It’s that time of the year again when we see the mini-tricoloured flags being sold at the traffic signals. Of course, the Indian Independence day means a lot more than hoisting or flying the Indian flag, but it sure feels good to see the saffron-green-white everywhere from mini-flags to fashion merchandise to on-screen logos. Though it seems as if we are commoditizing the Indian tri-colour, symbolizing the patriotic spirit in tangible terms in a way helps imbibe the true spirit and pride of being an Indian, at least for children. Why….., as Indians living in the US, didn’t we embrace the blue and red hues on July 4th? So, why get cynical on August 15th and instead celebrate the India we love and the India we want to love!
That said, it has been increasingly felt that the Independence day celebrations has been reduced to mere symbolism or some sort of a cultural event for kids to show off their talents on the patriotic front, which they happily forget once the day is over. What does freedom really mean for the younger generation today? Is it a case of too much freedom today or too little value for the freedom once fought hard for?
The kids today are unaware that the independence we celebrate today was won by a long and prolonged struggle against the then British establishment. So much so that I was taken aback as Abhay asked me if Bal Gangadar Tilak was a bad person as he was jailed. Of course, one may ask the same question about the recent events that had people imprisoned on the grounds of sedition, but that is however question for another day. As of now, I realized that there is not much he knew about the Indian freedom struggle. So for this year’s independence day, we picked out “A Flag, a Song and a Pinch of Salt” by India’s most prolific writer of history for children, Subhandra Sen Gupta and brought out by Puffin Publications. While this is not a book that we could finish at one go, this work of non-fiction takes you back to the beginning of last century when the seeds of Swaraj were sown, with people from different walks of life, from lawyers, to writers, to teachers, to businessmen, all joining in the movement…. …determined to make India free. While the main architects of “Mission Freedom” have been featured, the book also throws light on some lesser know names and events that in their own way contributed to the uprising that culminated in India’s independence over seventy years ago. Written in a simple and contemporary narrative, interspersed with interesting anecdotes and legends, this book acquaints the reader about the extraordinary lives of freedom fighters from Mahatma Gandhi to C.Rajagopalachari, from Bikaiji Cama to Birsa Munda in an engaging and non-text-bookish manner. Though meant more advanced readers aged 12 and above for independent reading, this compilation nevertheless makes for an interesting shared reading experience for children who’ve just begun to get curious about what Independence day means. Happy Independence everyone!