69 years of Independence that now tastes bitter and sweet have made us what we are today, citizens of a nation whose long tryst with destiny has taken her on a roller coaster ride. Thousands, young and old have laid their lives willingly for the cause of our motherland, so that generations to come would live and breathe in a free India. The nation’s eventful yet troubled history is a combination of unfathomable struggles and sacrifices, gut wrenching stories of rebellions that were dealt with so ruthlessly by the British that a visit to one of those fabled places of struggle like the Cellular Jail or the Jalianwalla Bagh would make our skin crawl. Those were real accounts of the stiff resistance put up by the Indians, which now seem plucked out of a big fat fairytale book.
They fought, they died and the nation survived while their glory gradually faded away in the forgotten pages of old history books. Most of us don’t even know their names except for a handful of leaders who received adulation and a huge fan following. Their birth anniversaries have been converted into national holidays. But this is another story of the land of paradoxes – India.
Freedom was the common goal of the people of British India. But these 69 years of Independence now seem to prick like thorns at every step. What has freedom given us? The right to give ourselves the opportunity to rebuild a nation, or to divide it further in the lines of religious and caste differences? The duty to collect the broken pieces and stick them together with the virtues of love, brotherhood, kindness and sympathy, or the audacity to isolate ourselves further in the name of castes and communities and start a brawl at the drop of a hat? The responsibility of teaching our kids the values of discipline, cleanliness and orderliness or letting them follow our dirty habits of littering the streets with empty coke cans, chocolate wrappers and crisp packets, spitting uncontrollably and making it worse for those who are engaged in the cleaning process?
And then we call ourselves civilized with an empty knowledge of what civilization means. Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s repeated clarion calls to us to endeavour for a ‘Swachh Bharat’ seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
It must not be forgotten that patriotism isn’t only about laying down one’s life fighting at the border or singing melodious songs on the occasion of the Independence Day, patriotism is also about being a responsible citizen by shunning the acts of littering and spitting on the streets, avoiding unnecessary scuffles with our neighbours, helping our fellowmen in distress and making each day count by contributing something towards the betterment of the society.
Are we sufficiently morally equipped yet to take the responsibilities of building the lives of not just our children but building the nation as a whole? Perhaps it will take another 50 years or so.
What Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, our loving departed former President and Missile Man of India had dreamt about in his famous book ‘India 2020’ may not be possible if we continue to remain within the realms of our selfish little world.
Today the job of a Social Science teacher is not merely to explain and elaborate on the contents of a Social Science text book. They are expected to motivate children to grow to respect our Mother earth, to help preserve precious water, to keep our environment clean and dirt-free, to develop a sympathetic attitude towards the less fortunate and also to be kind to animals for they are at the mercy of humans, the greatest beings on earth.
Sadly, what is being taught in Social Science does not find its reflection in practical life. A string of home assignments and examinations follow, post which, the values are forgotten.
It is the duty of every parent to make their children realize the importance of being dutiful and dedicated towards their nation. What we parents fail to teach our children is, while we make a huge fuss about how many pairs of trousers or shoes we should buy on a shopping spree, there are others who have to make do with a single piece of tattered cloth to cover themselves through all seasons and a single pair of chappals , repairing and re-repairing them till they are torn to shreds.
While our children push away the assortment of foods offered to them at the dining table, there are kids who go to bed hungry almost every night. Whereas we let the tap water running at full force while carelessly brushing our teeth or washing our clothes, there are others who fight among themselves for a glass of water, to drink or to wash.
While we let our children pester us for more toys and chocolates and subsequently, making them demanding by nature, there are children who gently tug at our sleeves on the streets, begging us to drop a one rupee coin on their extended palms. This is the paradoxical nature of India – our India which has many rooms for one and not a single room for many.
While there are millionaires whose electricity bill for a month exceeds the total amount of savings accumulated by a salaried person during his whole lifetime, there are others whose children study by the light of a dimly lit kerosene lamp inside a thatched house that sways with every gust of wind blowing past.
The question that remains now – what can we do as citizens? We can be more conscious of our rights and duties enshrined in our Constitution, we can make a little progress each day by rejecting old practices and developing clean habits for a clean society, we can teach our children to incorporate in their lives the values they get to read in Social Science textbooks, we can learn to be more considerate and sympathetic towards one and all and educate our children to grow up to be respectable citizens of this country.
I am not here to censure or reprimand our people, and even if I have hurt sentiments, I shall not apologize, for, as a citizen, I am here just as a reminder to all, that life is short, but if we can make ourselves more responsible, in the due course of time we shall certainly see a reformed and happier society, and call ourselves true ‘patriots’ of a civilized nation – India.