Of cows and independence day!

The little miss, as is her wont these days, has been shooting me a heap of questions. There is not a thing that passes the attention of her senses that just passes by without a question popping up. Be it an earthworm, a snail, a ridiculous honk from an autorickshaw, the neighbour’s loud movie screening, the sartorial choices of her mom (& dad ) etc etc. You get the drift right?

Me and the missus have had to work overtime to ensure that we engage with each of her questions and give her answers. Most of the time she ends with a ‘whatever’ look. Especially when I attempt to answer. The missus fares better.

The ‘whatever’ look is what I remember my physics teacher reserving for me, in school.   She would ask a question and her eyes would droop so much that they would be waiting to roll down her cheek if I was late by another moment. Her shoulders would drop and a smug smile would lurk at the corner of her lip. Her whole body language would seem to be so much waiting in expectation of a ridiculously inept answer. I guess I met her expectations every single time. I would dread those classes.

It is kind of dreadful to think that the little miss reminds me of that time. The only difference now is that the little miss forgets the inept answer in a jiffy and moves on to some easier stuff at the wave of a hand. Like, ‘Can I go touch that cat Appa?’ Or even, ‘can we go say hello to the rain drop appa’? Now, these are like lifebuoys to someone in a cesspool. We survive with her kindness and love.

She has been excited about the Independence Day for over a week now.

“Appa, when are you buying me a gift?”

“A gift? But why?”

“It is India’s birthday appa!”

I realised that thats how Independence day has been positioned in her mind.  Gandhi, Nehru and the freedom struggle can come much later.  For now, if there are some festoons, cake, pizzas and a gift to boot, all is well. Fortunately, the gifts that she has demanded haven’t yet gotten to meaningless stuff that pops a hole in the pocket. A national flag was all that was desired this time around and was dutifully bought too.

So today, on the 70th anniversary of India’s independence, after the flag hoisting ceremony in the apartment complex where we live in,  came another string of questions.

“If we hoist a flag for India’s birthday, why didn’t you hoist one for my birthday?”

Patient explaining ensued.  Of India having a flag and it being a country and that individuals don’t have a flag etc. Inept answers, I can guess. With drooping shoulders she proclaimed, ‘Appa, once we go home, I am going to draw my flag. You have to hoist it for my birthday”.

I demurred in agreement. “My flag will have a cow and a cat in it Appa”.

“A COW?” I spluttered.   The nation would want to know now.  An involuntary muttering of ‘Holy Cow’ under my breath reached her sharp ear.

“Not holy cow Appa”, she said. “Just one nice cow”.

Silence ensued. And then with a momentary pause she asked, ‘what is a holy cow Appa’? I didn’t know where to start. Or end, for that matter. And then, she threw me a lifeline. Actually two.

“If you don’t like the cow, let’s just have the cat in the flag Appa. It is easy to draw the cat “.  A huge sigh of relief clung to the air as Lata Mangeshkar ruled the Independence Day sound waves of the apartment complex.

And then she said, “Can we go to the play area and slide Appa?”.  She was on her way to the play area and shouted out a changed plan.  “I have been on the slide for sometime Appa. Today can you push me higher on the swing?”

“Of course”, I said. “Of course”


Loud and clear

Malls are sporting colour. New colour. In fact, new Tri-colour. There are special discounts that are on. “The independence day sale”, they scream. Of course, they end on Aug 15th. On the day the British foot left India, store owners are are counting footfalls in our malls ! In the name of the British foot that left India sixty odd years back.

Your phone keeps beeping with messages. Wishing you a happy independence day. For a minute you wonder what you should be doing. Send a message back with ‘wish you the same’ typed in. Or what ?!?

Sometimes these texts are messages to the effect of ‘Feel proud’! ( that 36 % of NASA scientists are Indians and such other random numbers. 33 % , 40 %, 20 %, 17.3 % etc are creating magic as Taxi Cab drivers in NY, software developers in Microsoft / Intel / Others, hair dressers in abu dhabi ! etc etc !). [Of course, the rest of us back here are either writing on blogs or swatting mosquitoes !]

You see the man who spouts parochial politics with a casteist tinge is invited to hoist the flag somewhere. He doesn’t hoist it of course. He just makes a pretense of touching the rope and there are a few others who will do the rest for him! Of course, giving a speech.

Some of the words that you would definitely hear today in those speeches : India, 63 ( or 64). Patriotic. Jawans. Brave. Forefathers. Destiny. Terrorism. Unity. Shining. ‘our country’. Future. Superpower. Jai Hind.

Every TV channel worth its satellite dish, is usurping independence with “Live and exclusive” taped on every show. Video jockeys wearing tricolour buttons on their chest while introducing film songs that would want you to beat your chest in sorrow !

There is a celebrity cast in the news channels. Who are debating what we have achieved in all the years as a free country. Silly contrived and meaningless arguments. Most of the loud mouths there make you wonder if they should be locked up somewhere !

Children at home are mega upset that this years independence day has landed up on a weekend. So are you. A Friday or a Monday, would have meant a long weekend! Newspapers carry pictures of Gandhi, Nehru, Mountabatten and such others. There are columns about our years as a free country. Nehru’s speech is recalled.

Its that time of the year. When the tricolour becomes important. A speech is ever pertinent. A moment of silence, and then, ‘patriotic’songs unleashed on a ever so suspecting (expecting ) population.

As you sit and look into the blue skies. There is activity spinning all around you. The local eatery remains open. The milk man runs around. The domestic help turns up sharp on time. As usual. Life doesn’t change for the majority.

Back at the festivity zone, there is an accented Vande Mataram that pierces the i-day air ! The tricolour seems to stay still. As the voice becomes loud. Clear. Deep. With a heavy accent. But you wonder if there was more to it than just an accent, when its sung as … “One-Day Mataram” !!