This Independence Day (And Every Other!)

The tricolour will be hoisted, bands will play, our chests will swell with pride, our martyrs will be remembered, and we will all be thankful for the day India became an independent country.

More than seven decades later, how much do we value what we got on that day in 1947?

The symbolism is important, of course, for our destinies as Indians are irrevocably tied to that day, but what does it mean to us, other than being a holiday to remember, wait for the Prime Minister’s speech, and reminisce all that has happened in these decades?

A whole new generation of children go to school to celebrate this day, to see how exactly we pay tribute to our nation, for being free of oppressive foreign rule. They too sing the national anthem with pride and take it deep into their hearts that we are an independent country.  But do we tell them the whole story?

Most of us alive today have no idea how it was before that day in 1947, for we were not even born, or we were very young. How then do we keep the gratitude alive, the lessons of oppression deeply ingrained and the alertness that will not bring us to that state of despair again, ever?

What exactly did we get on that glorious day on the 15th of August in 1947? Our independence? Just from the British? And what about freedom? Freedom from what? Do we know the difference between independence and freedom? Did we know it any better then? Did we care enough to find out?

Looking at all the chaotic behaviour, the relentless mediocrity and the ceaseless apathy that defines life in India today, how many of us would be surprised if those who made all the sacrifices to give us this freedom hung their heads in shame at the filth, dirt, pollution, corruption, and worst of all, our readiness to find individual insulation, and plug on to the next meaningless day as an Indian citizen? Are we even awake to the immense potential lost or rendered useless by our collective lack of intent to build a great nation?

What use is freedom if we choose to use it to dive headlong into indiscipline, disobedience, and inconsiderate behaviour, scared of ridicule for standing out and being a model citizen? Why does such an ancient civilisation behave in such an uncivilised manner? Can we please substitute our enjoyment of freedom for some appreciation and some gratitude for this opportunity we have been given as a collective, please?

Lokmanya Tilak and countless others did not make the sacrifices they did, for us to be the spoiled brats that we have become – arrogant in our ways, proud of being who we are under this all-consuming identity of being Indian. If our heroes were alive today, they would ask us to look up to a nation like Japan which faced its own share of trauma and suffering, and to learn from its people how to be a dignified, decent people, humble in their ways but immensely proud of who they are within.

What would it take for each of us today to pledge to change one civic habit within each of us or in some fellow Indian for the betterment of India the nation? Could we stop driving badly, talking loudly, dirtying public spaces, and setting bad examples for our children in a thousand different ways?

Can we please figure out how to be independent of force of habit, and free from the momentum of apathy and collective stupidity? 

We can easily see so many things that need to change in this nation of ours. Does our Prime Minister really have to bring up the topic of building toilets in an Independence Day speech?

Do simple changes each citizen can bring about by simply inculcating certain habits have to be momentous, symbolic and epochal events?

Can we, for the love of India, start acting like we respect this freedom, and appreciate the sacrifices, the lives lost, and the blood spilt to protect this independence of ours? Can we show some maturity, some adult behaviour that is rather overdue after thousands of years of civilisation? Can we please take some initiative to ensure the buck stops with each one of us?

Let’s not fall in the traps of catch phrases, messages and slogans, ‘movements’ that die after the first heavy meal post the protest march, or vapid candlelight vigils and group discussions that have all become more symbolism with very little usefulness. Let’s quietly take inspiration from that image of India we can all hold as a developed, beautiful, peaceful country with a lot of evolved souls living in it, and please be compassionately dedicated to that vision.

We have the freedom to choose. Can we please choose to win our independence from our own apathy, our irresponsibility and our ignorance? Can we each please do something to change one small attitude, make one lasting good habit, and become free from imagined impossibilities? Can we put our freedom to good use, please? Let’s not become dependent on someone else to do a job that needs to be done.

Happy Independence Day!

Jai Hind. Jai Jagat.

Bala Senthil Kumar

Bala Senthil Kumar is a former NCC Naval Wing cadet, a C certificate holder who represented the Karnataka and Goa contingent in Republic Day competitions, and a military trained para jumper.

The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Tilak Chronicle and TTC Media Pvt Ltd.

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