Saturday, August 14, 2010

What Freedom Means to Us

Long long ago, one day when I was coming back from school in our school bus and we were crossing the Presidency Jail in Alipore, I proudly pointed out the building to my friends and fellow travellers and said- "My grandfather was imprisoned here..." I failed to clarify that he was a freedom fighter and he was held there by the British rulers. One of the kids quipped "was a thief" or something to that affect and the rest burst out in giggles...I smiled weakly, my throat constricted as it does when I am hurt or angry and I could feel the tears close by...I did explian later in a mumbling manner but my moment of pride and glory was marred for the rest of my life. Never again would I point out the building and say those lines. However I was happy for 'Chhobir Dadun', I am sure he would be happy to see that his son resided in splendour in a huge house built by and for the British just opposite to the place in which he was held captive.The thought crossed many times in my mind as I gazed at the high walls of the notorious prison from the gate of our house.I realised that we are not taught properly the importance of the sacrifices thousands of our ordinary countrymen and women made in the freedom struggle. "De di hamen azadi bina kharag bina dhal, Saabarmati ke sant toone kar diya kamaal" says a popular song, speaking of Mahatma Gandhi...as if independence was offered in a platter to the people of India, it was some kind of a gift...but was it? I think not, I am not trying to discount the greatness of our leaders but if there had not been thousands to answer their call, then the leaders would have not been in a position to negotiate our independence. Our independence was also a result of the untold sacrifices of hundreds and thousands of very brave Indian people- common and ordinary men and women who sacrificed family, prosperity and even their lives for this dream of freedom. Peasants how refused to pay taxes even after their all was confiscated, and they were tortured, women and children and the youth thronging the streets holding the flag aloft and trying any which way to free their country of its shakles. There is a Bengali film called 'Beallish' (1942) which dealt with the events of the Quit India movement, a movement which was practically leaderless, as all the bigwigs had been put behind bars, and yet it was the most powerful of the various movements initiated by Gandhi. My father saw the film many times and every time he (and many others like him) entered the hall in their shoes and left wthout them as he had chucked it at Bikash Ray who played the Indian villain who sided with the British, in the film. Needless to say, such passions do not exist in us, a generation which grew up 'free', had not seen a relative or friend who had been directly involved in the struggle. What does freedom mean to us then??
This morning my Brat and Mite decorated a tray with orange flowers and green leaves and the Brat made some small flags with a tiny stand that can be stood up on a desk or table, the mite held some flags in his hand. The tray was full of chocolates. They dressed up in salwaar Kameez and kurta pajama and set off from flat to flat in our building wishing everyone on independence day all with the connivance of their mother...to which the Mr declared that I had finally lost my marbles! But had I?? If we can celebrate our religious festivals with great fervour why the step motherly treatment to national festivals?? Freedom means a lot to us so we must first teach our children to celebrate it joyously. Thereafter we can dwell on the sacrifices that brought it about, so that they can cherish it for ever afterwards. The challenge for the succeeding generations is to not only cherish and celebrate this hard earned freedom but to also to acknowledge the sacrifices that both the leaders and our ordinary people made.
Perhaps one day I will take the kids to the Presidency jail and tell them about their greatgrandfather, perhaps they will not laugh and giggle but understand the difficult times our previous generations had seen so that we can enjoy our freedom. Perhaps freedom will mean something to celebrate joyously and to value deeply as it means to me today...

1 comment:

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