Independence Day through India and across the World

Independence Day through India and across the World
Back in the 70s, as a 6 year old growing up in a small town of Nazira in Assam, my first memories of our Independence day was getting up lethargically at 6 am on a ‘holiday ‘ and going to my ‘Kendriya Vidyalaya’ for the ‘Swatantra Diwas’  celebrations.

These included singing of our national anthem which I would mostly lip sync as reading-wise ‘Jana Mana Gana ‘ had some pretty tough words for a 6 year old ! A long winding speech by the principal telling us how we were enslaved by the British for almost 200 years until we rose up against the rulers and finally achieved independence on August 15,1947.The highlight of the morning after the flag hoisting were the free gifts of the small flags, ‘laddoos’ and couple of toffees.
 
Those days there was no TV in Assam and for English and Hindi news one had to depend on daily half hour broadcast from All India Radio,Jorhat station between 2.30-3 pm.
 
My father would ensure that on 15 August all four of us gathered around that huge ‘family’ Radio set that told us how Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi  ” unfurled the tri color from the ramparts of the Red Fort in New Delhi.”
 
The above remained the most difficult English sentence I ever heard until Shakespeare hit us with his ‘ thou and thys’ later on in academic life. Mrs Gandhi hoisting the flag  year after year was such a regular phenomenon that I came to believe that she was the only one authorized to make a speech and hoist the tri color on Independence day.
 
Then India discovered oil in ‘Bombay High’ and working for ONGC my father got transferred to Bombay( it became Mumbai only in 1995) and in 1977 the family moved from a sleepy little town in the eastern corner of the country to the city that never slept in the western corner of the country.
 
15 August in Bombay was different from the one in Nazira.To begin with, we could actually watch the new Prime Minister Morarji Desai unfurling the tri color,on our most prized possession,the 21 inch B&W Solidaire television set.
 
Going to the school for flag hoisting was optional but what was quasi compulsory was going down to our ONGC Colony grounds and attend the flag hoisting ceremony and get those free gifts of ‘ladoos’ and toffees.
 
Overall, Independence Day remained as something that our grandparents and parents had experienced and about which we learned from the history text books or something we saw in a B&W films division documentary before a Amitabh Bachchan blockbuster.
 
That changed in November 1982, when the movie Gandhi was released. Thereafter the words ‘freedom’, ‘independence and ‘sacrifice’ had much deeper context and meaning for me.
 
Life went on, grew up with good education and a decent job in the overcrowded Mumbai where a large chunk of the work day was spent in commuting to and from office.
 
During those days,Independence Day meant a welcome break from office, although the tradition of attending the flag hoisting ceremony was maintained. Independence Day also meant that one had to ‘stock up’ on the 14th as August 15 was strictly a ‘dry day’ across the country.
 
Meanwhile India went from strength to strength thru the 80s,90s and 2000s and so did I.Tied the knot and my own family grew from the two of us to four of us.
Mumbai kept getting over crowded and so like many aspiring Indians, we decided to move to Dubai,UAE.
 
As anybody who has lived in Dubai would tell you,the Emirate is Arabic in character but mostly Indian in human numbers as approximately 30% population of UAE is made up of Indians.Majority of Indian kids go to Indian Schools which follow CBSE curriculum and sing both the Indian national anthem and UAE national anthem at the start of each school day.
 
Independence Day celebrations in Dubai typically begin when one notices the presence of miniature ‘tri colors’ in various grocery and convenience stores owned by the Indians. Although unlike in India, there are no young kids selling the flags on Dubai’s traffic signals.
 
As schools in UAE are closed for summer break in July-August there is nothing to mark the occasion in schools.Typically Indians living in Dubai celebrate by displaying the miniature tri color inside their vehicles and outside their apartments.As it’s not a ‘dry day’ in Dubai many families gather together in the evening and raise a toast to India and its unrelenting advances globally.
 
Also,on August 15,traditionally, UAE’s  two major newspapers Khaleej Times and Gulf News bring out thick ‘special supplements’ which are full of articles about India’s progress through the ages.These supplements are full of advertisements from every kind of business house with connection to India.
 
