Spice of life | When we celebrated golden jubilee of Independence Day
As the midnight approached, AR Rehman started crooning his ‘Vande Matram’ song. The gathering also went wild with chants of ‘Vande Matram’ with a fervour that reminded me of the freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives for the Independence of the countrycolumns Updated: Aug 14, 2017 11:25 IST
I still have vivid memories of the frenzy that captured the sea of humanity which descended that night on the Raj Path, the road that runs from the India Gate to Raisina Hill in New Delhi.
I had just strayed into the historic event organised on August 14, 1997, to celebrate the golden jubilee of the Independence Day. I was working with the news agency United News of India at that time. I was on the desk and had finished my shift during the day. After dinner at a dhaba near my rented accommodation in the Bengali Market area, I extended my post-dinner stroll up to the India Gate to have a glimpse of the gathering.
Though I had thought that I will return just after having a glimpse, the grandeur and spectacle of the event simply sucked me into it.
Men, women and children of all ages attired in colourful dresses had thronged the venue and they were all shouting, screaming and chanting slogans as patriotic songs blared out of speakers hung on poles.
The star of the evening was music director AR Rehman, who had composed a special song based on ‘Vande Matram’ theme to mark the occasion.
A massive media hype had preceded the event that was organised under the regime of the Atal Behari Vajpayee-led NDA government.
People not only from various parts of India but non-residents Indians (NRIs) from different countries were also present on the occasion.
Starting from the India Gate as I moved forward in the direction of the Vijay Chowk to reach near the stage, I talked to several people on the way.
They were all brimming with enthusiasm, most of them holding national flags of various sizes and placards reading patriotic slogans.
There was a lady who exclaimed with pride that she had come along with her children all the way from the United States to be part of the historic moment.
As I reached near the stage, hundreds of youngsters were frantically dancing to the tunes of patriotic numbers.
As the midnight approached, Rehman started crooning his ‘Vande Matram’ song. The gathering also went wild with chants of ‘Vande Matram’ with a fervour that reminded me of the freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives for the Independence of the country.
Amid all that frenzy, I asked a young boy what brought him there. “The love for the country,” he shouted through the high-decibel sound of music and started dancing again. After a while, I asked him what he wants to do in life. “I want to go to the US,” he yelled, totally oblivious of the dichotomy implied in his words.
Two decades later, it seems our country is still facing a similar dichotomy as we are caught into a high rhetoric of nationalism even as thousands of youngsters have their eyes set on foreign shores to realise their dreams.
(The writer is assistant news editor with Hindustan Times)
First Published: Aug 14, 2017 11:20 IST