The Constitution tells us to cherish the noble ideals that led to our freedom struggle. Over 60 years later, that ideal has been reduced to mere pictures and text in history books which are rather unwillingly opened. Time is not only a great healer, but also an opiate of sorts. It lulls the vivid past which soon appears to be painted in rather dream-like colours. The Independence seems to have become a dim memory for most.
Any holiday becomes a cause for celebration and sadly enough, Republic Day seems to be no different. For the beer friendly generation however, there are numerous complaints as the national holiday happens to be a dry day! Like it or not, Republic Day is just another off day in the New Age calendar. Deeptarko aptly sums it up when he says that 26th January holds no significance for him as a day of national importance. It is a much welcomed holiday from school. Even as a child he does not remember much apart from going to the parades a couple of times. Speaking to a few others who are supposed to be heralding the apparently bright future of India, we concluded sadly that Republic Day is, as we would put it, “no big deal”, for us. It never was.
For the generation before us, consisting of our parents, there is a different picture which emerges. Republic Day while not wildly awaited throughout the year, was definitely a fun-filled occasion. Children would wake up early in the morning, since they did not have the Internet with Facebook to keep them awake at nights. There would be trips to school to watch the flag hoisting ceremony. One of the most important traditions would be going to watch the military parades at the crack of dawn. Watching the army march in flawless tandem, the death defying stunts lent a different spark to an otherwise “dry day”, both literally and metaphorically speaking. Mr. Ranajit Chowdhury has very vivid childhood memories of Republic Day. “ My friends and I would go to school for the Republic Day ceremony and would gorge on the samosas and jalebis that we would get to eat there. I would even have a flag hoisting ceremony on my terrace. Then we would troop over to a neighbouring field for celebrations. It would be an enjoyable winter afternoon.” Indira Dasgupta would spend the day with her father who would take her along with her siblings to watch morning shows of children’s films. “This was a Republic Day tradition”, she affirms.
What happened then? Should we blame our parents for not passing on the legacy to us? Or did we just grow out of it? However, it is also true that the generation before us had grown up in the years immediately following the Independence. Some were even born in 1947 just before or after our country became independent. The memory was still fresh, relatively speaking and patriotism had not become outdated, as it is now. We have learned to un-learn the lessons of patriotism because a large section of the youth believe that celebrating the independence of India is no longer relevant as the country has buckled under the forces of neo-colonialism. The country is no longer free, it is just that we can’t see the shackles, is the ongoing refrain. Are we losing our idealism, or is it just that people today are becoming increasingly aware of the current situations around them?
But there is hope yet. In many neighbourhoods around the city of Kolkata, Republic Day celebrations for children are held every year. Children still gather in the morning to hoist a flag. Cynicism can still be outdone.