Cut to the present. Since moving to Canada with family,a few years back, I have been celebrating 15 August mostly digitally by changing my facebook, twitter and WhatsApp display picture to that of the fluttering Indian flag with the text ‘Happy Independence Day and wishing the same to everybody on various social media platforms
 
It is my firm belief that since making a home outside my country of birth,I have a better appreciation of  India achievements and progress in the last 70 years. And yes,listening to ‘Jana Mana Gana’ still brings on a rush of those goose-bumps.
 
For all Indians living outside the country,Independence Day evokes nostalgia and typically I try to watch a bit of ‘Gandhi’ on the DVD while also encouraging my son and daughter to do the same. 
 
As they say, you could take an Indian out of India but you cannot take India out of an Indian.
 
JAI HIND !

2015 – The year Modi took India to the World

2015 – The year Modi took India to the World

The Man who flew too much!

The year 2015 is about to end and the World leader who earned maximum frequent flier points would arguably be Indian Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi.

NaMo started sedately though, after assuming office in May 2014,he travelled to just nine countries in that year. However in 2015,the man transformed into a travel Ninja and there was hardly a corner of the world that he did not visit.

Travel-wise, the year started slowly with Modi continuing his bromance with President Obama ( or Barack as Modi lovingly referred to him ) and inviting him to be the guest of honour at India’s annual show of it’s military might… The Republic Day parade on January 26.

This was just a lull before a Modi travel storm. Starting from Seychelles in March 2015,the international travel juggernaut of Modi rolled through twenty eight countries in ten months. That averages almost three Countries a month.

USA,UK,Russia,France,Germany,Canada,China,South Korea,UAE,Ireland,Turkey,Singapore,Sri Lanka,Bangladesh and Afghanistan were just few of the countries where Prime Minister Modi and his travel junkie entourage rested for the night or so in 2015.

From exhorting various developed countries to,’Make in India’ to forcefully appealing to the United Nations to make India a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Narendra Marco Polo Modi was at the top of his game, showcasing and hard selling India to the rest of the world.

The numbers never lie and Modi proved it right over and over again. Everywhere he went, people dropped everything and came to see and hear him.60,000 at London’s Wembley stadium in November, 50,000 at Dubai’s cricket stadium in August, 10,000 at Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum in April.

The deafening non-stop chants of ‘Modi Modi Modi’ at all his public appearances only served to confirm that you could argue against his policies but you could not argue against his charisma and popularity. This travel guru flew around and around the world in 2015 and stopped only to conquer it all.

Whether it was ‘Chai pe Charcha’ with the Queen at the Buckingham Palace, ‘Daaru pe Discussion’ with Francois Hollande in Paris or ‘Vodka with Vladimir’ at the Kremlin,Modi had been there and done that !

But Mr Modi was apparently saving his best for the last.

As the year 2015 drew to a close,Modi decided that he no longer needed a proper official invitation from a foreign Government or follow certain protocols before visiting them.

The need to chalk up one more country in his travel logs hit the Indian Prime Minister so hard that on the Christmas Day,Mr Modi casually tweeted from Afghanistan that he was going on a completely unscheduled visit to Pakistan and simply landed in Lahore.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his administration barley getting four hours notice that the head of world’s largest democracy was en route to their country.

Modi ji arrived at the ancestral home of a flustered Mian Nawaz Sharif, wished him a very happy birthday,gave him a birthday hug and gifts,collected his ‘return gifts’ and returned back to New Delhi before the harried and newly appointed National Security Advisor of Pakistan, Retired General Nasir Janjua could even reach Prime Minister Sharif’s ancestral home near Raiwind.

Perfect example of crashing somebody’s birthday party and not only having their cake but eating it too!

And all this from a guy who since 2005 was unwelcome to fly to US and to Canada since 2002 as well as the UK and many other ‘developed’ countries of the world and who as per his critics…’ would never fly’ with the people of India because of his RSS roots.

Unconfirmed reports indicate that all the countries in this world have signed a document, which says that,should alien inhabited planets ever be discovered in the near future, Modi will be their man to represent planet Earth for a bilateral meeting on those planets.

From a South Asian perspective, two entities consistently made headline this year. Modi who exported himself to various parts of the world and ISIS which exported terror to various parts of the world.

One tried to make the world a better place while the other definitely made it bitter.