On the 15th of August, the day of the anniversary of Independence and the most painful amputation of people in the history of humanity India in 1947 when, in the stirring words of Jawaharlal Nehru, the nation awoke to ‘a tryst with destiny', the heart beats of Indians, Pakistanis - and Bangladeshis too - do feel, in today's lingo, "कुछ, कुछ होता है kuchh, kuchh hota hai ... sensation of something, something."
In my consciousness, the first stirrings of the day were felt in 1951. I was a student of 4th grade in the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial National High School in a grain market town, 20 km from Ludhiana. There was a big Prabhat Pheri - morning procession - by younger activists of local political spectrum of Congressmen in Khadi, the Socialists in several sartorial hues, and the Jan Sanghis in Khaki shorts. They were holding medium size Tirangas - Tricolour Indian flags - shouting "Bharat Mata ki Jai - victory to Mother India" and sometimes "Pakistan, Murdabaad - Death to Pakistan!"
I particularly recall the coloured illustration splashed on the cover of Saptahik Hindustan, a weekly magazine, depicting Pakistan as a Devil with horns and Maulvi beard, holding a flag with Moon & Star, running away from the gun wielding Indian Jawan!
(I feel bewildered to imagine even today: What has really changed for the separated twins since their brutal birth? Are the people commodities to be divided and displaced according to the dirty games among the power hungry maniacs posing as their saviours - Netas or Rahbr-e Qaum?)
This town of my tiny rented home since the summer of 1951 till I was pulled out by destiny in the summer of 1971 to join a career of ‘representing India' had been founded in 1905, on the cross borders of Angrezi Ilaqa (‘British-controlled territory) and the only small Muslim state in East Punjab, by Nawab Ahmed Ali. The Nawabs boasted Sherwani Afghan descent and a marital link to Delhi ruler Bahlol Lodhi. The location of the town on the borders had been ideally utilized by the freedom fighters of Riyasati Praja Mandal (Princely States' People's Council) and Indian National Congress of Angrezi Ilaqa to dodge the police in their hot pursuit, making the town a centre of heightened political activity.
The trend and tradition of political consciousness had continued to persist for about two decades after Independence. The local leaders would stake their prestige to fetch all famous leaders visiting Ludhiana - 20 km away - to address people in the town's Gandhi Chowk.
I was privileged as a school and college student to listen to Jaya Prakash Narayan (JP), Ram Manohar Lohia, Acharya Narendra Dev, SM Joshi, Neta Ji's nephew Sisir Bose, communist stalwarts like AK Gopalan, Sat Pal Dang, Pandit Kishori Lal - not to forget great Jan Sangh orators including Pandit Premnath Dogra, Prakash Vir Shastri, Veer Yagya Dutt. And many singers of patriotic songs attuned to hit film songs.
Meanwhile, the character of politics and quality of leaders seemed to have undergoing a metamorphosis witnessed strange changes after national elections in 1967. The spirit of sacrifice and idealism of the era of freedom struggle, as if, had vanished in two decades!
I must, however, pay my respects to the saffron khadi clad Swami Harivishnu Dass ji, who gladly financed till his last all the expenditures for the function of the Independence Day of hiring the required materials for stage, loud speaker, carpets, cleanliness of the area of Gandhi Chowk, etc. He would make an impressive speech praising Jawaharlal Nehru's leadership and India's rising prestige in the world. Comrade Tek Chand Diwana, the 88-year-old freedom fighter who was also a great football player and famous for playing role of Lakshman in Ram Lila is one of Neta-heroes.
My thoughts on the Independence Day of India (2011) go to the poet-patriot (Padam Shri) Ali Jawad Zaidi (1916-2004). During my posting in Tehran (1975-1977), I had the good fortune to enjoy his enlightening company. When, on the eve of his departure due to retirement, I persisted in asking him about his personal encounters with top leaders during the struggle for freedom, he reluctantly narrated two such experiences.
First, Neta Ji (Subhash Bose) was the freshly elected President of the Indian National Congress in 1937 for the annual session in Haripur. Zaidi Sahib said:
we, the group of the Students Federation of India mildly complained to Subhash Babu that we had worked so hard for his election but since his becoming President of Congress, we are finding it very hard to get opportunity to meet him for deeper discussions.
Subhash agreed with us adding that he had indeed been terribly occupied and asked us about our place of stay. We hesitatingly revealed address of the obscure Dharamshala we had put in.
Subhash said, "please expect me visit you after midnight. And lo, behold! Neta Ji did visit us around 1 AM and spent two hours with us talking about all the current national and international issues."
Zaidi Sahib also remembered meeting with Gandhi Ji. Zaidi Sahib narrated how Sarojini Naidu had arranged the meeting and how their group of students got late due to his bad habit of oversleeping. Ms. Naidu was furious - cursed them and refusing to talk to them. One of the students concocted a false but clever story about a procession and police blockade of the way. The meeting was rearranged through kindness of Mahdev Desai. While his three companions touched Gandhi Ji's feet, Zaidi did not because he believed it to be an act of orthodoxy and indignity. According to Zaidi Sahib, Gandhi Ji continued to ply the small Charkha and enquired about our activities, advising us to engage in some social service among the poor.
"I felt myself in a strangely mystic atmosphere ... and effortlessly, unconsciously my hands were touching his feet when we took leave of Gandhi Ji,' revealed Shri Zaidi, in an emotionally choking voice.
Most interestingly and emotionally so fulfilling for me, I have been privileged to hoist the National Flag - the beloved Tricolour - 19 times in the foreign lands on Independence / Republic Days of India and also read out the messages by our Presidents. The 15th of August has been a day of deep reflections for me for the destiny of Bharat.
Ambassador Anand. Panama. 1997
© Bal Anand 2016
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