Every year I put out this article or a form of it hoping someone will agree. Lonely me.
So far no one has patted me on the back and said, "Good for you, you have a point."
So, I soldier on.
I have no hesitation in celebrating all that is wonderful in my country. I am in awe of our diaspora that has made its mark around the world. Our people have reached the pinnacle of the arts and sciences. Our music resonates in every genre of sound. Indians have made business acumen their forte and whether it is retail or finance, aviation or shipping, trade or commerce, medicine or education, Indians are part of the spearhead at home and abroad.
On this canvas, I find it difficult to see any virtue in recalling the colonial yoke and celebrating Independence. We shouldn’t have let the East India Company to tea into the country anyway. And our princely states gave in pretty easily. That was an aberration that lasted far too many centuries and while it is vital to remember the lessons from that history and that abject sell-out, today’s 1.2 billion people no longer need pomp or splendour to mark the occasion.
From my point of view and without being far too dramatic, most Indians did nothing to achieve that freedom. Those who served in the armed forces in the Second World War or joined the bureaucratic civil services were all forms of semi-surrender.
If we have over run that island that’s because it was a broken empire at the end of a brutal war and it was Britain’s need for rebuilding that spurred the 1947 departure of the jewel in that crown. Only a handful of super-patriots risked their lives to take on the colonists while the majority did nothing but aid and abet the invaders.
In Goa, there are still people who long for the yoke.
So, it is an annual indulgence in vanity that we hop around on 15 August and engage in self-congratulations. I'd rather this day was dedicated to the elimination of not just the common enemies of mankind like poverty, injustice and disease but also to the homegrown viruses of caste, corruption and an absence of hope against sexist prejudice, infanticide and greed.
Rather that than all that speech-making stuff that neither does anyone really need, nor is it any more relevant than the shibboleths and sermons and soda-water of the last half a century, present incumbents reading with mind-boggling insincerity from the very same script. The president’s speech is usually soporific and every embassy has to read it out aloud.
No, let’s change the system, let’s change the dynamics and talk on 15 August of what is to be, not what is.
The house is not in order. The current mood is sullen and hostile. The united fabric of India itself sometimes seems in jeopardy and the power of youth and technology is staggering and held in check by a very fragile rein. People want more in their quality of life. Their bristling sense of outrage at being left on the fringes is tangible.
The acid of the untruth-fed generations is eating through that resolve and no one really believes in the political promise any more than they do that a borrower will return their loan.
This year again, we will recall for a brief moment the Unknown Soldier without knowing why and certainly not prepared as a nation to do the men in uniform any reverence for the next 11 months and 29 days. Then the verbal volleys, replete with their hypocritical content will be hurled from a thousand microphones to tens of thousands on different TV screens and the martyrs of the past will be dusted and pulled out the drawer of distant memory, given a bit of a hurrah only to be wrapped again till next time.
Let the rope go. It’s over. The British have gone. There is no need for this day to be special except as a mark of respect to those who fought for our freedom and for the fact that no foreign flag will fly on our ramparts again. Make 15 August count for more than window dressing.
Let’s just leave it for 26 January, when we became a republic and take pride in that and lay down the bricks of the future on freedom, liberty and justice for all.