Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Celebrating Independence

When you live in a certain country, over the years, you start participating in their festivities and celebrations. You also start to realize that there are differences in the way people celebrate occasions and mark the importance of that day. It hasn't been long that the American Independence Day passed by and one more time the glaring differences stared me right in the eye.

Year after year, American people enjoy the fireworks, the barbeques, the music concerts and other little things associated with this holiday. Every store, home and office gets the star-stripe fever and you see red, blue and white colors everywhere. Days before the holiday, every store starts carrying July 4th themed items, ranging from clothes, to mugs, to patio furniture, to kitchen accessories to everything imaginable. Now, some may term this as commercialization, but to me, it is just a reminder of the holiday and the importance of it. It might be commercialization, but what is the harm if it makes you feel happy to be part of this event. 

If you ask an Indian, what their Independence Day means to them, you would hear so much about the sacrifices made by our ancestors to gain freedom. It is an emotional topic and still a sore point with a lot of Indians. As opposed to that, when you witness the American Independence Day, there is a stark difference of emotions. You see pride, happiness and gaiety around. What is it that makes our independence so different from theirs? I realize that our fight for freedom was a much longer and painful one. But, isn't it time we got over the hurt? And by getting over, I do not mean, to forget our special day and move on, but, to look back at it with pride. Look at India today; how far has it come from 15th Aug 1947. That was a time when we had fought for our existence and survival and look at 2011. It is a time when the world takes notice of us and looks at us to solve problems of economic and technological survival. Just that thought makes me proud. That is what we should be thinking about on 15th Aug of 2011. It should be a happy moment for us that we have brought this country so far and yet so close to what out forefathers had dreamed it to be. 

When I was young, I remember schools organizing functions where there would be speeches and songs about what our parents, grandparents went through for us to be able to see this day.There was an attempt to inculcate guilt so that we could value our freedom and act responsibly. There was so much hurt and sorrow on this great day. Why? Why could we not celebrate as if it was the birth of a new and empowered India? And by we, I mean all the citizens of India, not just school children. Once I graduated from school, I realized, that it just becomes a holiday and nothing else for adults. I desperately wanted to go back so that I could be part of the flag hoisting ceremony, because it was unlawful for people to hoist their own  flag in their own country. Isn't it ironic that we stop our own citizens from marking this occasion rather than giving them a reason to celebrate? The biggest problem is that we take offence very easily and carry our hurt. A few years back, it was considered disrespectful to wear scarves or clothes with the Indian tricolor on it. At the same time, we would feel hurt, if Indian youth wore T-shirts with the American flag on it. What else do you expect? You wouldn't let your own people sport their own flag, so they would pick up the most easily available and least controversial flag.

We have to learn to move on and take pride in who we are. Salute the people who contributed to the success of India and commemorate their efforts by celebrating and being happy. It should not just be a government holiday for others and an event for school children. It should be a day where you rejoice and look back at the achievements of this nation with your family. You should celebrate because you have the freedom to enjoy with your loved ones, and to exert the freedom of speech and expression. That is what I like about the fireworks here, everybody comes together, enjoys the moment, cheers the celebration on and sings songs of American Independence not because they have to, but because they feel like. It showed me that you do not have to be a part of an official function to celebrate the occasion; you can just enjoy the small pleasures of life and be grateful for all the privileges that you have because of your ancestors.

When I see little children wearing stars and stripes, enjoying the fireworks and other July 4th traditions like lemonades, barbeques and family time, I wish for the same to happen to children in India. 15th Aug should be a day, children look forward to and where adults make it special by remembering what a great country they are part of. Having a gala time, enjoying with your family and some common celebration that brings the whole nation together would be a perfect way to mark this historic and happy day.  That would be the true celebration of Independence!

1 comment:

  1. I think the biggest issues with a lot of us Indians is that we like to sit in the comfort of our couch and complain that things ain't working. The Americans on the other hand, believe in "Do It Yourself". Hence, they get the job done and move on while we still sob about the past!


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