Nostalgia: The Independence Day is no longer the same, rue many Indians

'That sense of elation, he concedes, has been lost; at least partly because of the attacks on minorities and the PM’s studied silence. We now wonder if we belong', concedes a Muslim citizen

Nostalgia: The Independence Day is no longer the same, rue many Indians
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Mohd Asim Khan

Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, Independence Day used to be special. The ambience would change with shops that normally played Bollywood numbers switching to patriotic songs days before the Independence Day. In schools, preparations and rehearsals would begin weeks before.

The prime minister’s speech from the Red Fort was looked forward to. The small black and white TV would be set up in an open space, the antenna adjusted with diligence to get the clearest picture. People would then sit around to watch the prime minister arrive at the Red Fort and unfurl the tricolour.

We would stand up when the national anthem was sung. A grave uncle would tune in his old radio set and settle alone in a corner. Elders would discuss what the PM said and what they meant. It was not every day that prime ministers would be addressing the nation.

That sense of anticipation is somewhat lost. For one thing, PM Modi speaks all the time. He addresses the nation through his monthly radio talk ‘Mann Ki Baat’. He is on TV every day and speaks to the nation on every occasion. Then he is omnipresent on social media and there are the never-ending political rallies.

“Every PM’s address began with references to the sacrifice of freedom fighters, to our hard-won freedom and the struggle to keep democracy working, “recalls K.S. Narayanan.

Talat, a homemaker, concurs. “Our school was located in the cantonment area in Meerut. We used to have a function at school on August 15. The entire area used to be decked up and we felt very happy and proud. Mother would always cook biryani.”

Anurag Dey, a PR professional who spent his childhood in Benaras and Kolkata, however, says, “August 15th to us just meant a holiday and a day spent playing outside. After Modi Ji became prime minister, the entire event has been turned Modi-centric, what he wears, how he walks, what he speaks, how long his speech was etc.”

“We would fly kites and set up music systems on the rooftop. We felt an indescribable elation. I remember tears welling up on seeing the tricolour fluttering in the sky,” remembers Imran Akhter, a Delhi-based software engineer.

That sense of elation, he concedes, has been lost; at least partly because of the attacks on minorities and the PM’s studied silence. We now wonder if we belong, he says.

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