Saturday, August 15, 2015

My 15th August musings...

On this Independence Day, I want to think about those examples that I have seen in my own life that have taught me to celebrate independent behaviors and independent thinking. Remember those people I have known that went out of their ways to act on something they believed in. I think, all too often, we celebrate 15th August by what is taught by an obviously biased discourse of history and forget to look closer to home.

My first example is of my history teacher who would take us out to the garden and give us history lessons under a tree (a totally uncharacteristic practice in our school). She would bring reference material and read them to us to add color to the one or two lines of details that was included in our actual history text. You may say this is insignificant, but then, it is not. I have cherished that memory and that spirit of owning a task and doing things in a manner that feels right to me, infinitely! Mrs Neogi, if this reaches you, please accept my greetings of this happy occasion. I am thinking of you!

My next example is from my family. Despite open disapproval from some, my father insisted I go to a bank, pick up my money and pay the fees at my school by myself from since when I was in the 5th grade. To ready my school bag, clothes and do my homework was my exclusive responsibility as far back as I can remember. My aunt did not let me take our car to a summer job I had taken up (which I was very mad about at the time), insisting that I use public transport by myself. This is when I was no more than fourteen or fifteen and was going everyday to places I hadn’t been to before (it was a sales job). Figure it out, she said. Taking my own responsibility was never an option. It was the only way to live. I am grateful thats who they taught me to be.

Recently, I saw a short film doing the rounds on fb, about how the British mistreated us and that we should be celebrating the freedom fighters for having rescued us from such fates. I saw Shashi Tharur’s British bashing lapped up with great enthusiasm. I am not denying there’s some truth in that. But why can’t we move on? Perhaps this 15th we should instead focus on what has been India’s accomplishments in the last 70 years of freedom compared to how far we came in the 200 years of British rule. Have we collectively achieved the promise of the 15th of August, personally and as a nation?