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Another special birthday for Miss Independence

india Updated: Aug 04, 2007 16:25 IST

As patriotic songs were sung in every part of the country, Kunda Selokar arrived in this world on the morning of Aug 15, 1947 - destined to share a birthday with her motherland.

Kunda, re-christened Vasundhara Masurkar after marriage, went on to be the mayor of Nagpur. But the nickname that really stuck on is Miss Independence.

For her 84-year-old mother, Aruna Selokar, the memories of the dawn when India gained freedom are still distinct.

"I remember to this day the tunes of the choruses that I heard coming from the 'prabhat pheris' (morning processions) taken out in our locality as the midwife put you in the bed bedside me at 2 am," Arunabai tells Kunda, now touching 60.

The chants of "Vande mataram" punctuating the songs of freedom continued as Arunabai cast her many first glances at the newborn baby and fondly stroked her soft cheeks that day.

The same patriotic fervour nurtured Kundatai as she grew up in free India, going on to be a teacher, social activist, political worker and finally mayor of Nagpur at the turn of the millennium.

Every year, after coming home from the Independence Day function in school, young Kunda would protest to her parents for not naming her appropriately - her friends and teachers would tease her for not being 'Bharati' though she was born on that golden day.

"But I felt partly compensated when my father-in-law so thoughtfully renamed me 'Vasundhara' (which means mother earth in Sanskrit)", Kundatai told IANS.

She was one of six daughters and one son in the Selokar family. Though her birthday was never celebrated with much fanfare at home, she did not mind, as the public celebrations were reason enough to rejoice.

At an Independence Day function in her St Ursula Girls' School, the principal, Madam John, called Kunda to the dais, took a floral garland and put it around her neck as other girls clapped cheerfully.

Taken completely unawares, Kunda blushed only to be told by Madam John that the garland was for the goddess of freedom "of whom you are the symbol", she reminisces.

"From that day on, I began feeling as if a special bond existed between me and the motherland - I would take great pride in drawing a map of India on the blackboard or the playground with a sketch of swatantrya-devata in it every Independence Day."

Later in her college in Gondia, near Nagpur, and then while doing her masters from Nagpur University, the diminutive Kunda was fondly nicknamed Miss Independence.

Married into the Masurkar family, Kunda felt greatly encouraged to plunge into public life.

"I set up a mahila mandal (women's group) in our locality, which is still active, and later joined the Bharatiya Janata Party through which I will continue to serve society," she says.

"My birthday bond with Mother India has as much to do with my public spirit as the social orientation that I received from my parental and marital family," Vasundhara Masurkar nee Kunda Selokar insists.

She regrets like many others of her generation the lack of nationalistic feeling and public morality in today's India of self-centred, unscrupulous individuals.

But she hopes that the attempt to rekindle patriotic fervour through the celebrations of 150th anniversary of the 1857 uprising and 60th Independence Day will succeed.