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Invitation to a party

Let’s not just stick to statutory ceremonies this Independence Day. Let’s celebrate.

india Updated: Aug 14, 2009 22:28 IST

Call us naive, but when we look at the sepia-tinged photographs of the thousands swarming around the official buildings of New Delhi and other Indian cities on August 15, 1947, we sense a rush of envy. The first day in independent India is recorded as a spontaneous mass outpouring of joy and celebrations. Paradoxically, you don’t get to see many flutters of paper tricolours as you do today.

Instead, you peer into the faces and find a different kind of energy that can only come from waters bursting forth a dam. But even then, the seeds of a tangible disconnect between official ceremony and popular celebrations was noted in a front-page report of The Hindustan Times of August 15, 1947: “It was a pity that the man in the street got little chance of seeing the function [that climaxed at the midnight hour of August 14-15, 1947, inside the Assembly Hall]. Perhaps there was philosophic justice in the ceremony being observed mostly by those who were loyal to the former regime.”

Things have moved on since that day. But one thing seems to have settled into a habit: the rather restrained nature in which Indians, proud of their nation and what it represents, are made to celebrate the commemoration of our freedom. Patriotic pride is largely channelised only through statutory functions that have taken the sheen of a seasonal gesture rather than a ritual backed by real pride and joy. (Perhaps Independence Day events in schools and neighbourhoods are the real sources of uninhibited pride on show.) Add to that are the obstacles that even make August 15 a date to mark on the calendar for the wrong reason: to stay put at home. The VIP cavalcades up and down Red Fort in Delhi are replicated in other metros of the nation. The rules of displaying the national flag have thankfully become more lax than before, but the tricolour still suffers under a strange complex that disallows it being the symbol of unfettered patriotic ‘coolness’. (The only happy exception being displayed on the faces of sporting fans.)

To be independent as a nation is to be independent as a citizen. So as a mature, proud nature not nervous of mixing its pride with gaiety, let’s raise a glass to India’s 63rd day as a free country and party.