Tuesday, January 25, 2011

India, I miss you- today more than ever!

Vande Matram..... maa tujhe salaam..... Jai Hind!

I woke up with the sound of loudspeakers playing "kadam kadam badhaye ja....."

Went to montessori and heard the rendition of "nanna munna rahi hoon..." on the EP(extended play) record....."

The experience of the Indo Pak War in 1971 made me shout with joy whenever I heard the number "ye desh hai veer jawano ka" and by then I was old enough to feel my heart burst when "ae mere pyare vatan, ae mere bichade chaman, tujhpe dil kurbaan" would play on Vividh Bharati. My father, an engineer by profession, was nominated to the Civil Defence and Vigilance Directorate for this war . I think this is what it was called....it was a group of civilian people who were nominated by the Collector's Office to help in maintenance of law and order during the War. As soon as the hooters would blow in anticipation of an air raid on the defence establishments in our town, he would just pick up his Royal Enfield motorbike and go to Collector's Office, to sit there till the bomb loaded enemy aircraft had passed over and changed direction. Or maybe dropped a bomb on us.During such warnings, the whole town used to be immersed in darkness- the Electricity Supply Company used to just pull the plug and supply to all sub stations would cease. Then my mother and us two sisters(my brother was not born yet), would huddle in one corner of our huge bungalow, trying to listen to the sounds of the aircraft overhead, and hoping that if a bomb was dropped that instant, at least we would get to see our father before we died. Yes, I was old enough to be scared of dying....

In class seven, we did a group song and dance on "Mere desh ki dharti sona ugle..."

In class nine, I cried to the lyrics of "Ae mere vatan ke logon...." thats when I understood them actually.

In class eleven, there was a spate of books by various authors, Indian and foreign. Midnights Children by Salman Rushdie won awards for its eloquent midnight and onwards storytelling.It was all about India.

My brush with democracy came when my nana(paternal grandfather) contested elections and we were there for our holiday, canvassing for his party, which incidentally, was always, always, always Congress. Actually he was always contesting elections, and as we all know in India, elections are not seasonal or time bound- they just happen. So this once, we happened to be there for the Dussehra and pooja holidays, and had a blast! I still remember the jeeps and the cries of "congress ko vote do......" rhyming with some cheap remarks about opposition, and we used to come home at closing time, tired, hoarse, happy, hungry. Chai with the volunteers was a delight and then we used to don all sorts of pro congress badges and walk around proudly. Even when nana backed up a harijan candidate, the fervour was the same, and victory was sweet.

As I grew up in the NCC ranks in college, I proudly won an opportunity to participate in the Republic Day Parade at Raj Path, New Delhi. It was prestigious, to put it very very briefly.

The next opportunity to participate came when, while working in Delhi, I got to see the same Republic day parade, by invitation. My uncle with whom I was staying, had an invitation, he had seen the parade before, so we used his invitation. Sanjiv's father, who really did not know then that I would be his son's wife(but he was very fond of me, all the same), and I- we both left the house at dawn, to arrive at the designated entry gate and find our seats on cross legged three tiered bamboo structures. Sitting atop the bamboo stands, with bottles of water and bags of biscuits, because there were no mineral water bottles those days, I cried with love.

And walked for miles after that to get back home at dusk- the traffic rerouting in Delhi for the Republic Day Celebrations is legendary.Needless to say any more on how the metropolis looks on Republic Day- it is simply festive.

As all other towns also are, in their own way. The way they can afford their festivities includes rallies, marches, festooning and banner campaigns, bhashans (speeches), theatre, nukkad naatak (street plays), school marchpasts, displays, music programs. Overriding all these expressions of love to motherland, is Bollywood's very own signature gesture of songs and dance and film releases appropriately timed.

Today, as an NRI, I think of all this. I sit and wish that I should have participated more while I was at home in India- should have drunk in more of the smells, sounds and feel of freedom that is so tangible on Republic Day. And I also wish that I should have contributed more positively to the aura- not just sat there and enjoyed my holiday mostly.

More later- I am already feeling better after having shared this with you.:)

OK, so here I am. Just can't get away from this page before telling you all. This morning, we all got together to share the joy of freedom. And again, the rang de basanti chant got me senti. The Chak de India got me rocking! I was already crying to the sounds of the bengali "aamar mathrubhumi" sung by the group. We, the women looked glorious in our sarees, and the men looked so good in their khadi and bandh gale ka coat.

But somewhere, I missed India. I missed the morning smell and the vasant. The little bit of cold and the foggy haze. The television dedicated to freedom today. The pulsating pitch of excitement in the voices of our democratic leaders who renew their promises to the people. The cartoons in the dailies talking about six decades over, seventh one going on. The theme parties that people have to celebrate the Republic Day, where each one has something saffron, white and green to show off to others!

.....tu hi meri jaan- to mother, janani, creator and preserver.