Freedom struggle of another kind

Wake up, Ravi! We have a lot to do today!’ Ravi’s grandfather shook him awake. He just turned over sleepily.

‘Oh Thatha, it is a holiday today,’ he murmured.

‘But Ravi, it is the golden jubilee of our Independence Day!  I have taken out the tricolour and ironed it. You will have to arrange for the flowers…’

Oh, no! Ravi groaned aloud. His grandfather was like an excited schoolboy on Independence Day. He got up earlier than usual, made all the preparations and decorations and then ceremoniously hoisted the flag in the small lawn in front of their house.

His parents and sister Sangeeta, some of their neighbours and a few of grandfather’s friends were there. The old freedom fighters gave fiery speeches about the freedom struggle. The ceremony ended with the singing of the national anthem and distribution of sweets. Ever since Ravi could remember, this had been the routine in their house on Independence Day.

His grandfather had been a freedom fighter, who had gone to jail several times. An ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi, he wore khadi and spun the charkha at least an hour everyday. It was a sacred ritual with him.

Ravi loved his grandfather. He could easily tell him things, he wouldn’t dream of telling his parents. His reverie was interrupted.

‘Wake up, Ravi! Come on!’ his grandfather coaxed him.

Oh Thatha, it has been 50 years since we got independence.  Even the poor British must have forgotten that they had once colonised our country!’ he teased his grandfather.

But the moment he heard the word British, grandfather became agitated; his eyes blazed with anger. ‘Poor British indeed! Why, they would have bled us dry, had they been allowed to be here any longer! The divided us, sowed hate between brothers…hmph! I can assure you, young man, they were anything but ‘poor’’ he  snorted.

‘But couldn’t you have just ignored them? After all, it is our country…’

‘It was not that simple Ravi,’ he shook his head. ‘They had come to trade, but stayed on to rule. To them, we Indians were mere peasants who needed to be told how to live! Oh, you wouldn’t understand. You were all born into freedom, including your parents! We tend to take freedom for granted till we lose it.’ Grandfather got up to go.

Instantly Ravi felt contrite. ‘Sorry thatha! We’ll have the best Independence day celebration ever!’ Ravi jumped out of bed grinning to himself at his grandfather’s anger. He still couldn’t understand his  insistence on celebrating a 50-year-old ritual though.

***************

It was a couple of weeks later that Ravi’s cousin Anant came to stay with them. His company had sent him on an assignment to Chennai.  At 22, Anant was nearly nine years older than Ravi. Since there was no spare room in the house, he had to share Ravi’s room.  Ravi was excited as he liked Anant.

It was good at first. The two went for movies, listened to music. and played table tennis at the club in their neighbourhood. Ravi talked to him about a lot of things which he thought his Grandfather was too old to understand. It was great the way they shared their likes and dislikes of movies and music. But only for a couple of weeks.

Anant, who had been quite apologetic initially about taking up Ravi’s space, started changing but it was too gradual to be noticeable at first. For instance, he kept his things neatly in his space in the cupboard, but slowly began throwing stuff around. Ravi, who was a cleanliness freak protested mildly not wanting to  upset him.

‘Why, you are positively a sissy! Be a man Ravi,’ Anant taunted Ravi. ‘As if being slovenly was a manly thing,’ though Ravi angrily.

He could sense the change from a genial cousin to a nasty young man. Soon Anant began bossing the younger boy around. Ravi thanked his stars that he had his room to himself during the day at least but weekends were terrible.

‘Open the window a little wider, will you?’ he would say, when Ravi was trying to do a difficult problem. Or, ‘Be a sport and switch off the music. I am trying to sleep.’

This was a surprise since Anant had shared his love for non-stop music before. So he merely reduced the volume.

‘Can’t you be more sensitive to others’ needs? Can’t a man have a little peace in his home?’

Ravi was furious. Who was being insensitive? And what was it about ‘in his home?’  Wasn’t this his home, his room, his music system…

That was not all, Anant had even taken away his privilege of seeing the sports page first. His father used to take it out for him the moment the paper came. When Ravi protested, his mother scolded him.

‘Anant is a guest, after all. You should make him feel at home,’ she admonished him.

He went and sat quietly in front of his grandfather, who was spinning at his charkha.

‘Why the long face?’ enquired his grandfather.

‘Why, he thinks he owns the place, especially my room!’ burst out Ravi. ‘He has even begun arranging the furniture to his liking. The cheek!

‘I can’t listen to music, I can’t keep the light on at night, because his lordship wants to sleep. And yesterday, he borrowed my new TT bat, without as much as a by-your-leave! At this rate, I’ll end up asking his permission even to breathe!’

Grandfather bent down to hide a smile and went on spinning without a word.

Just at that moment Anant came there and Ravi went off in a sulk to his room, closed the door and turned on the stereo at full blast. Almost immediately, Anant banged on the door and when he came in, went straight to the stereo, and turned it off.

‘Listen Anant, this is my room and I will do what I like,’ Ravi said in as quiet a voice as he could manage.

