Mother India smiled, free from all worries
I woke up with a start from a deep and sweet sleep, the kind that you normally get just before you wake up or are woken up. It took me just a moment to realize that it was not the alarm that had woken me, but a dull thud outside the main door of my house.
It was August, 15th, INDEPENDENCE DAY, I realized, as I opened the door to investigate the source of the dull thud that had pierced the sweetness of my sleep.
Damn! I swore under my breath.
It was the newspaper which lay rolled and tied with a rubber band lying in a puddle of water left by the late night rains. In spite of repeated requesting, cajoling and threats, the Newspaper boy still indulged in his favourite pastime of flinging the newspaper around to his heart’s content. We were an independent nation and he was free after all!
I sat with my morning cuppa, poring over the now blow-dried and hot newspaper. I was searching for NEWS, but the paper was filled with advertisements; brands from computers to cars and creams to construction, everyone had jumped on the Independence Day Bandwagon.
‘Freedom from Clutch and Gear’, proudly screeched an automatic Car brand.
‘Break free from Pain, this Independence Day’, gravely pronounced a Hospital brand.
‘Special Freedom Offer’, sang an App Brand.
‘More Freedom to give your Kitchen an elegant makeover’, cooed a Kitchenware brand.
“Freedom from financial worries’, assured an Insurance brand.
‘15% discount to the first 69 bookings’, announced a Construction brand.
The pages of the newspaper were filled with advertisements and I desperately searched for news. I noticed a small news item about how some ex-servicemen who were protesting in Delhi were roughened up. On another page, I read about yet another Farmer committing suicide. As I turned the pages, I read about a survey in the cities of Bangalore and Bhopal where almost 90% of the women surveyed had responded, saying that they found Bus Travel unsafe in their cities.
I kept the newspaper aside and got ready to drop my son to school.
As I drove towards the school, my mind dwelt on the meaning of Independence and what it really meant and whether we really deserved it. I was jolted back from my thoughts by the loud honking from the car behind me. I was at a traffic signal and waiting for the light to turn green, and I could clearly see the timer saying it was 60 seconds for the light to turn green.
I turned back in my seat to see the man in the car yelling and madly gesticulating to me to move on. I glared back at him and stayed put till the signal turned green. As I moved forward, the car behind me sped and overtook my car literally brushing past it and the driver swore at me as if I had committed a crime by following the traffic rules. After all we were independent I thought sarcastically.
I was on my way back after having dropped my son at his school and was again at a traffic signal when my mind yet again on its own volition went back to pondering over Independence and its meaning. I recalled one another news item which mentioned that last year Rs.320 crores were spent by the Government on the 4 hour parade on Independence Day. As I mulled over these Crores of rupees, an old woman knocked on my window, her hand outstretched, begging for money or so I thought. But as I lowered the glass, I could hear what she was saying, ‘I have not eaten since yesterday’, please give me food, I don’t want any money!
Something in her face and expression moved me, and I made her sit in the car and took her to a restaurant nearby where I bought her a hot meal. She ate as if she had not eaten for ages, gulping the food down as if someone may snatch it from her. I was afraid she would choke, but she was fine and soon finished the food and looked at me with a huge smile. As I looked at her, a tear found its way out from one of my eyes and dropped silently on to my left wrist.
I was back in the car with the little Indian Flag, that I had bought for my son from the little boy who was selling them at the traffic signal and my thoughts still were on Independence Day and its true meaning.
The traffic signal turned green and with a sigh I eased the car into the traffic, thinking;
Yes, we are independent, but whose independence is this after all?
And then from the corner of my eye, I saw the old woman waving at me, the huge smile still on her face and I thought: “Mother India smiled, free from all worries”.
Do check out our article on Incredible India here.