For this former cricketer, born on September 24, 1950, it was never really such a big deal that his birth year coincided with the birth of the Indian Republic. However, Mohinder Amarnath, whose father Lala Amarnath was independent India’s first Test series captain, feels that the ’50s when India was made a Republic, were definitely a different time and era. The mood was more patriotic, according to him.
What’s more, Amarnath also feels festivals were celebrated more vibrantly back then. "Whether it was watching the Ram Leela or the Republic Day parade, there was more enthusiasm," he says. "Today, we don’t go out to see the parade; people watch it on TV, and everyone’s busy with work. Lots of other things have changed too – there was more respect for the national anthem during our time."
Amarnath was born in Patiala, then grew up in Delhi, and has now moved to Mumbai. He says he is rather happy with the city. "It’s a good place for me to be in right now. I’ve always liked Mumbai."
Amarnath also remains optimistic about India’s growth in sports. "I think we’re doing well where cricket is concerned. The only thing that I’m sad about is that other sports aren’t getting the same amount of attention as cricket is, which is a pity," he says.
She’s one of our best-known filmmakers and Deepa Mehta (September 15, 1950) also shares her birth year with the Indian Republic. But that isn’t why she decided to direct the film adaptation of Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie’s book, pegged on a similar theme: children born on a historic day. “It’s one of my favourite books of all times. Besides being brilliant, I find it extremely cinematic,” she says.
Mehta vividly remembers growing up in the 1950s, but says that they never celebrated Republic Day the way they celebrated other festivals like Holi or Diwali. “As a child, I looked forward to Republic Day only as a school holiday,” she says. “But this changed when I was around 10. It was when I first saw the military ceremony of Beating The Retreat. I found it very impressive. Since then, I’ve always associated Republic Day with this spectacle.”
Mehta remembers how politicians were, in a sense, like ‘part of the family’ back then. “I had this aspiration to meet Chacha Nehru,” she says. But Mehta doesn’t feel we’ve lost our patriotism since the ’50s, or even that it’s any less today. It’s just that we show it differently.
“When I was growing up, the National Anthem was played at the end of each movie. We used to stand up and get all teary! But I’m sure that people are as patriotic today,” she says. Even though Mehta feels it’s great to celebrate Republic Day, she feels that it’s a personal experience. “It’s a pretty personal reflection on what we’ve achieved, and what we still aspire to achieve as a country,” she says.
It was an age of rebellion – that’s what Susmit Bose, singer-songwriter, who was born on November 1, 1950, remembers of growing up in the ’50s and ’60s. Bose broke all convention when his father threw him out of the house for dropping out of college and choosing singing as a career.
“All I wanted to do was play my guitar and sing,” says Bose, who is now settled in Delhi with his family. The artist, who takes inspiration from the socially themed poetry of Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and other contemporaries, composes songs on the subjects of humanity and society. Female foeticide, liberty, human issues, war, child labour, street children – Bose has touched almost every subject through his music, and feels he’s come to be known as an urban folk-singer.
“Things were different back then, because there was a lot more passion among us. I don’t see that in young people today,” he says.
Bose finds that times have become more materialistic, but says he isn’t a pessimist. “The time was such then,” he says, proud he’s followed his own path.
Bose doesn’t remember celebrating the fact that his birth year and that of the Indian Republic are the same, but remembers that the times were definitely patriotic – and the political mood was strong and high. Which was what inspired him to do his own thing. When his father threw him out, he began playing for clubs and discs. He arrived on the scene much later – after a series of travels and international gigs. “We used to get by with the money we made, and I’ve always done what I wanted to,” he says.
His latest albums are Rock For Life and Essentially Susmit Bose, which have both been funded by UNDP & UN Aids, and Oxfam respectively.