‘Cool it, yaar! No need to get so worked up about the whole thing. As long as I share it with you, you will have to consider my likes too, okay?’

‘That’s precisely it! You are practically unrecognisable. We enjoyed this music together before, remember? What happened suddenly to make you dislike it?’

‘Let’s say, I liked it then and don’t like it now! And now, I have work to do. So scoot, will you?’ he said imperiously, sitting down at the table — Ravi’s table!

He went red to the roots of his hair. It took very little guesswork on his part to realise that Anant had been pretending all along to be interested in the things that Ravi was. It was his way of making Ravi like him and trust him. It had made his worming his way into Ravi’s room and taking over his possessions easier.

There was worse to come. Anant’s stay had been extended by two more weeks. Ravi was devastated. His parents and sister seemed to like Anant. ‘They don’t have to share a room with him!’ thought Ravi angrily. He became more and more sullen and withdrawn.

His grandfather had always been quite understanding but strangely, even he didn’t seem to want to get involved in Ravi’s affairs this time. He listened to his woes silently and at times, Ravi could swear that he saw a smile.

At last the day of departure came! Anant began packing up his bags, and when he left, he didn’t even say a cursory thank you. ‘Good riddance!’ thought Ravi.

The room was at last his own! What glorious freedom! Somehow, getting his room back after having to share it with Anant made it more his own. He couldn’t explain it.

He let out a whoop of joy. ‘Oh, Thatha! I feel like dancing and singing today. My days of slavery are over at last! I am the master of my room again. Now, I can do what I want to. Isn’t that great? This calls for a celebration!’

Grandfather went on spinning. But this time he didn’t hide his smile. He was in fact laughing.

‘What is so funny?’ Ravi demanded.

‘Nothing. I was just thinking of our conversation a few weeks  ago. If this is how you feel after just a couple of months when your freedom was curbed, can you imagine how the millions of Indians felt when the British tried to run our government, tell us how to dress, what to study, how to behave — and continued doing it for over 250 years? Do you have any idea about how so many of us were beaten up and arrested for listening to the speeches of our leaders? Even children were not spared.

‘When Anant was bossing you around and quietly usurping your privileges, how did you feel? Weren’t you just dying to throw him out? I’m sure you now appreciate how we felt when the British left our country for good? Ravi, don’t you think we are justified in commemorating the day we got freedom for our country, even 50 years later?’

Golly, had it been as bad as all that? He tried to imagine the lives of Indians in British India; how the Indians would have felt when their actions had been controlled by the British and they had been forbidden to sing the national anthem. He understood his grandfather’s emotions perfectly!

He knew he would never take his room or his freedom for granted — ever. And then it hit him: here he was, overjoyed at having his room back, while those of his Grandfather’s generation had fought for the freedom of the whole country and its citizens! How selfish he was, and how unselfish and noble they were. And they certainly had every reason to celebrate as did he!

When he looked at his Grandfather, there was something more than hero worship in his eyes.

*******

You might also like the related post Song of Silence. Do read it and leave a comment 🙂

Here’s wishing Happy Indpendence Day to all from the Cybernag!

49 comments

  1. That was such a lovely post.To people who say “What’s the big deal” the importance of Independence Day , this post is the simplest answer.

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    1. It was a children’s story, but you who are children of the 80’s and 90s could also do with a small lesson on the freedom struggle, couldn’t you? 🙂

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  2. Pratibha · · Reply

    I make sure I wear a tricolor badge on each Independence Day. I even offer it to the ones around me. Somehow, people feel I am being a ‘school teacher’. Be it.
    Even I tell my students not to take our Independence for granted.

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    1. Spoken like a true teacher. We need more dedicated ones like you Pratibha.

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  3. Few people realize the importance and value of the Independence day today ! It’s mostly taken for granted…
    Lovely post !
    Happy Independence day !

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    1. hey nice to see you back here. Happy Independence day to you too!

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  4. Hey,
    had been to your post yesterday, but forgot to comment, so free-man don’t you nag me 🙂

    Nice story, liked how you captured the essence of freedom, not only for a nation but for anyone and everyone who is suppressed, and is willing to experience the thrill.

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    1. I won’t nag you, honest 😛 It is easy to understand personal suppression or loss of freedom but to understand in the context of a nation is hard, especially when it involves things that we can”t even imagine! happy Independence Day to you Harish 🙂

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  5. Excellent story! You are right, for us born in free India, freedom is something we take for granted. I believe that we realize the virtue of the most beautiful things in life like relationships, love, health and freedom only when we lose them. Really nice story! I will get my son to read it. Sometimes, these concepts are difficult to understand and explain :).

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    1. I liked the way you have extrapolated the idea of losing and discovering the value of things other than freedom. Aren’t we too complacent that way? But one should not become paranoid about losing these, lest one becomes possessive, isn’t it? I hope your son likes the story. How old is he?

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      1. Yes, fine balance between understanding the significance of something and being paranoid about losing it. My elder son is 9 years old.

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        1. Just a little older than my granddaughter. I would love to know his reaction 🙂

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  6. What a power packed simple story…..Thanks for the required reminder to all…….
    Happy Independence day.

