Boy, am I glad we celebrated Independence Day yesterday. If the nation had somehow forgotten to raise the tricolour, sing Jana Gana Mana Oh What Funa! and do all those special things we do every August 15 — including sleep till midday to pay homage to those who fought or fasted for our freedom — who knows, it may have also slipped my slippery mind.
After all there’s too much on the plate for those looking out for 15th August. It’s the day when King Duncan was killed in 1040 allowing Macbeth (of heavy-handed wife fame) to succeed as King of Scotland. It’s also the day when the Poles defeated the Soviet Red Army in 1920, the Soviets deciding to forget that very, very bad hair day only after they occupied parts of eastern Poland on September 28, 1939. Then by a total and incredible coincidence, August 15 is also the day when, in 1975, there was a military coup in Bangladesh resulting in the assassination of President Sheikh Mujibur Rehman.
And if that wasn’t spooky enough, it’s the very same day that two similar events, separated as they are by 59 years, took place: the premiere of The Wizard of Oz in 1939, and the confession of Bill Clinton in 1998 to his wife, the present US Secretary of State, that he had had ‘sexual relations’ (our definition, not Bill’s) with a fat chick called Monica.
This may sound odd to many outsiders, but the fact that we were once ruled by the British — the people who gave the world, among other things, the hot water bottle, frilly underwear and admiration for the British — rather than by our wives was a powerful experience, powerful enough for some of us to forget that we once didn’t eat with a fork and knife, or had recreational drugs before cricket — or in extreme cases, forget that we are not White People with various levels of skin tan.
Be that as it may, I am mighty glad that India is an independent country, even if I pay my taxes to someone who does something unspeakable with them and even if I would have preferred an Italian to take control over my country. (I’m talking about my hero Niccolo Machiavelli. Why, who do you think I’m talking about?)
But above all I celebrate Independence Day if only to remember the Golden Five Things We Wouldn’t Have Been Able To Do If We Were Not Independent After Being Dependent For A While©:
Enroll in a post-colonial studies course at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and publish the paper, ‘The Double-Gaze of the Multi-Cultural Diaspora Fed On Kipling and Balti Cuisine.’
Charge foreigners much more than the entry fee Indians need to pay to enter the Taj Mahal.
Call foreign airport security personnel racist if they frisk or question Indians (‘Why, we don’t do that!’), especially if they happen to have perfectly innocuous surnames like Khan, Hazra or Kalam.
Bring in Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi aka the Mahatma alias the Big Bapuwski in every little thing we say, write or do to back whatever points we may be making (the virtues of nuclear deterrence included) with instant super-righteousness.
Break into paroxysms of joy whenever we hear White guys praising any desi. Imagine the headlines if Barack Obama or Angelina Jolie had, even in passing, mentioned anything about Viren Patel. (So what if Viren Patel is a fine dentist providing quality dental care from his clinic at 25 East Washington St. Suite 1921, Chicago?)
But then, today’s the day after Independence Day aka Just Another Day. As people must have said on August 18, 1947, ‘Ok, so now what?’