Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Republic Day is on 26th - The Friday

"Tomorrow is a holiday," announced my nine-year old as I returned home from work
yesterday. "So I'll watch the new Rapunzal DVD."

"First watch the morning news to see the parade," I started off enthusiastically eager
to tell her all about the floats, awards and the rest, only to be dismissed with a casual
"but we are going for the Republic Day celebrations on Friday, then why do you want
me to wake up at 7?"

Alas! she's a product of the weekend-paranoid Gulf culture!

It's almost two decades since I last saluted the tricolour, but each time I hear the
words Independence Day or Republic Day I break out in goose bumps. Watching the
parade on TV was the morning ritual on the 26th. Then off to school... march past,
flag-hoisting and sweets distribution are all so fresh still. We never waited to return
home from school on such days when there were no classes...pelting stones at
tamarind trees and attendants shooing us away, staying in the loo until the driver tired
of honking left us behind, and then taking the longest of routes to reach home,
walking down by the level crossing, just because of the don't-take-the-railroad-route-
if-you-miss-the-school-bus warning...the only part we hated was rewriting the
previous year's essay.

The significance of hating some things in childhood is only beginning to see light
now in the desert. Sad, kids here do not have a chance of doing anything different in
school. All school days are just school days.

Teaching them to sing the National Anthem while hoisting the flag is, indeed, great.
But the pride is missing. Little ones should get that chill down thier young spines
when they see the tricolour go up. In the absence of the pratriotic mood that engulfs
the streets of India on the two historic days, educational institutions here must make
this a working day and offer students a different experience. One that will over the
years turn them into proud Indians. Hold competitions, stage plays on patriotic
themes, dress different, prepare for this day in advance which will help them get into
the mood... rather than an adhoc flag-hoisting session.

No doubt patriotism in India is painted in new colours every year, thanks to some
fanaticians, but children there get to feel the vibrancy. Or at least have political
commotions that erupt with clock-like precision to remember when they grow up,
unlike expat kids who believe only in two days and no dates.

Well, can we blame them? All their birthdays by default fall on the weekends.

P.S. Got an invite. A regional association is celebrating Republic Day on Friday,
January 28th.

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