK.

Music: I was into a lot of radio, but I also managed to organise the 9000 songs on my computer, so there was a lot of Simon and Garfunkel. I love listening to happy and mellow love songs. The monsoon called for it. Also, absolutely tripped on Kabhie Kabhie Aditi from Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na.

Friends: Sneha, Jugal came over to eat food cooked by moi. Om joined us too… a lovely evening J Pannu started working with Kuku and man I am excited about the fact that she’s working with someone I thought was hot on screen…. Hehe… I am so filmy! Satam has had a rough patch with her Dad being unwell, but she will bounce back and uncle will be up and about soon.

Reading: I read chick lit through June. First I endured How Opal Mehta Got Kissed… and then I read Salam Paris by Kavita Daswani. They were a good brush through. But right now, I m right in the middle of The Secret by Rhonda Byrnes and I am loving it.

Dreams: There have been mad dreams, some feel good, some shocking and some just about forgettable.

Movies: Sarkar Raj, Sex and the City and Indiana Jones are the movies I saw at a theatre. I revisited many movies through the month on telly. I revisited Bicycle Thieves in the last week of June and it touched me just as deeply. Me and Nani also caught Sideways, which too the meaning of ‘wine’ to whole new level. Of course, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was revisited too.

Disappointment: I was very excited about my BIGFlix membership but their service has really let me down. I hope they pull their act together, so I can watch more movies and be happy J

Hope: I’ve learnt to enjoy my family’s indulgence in the idea of my wedding. It gives them joy and I think the joy’s rubbing off me too…

Love: I want it but whenever it comes on its own… Meanwhile, I am in love with the idea of love…. *smiles*

Achievement: I saw my pictures from a couple of years ago. I’ve lost a lot of weight, I definitely dress better and I am happy about that. But I m happy knowing that I was happy with the tomboy I was too! Nanu, thanks for inspiring me to kick the fat off…

Favourite place: Five gardens. Walking there soothes me. I owe it to the iPod

Food: I have indulged this month. Right from chicken hot n sour soups to tuna subs… I ate it all. Loved cooking the squid ink pasta and totally loved eating at Open Affair at Bandra. The food was strictly okay but it was a windy day by the sea… Wonderful ambience.

I am a sucker for meat but I have enjoyed vegetarian food through most of the month and I’m loving it.

Dance: Banana Bar, random music with Om. Thanks for coming back to Mumbai brother…

Talk: Sneha and Nani- heavy discussions about life, people and more… Love them both…

Wanted to: Spend more time with Pannu… July will be the month  

 

 

Beyond ‘now’

Searching for a new horizon

Beyond the sea, beyond the one I see now

Painted a new colour

Scented with a new odour

Of sweat and tears

Hard days and hard nights

Proving myself yet again

A new struggle, a new future

A new present

But the past remains the same

The past is me,

The past is who I am

And what defines what I’m meant to be…

life… where it comes from and where it could go…

I escaped last week from the questions that the city life was posing before me. I escaped from the people that were coming too close for comfort and I escaped away, far enough to think about what was keeping me from breaking the walls.

I wasn’t escaping permanently, but just for a time enough to catch my breath and come back and deal with my life. So off I went- best friend, sister, and sister’s best friend in tow- to Malvan. A small town in Sindhudurg district, Konkan.

My relationship with Malvan has been a strange one. Although my family came from this place, I never went there for 9 years. When I did, I was a pesky 10 year old obsessed with Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. So there I was, in the backseat of the car, singing along to the songs, observing the trees passing and asking my grandfather some silly questions.

On that trip he told me that we all face same situations through our lifetimes, how we deal with them, is what differentiates each life story. On this trip, he could have ignored me, treated me like a kid but he didn’t. He treated my questions with integrity, answering them till I was convinced.

Soon, I didn’t have to ask any questions. He told me of his childhood, his mother, his father and a life full of poverty. He told me of his restlessness, to move out of the small town. He told me of his life in Mumbai, his struggles. He told me how he became a rich man and then bankrupt again. He told me how he tried to fight his bankruptcy and rise again. He told me how he succeeded and most importantly he told me how in his success he also failed.

I came back, the same pesky 10 year old, but I knew a lot more about my grandparents. And the narrow streets and thatched roofs of Malvan stood as a symbol of the story.
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The whole village seems abuzz. The streets that once saw not more than one or two cars a week, were experiencing traffic jams. The street, on which my grandfather played Veeti-Dandu, is full of halogens as we approach a Ganesh mandir. The bright exuberant Mandir is decorated with flowers, lights and devotees.

An old man wearing bright orange robes walks in with an entourage of 10-15 people. And at every step, someone touches his feet and seeks his blessing. He smiles and walks. He stood before the golden Idol, bowed his head and stood again, looking at Him with love. It was a different kind of devotion.

He walked back and sat by the edge of the Mandir. People from the village, from outside the village came and paid their respects to this man, who’d grown up on this very piece of land. This man, when he was a boy, struggled to keep at school. His father was a simple man who was passionate about Ayurveda. Though the family lived in limited means, this boy grew into a man rich with curiosity. He struggled to start a handwritten magazine. He may have dropped out of school, but he read and soaked up the knowledge books had to offer. He learned Sanskrit and astrology. He soon started wondering about the world outside the boundaries of this village.
He went, he struggled, he conquered, he lost, he struggled again and now, he was the man who commanded respect with the way he walked. Tall, elegant and serene.

In a village, where once he had been too poor to be able to afford simple joys of life, he had built a grand Ganesh mandir. In a village, where school masters wrote him off for dropping out, he built a school. And even today, the money doesn’t matter, he continues to be rich with curiosity.