The ATKT.in Cypher is an exclusive community of some of our favourite artists and talent across categories of artforms.
For the first theme of August, here’s the submission of Natasha Daswani from HR College Mumbai, a member of the ATKT.in (Writers) Cypher on the topic – ‘India and Independence- what it means to you, personally in today’s day and age’.
BELOW THE AUGUST SUN
“India gained her independence on the 15th of August 1947, nearly after a hundred years of the British rule. Had it not been for our forefathers seventy years ago, who fought for us, our country would have been ruined.”
This statement from her teacher did not frankly interest the other seven year olds. They were just elated at the thought of the next day being a holiday. Sanaya on the other hand, had a special reason to be excited; she was going to watch her father march in the Independence Day parade at Red Fort on television.
She loved watching the television intently on that day and was hoping to catch a glimpse of the strapping young man who wasn’t able to meet her throughout the year due to his posting at the border. Her mother used to say that our country depended on him and it was because of her ‘appa’ that everyone could sleep safely at night. Sanaya never questioned who her father was guarding India from, but her father was her hero in her head, protecting millions of people and that must make him really strong and brave, she used to think.
That 15th of August 2017, the sun rose just like it had risen seventy years ago, unknown of its significance in the hearts of a billion people from this proud nation. As people got ready on the streets to wave the tricolor proudly around the country, in the small town of Idduki (Kerala), Sanaya and her mother prepared for the tradition that they had carried on for years, it involved crouching near the small box like TV in their rundown home with fresh corn.
The proceedings started and the dignitaries were seen taking their place to salute her father as he walked by. Sanaya watched patiently, her eyes glued to the TV, hoping to see the fierce face of the man whose photograph hung on the otherwise barren wall behind her. The colours of the parade as well as the synchronized walking fascinated her. She recognized the face of some of the ministers. She would subconsciously mutter their names occasionally to impress her mother. To a child, from the commentary to the costumes, it seemed like a very captivating affair. Her thoughts were interrupted when the commentators heralded the Indian army. Her eyes were peeled for her father but being the distracted child that she was, she couldn’t help but notice the women marching too.
“That’s going to be me soon Ma” piped Sanaya above the trumpets and fanfare of the parade. Her mother looked at her. Her eyebrows crossed each other and she murmured a very firm “No”. The intelligent woman then continued “You are my baby girl, you will stay with your mother won’t you? Keep me company as I can’t have both you and appa away from home”
Even though Sanaya’s first instinct was to react rebelliously and defy her mother she remembered that she had taken it on herself when her appa left a year ago to protect her mother like he protected their motherland. She scanned every face through the uniforms; unfortunately the cameraman moved the focus back to the dignitaries on the platform, smiling comfortably while these men marched under the warm August sun. Her heart sank as they flashed back to the parade and the army had moved ahead with precision, just as they always did. Her mother got up to lay the table saying her husband’s moment on camera must have been interrupted by the cameraman’s bad timing. Sanaya admired the men in uniform for their dedication and wondered how someone could be so devoted, that they were willing to leave their own family behind to take care of every other family in the country. Her father would be so disappointed she missed him as he loved it when she saw his parade on TV.
Then she saw a familiar face in the crowd, marching to the beat with pride in his every step. “He’s here Mom!!!” she squealed! Her mother ran back to the screen frantically only to find her daughter informing her that the moment had passed.
Her mother looked visibly upset. Sanaya found herself artfully changing the subject with her innocent questions. She found it curious that the men on the stage left in fancy cars from the parade. The only time she had seen a car was when her father had been called back to service the last time. They sent a car to fetch him urgently.
“They must be helping appa at the border and risking their lives everyday too, right amma?” The unexpected silence and shaking of her mother’s head added to her confusion. “So what do they do for our safety amma? What do they sacrifice? Do they also live like us?”
Her mother lowered her eyes. She reminisced of the stories she had heard of pre independent India, where the leaders stood amongst the people. They weren’t concerned about a political game but used to cater to their people’s needs. Names like Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Sarojini Naidu came to her mind. People who put themselves in the line of fire for their country and didn’t hide from their own people behind barricaded houses an army of bodyguards. Her family lacked the power to fight for her right to pension and hence she found herself struggling to keep up without the money that was due to them.
Were they truly independent? Or entirely dependent on the kind of power they were affiliated with? The government – who controlled their destiny. Yes the country was free perse but was her little family free? From the clutches of poverty? From not being treated with proper dignity as guardians of the nation? Parts of the nation had progressed but she feared for her daughter being brought up in a village, and who walked miles for a proper education or even any form of recreation, whereas the dignitaries who her daughter had just seen, probably commanded loads of wealth and had these facilities at their fingertips.
She looked at Sanaya with a sad twinkle in her eye,” I’m sure your father looked great sweetheart”. Even though the glamour of her father’s life influenced her daughter, she knew the reality. A thankless job, a tough life would await her if Sanaya chose that field. She wanted to raise her girl to make her own rules and not take orders from someone sitting on their cushioned chair in an air conditioned office while her daughter faced bullets in the field. Her Sanaya would be independent in every sense of the word. That was a mother’s promise to her daughter as well as to her husband’s picture- the one with a garland of fresh flowers that hung around it.
He had passed away three months ago when there was a cease fire violation at the border. Her daughter had no idea about his death but saw her father on TV that day. Her mother assumed he had marched one last time just for his baby girl and hence went unexpectedly quiet when she heard that Sanaya had just seen him. No child should have to go through that kind of loss. Is India independent from the violence? Just because we are miles away from the border, we fail to realize the reality.
Seventy years after independence India’s progress has been ground-breaking in many ways but the unsung heroes remain in the background. Unsung. Nameless. Faceless. And in this case rewardless too. An unappreciated martyr.
The former President Pranab Mukherjee expressed his concern by saying, “On the fertile ground laid by our Constitution, India has blossomed into a vibrant democracy. The roots are deep but the leaves are beginning to wilt. It is time for renewal. “
If we do not act now, will our successors seven decades hence remember us with the respect and admiration we have for those who shaped the Indian dream in 1947?”