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    1. thanks Soumya 🙂 Gald you liked the idea and the story. Wish you a Happy Independence day too 🙂

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  7. Wow.. What a fantastic (or shall I say simple but effective) way of conveying such a strong message!!

    Loved it.. Jai Hind and Happy independence day to you in advance… 🙂

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    1. Thanks Sunil; I am happy you liked the story. Happy independence day to you too 🙂

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  8. My generation and the generation next is unable to comprehend the struggles and sacrifices.The story conveys the message in a subtle understated manner.

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    1. As I pointed out in one of the replies, the fervour is lacking today in comparison to our younger years. It used to be a big deal and there still was some things which reminded us of the days under the British. Still it helps to remember those who gave us this freedom. 🙂

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  9. Instead of a preachy post she gently conveys what she wants to in a story.

    Most of us take freedom for granted until it is denied to us – point taken.

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    1. I am glad the story has gone down well with my readers 🙂 Thanks Purba.

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  10. Very sensitive and great lesson. Happy Independence to all of us Zephyr.

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    1. Wish you a very happy Independence Day too Mayank 🙂

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  11. A fantastic way to teach the importance of independence. I guess all of us take it for granted cause we never had to face any restrictions on the way we live…

    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful post…

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    1. Hey Vinita, where have you been all these days? Wonderful to see you back here 🙂 Glad you liked the post. Hope to catch you here more often 😀

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      1. Oh I am very much in India..but had been overwhelmed with many things..(Check my blog).I keep reading posts of my favorite bloggers :)….Hope you have been well…

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  12. WOW! Isnt that a wonderful way to teach about the freedom struggle..can I be honest and admit that my reaction to independence day was exactly like Ravi’s and only when I read the second part I realised that its true..thats how the British were! thank you Cyber..you made me a better Indian today

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    1. The freedom struggle was too far back for us to really appreciate the sacrifices and hardships faced by our elders. But it doesn’t hurt to understand the concept at least, does it? Thank you for the words of appreciation.

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  13. A very beautiful story. Loved the way you brought out the analogy and I could almost picture thatha smiling – your descriptions were very vivid. Lovely post, almost brought tears to my eyes!

    It is sad that we have a generation that needs to be told about the value of independence – sigh! Happy Independence day!

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    1. The younger generation can appreciate the term when it is personalised, hence the storyline 🙂 I am glad you liked it.

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  14. What an apt story. Incidentally, I was struggling to explain the concept of Independence to Akshaya today since their school has asked her to bring paper flags to class tomorrow. I told her that India was taken away from Indians and we had to get it back similar to what would happen if someone took her away from me. I will tell her this story the next time – I am sure it will make more sense to her 🙂

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    1. It is difficult to explain the concept of freedom to a child as young as Akshaya, because they ARE free and don’t understand bondage of any sort. But you certainly can simplify the term as you have done 🙂 Nice to have two nieces commenting on the same post 😀

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  15. Thanks for the very instructive story and for your wonderful way of telling it.

    Yet, the discussions about independence leave lot of questions in my mind and end with confusion rather than any clear answers. For us British were the colonizers and when they left, we became free. Yet, there are so many groups in India, that have in the period since our independence, considered us as colonizers and asked for freedom, often with protests and sometimes with violence and murder.

    Ethnic groups, religions, history, poverty, discrimination, all kinds of reasons are used to justify “freedom struggles” of creating their own countries or states or provinces.

    I think that for celebrating our independence day, we need to seriously look at how our institutions can be free and impartial, that recognise human dignity of all the people and don’t lick the feet of who-is-in power.

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    1. The struggle for ‘freedom’ of various groups is a sad state of affairs and would not be there had we taken our freedom from the larger evil more seriously and made efforts to preserve it. Don’t you see that it is vested interests that have created these groups for their short (and even long terrm) benefits and let the country go to hell. Who cares as long as my own coffers are full and overflowing? Politics is a dirty word but in the Indian context it is way beyond dirty and unless a miracle erases the muck we have no hope.

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  16. Wonderful post . Happy independence day

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    1. Thank you Dhiraj and wish you a very Happy independence day too!

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  17. Happy Independence Day Ma’m! I loved the story. We really truly take these privileges for granted when we should be valuing them.

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    1. There are those who still say that these are a waste of time and not a measure of one’s love for one’s country. But the fact remains that we tend to take freedom for granted and therefore are bent on letting the country go to the dogs.

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    1. Read and commented too 🙂

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  18. Archana · · Reply

    very apt interpretation for the current gen. Liked the narration and how the 2 incidents were linked.

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    1. Thanks Archana. It means a lot coming from Gen Y 🙂

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  19. Awesome.
    Happy Independence Day Cybernag

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    1. Thanks Prateek. Wish you a very happy Independence Day too!

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  20. Ltlstar · · Reply

    Mami, I love the way you say big messages to the little and big people alike. Aug 15 is just another day nowadays with no flag, speeches here for me. When its Aug 15, I wish myself and think of school days when we used to make sure to pin a paper flag to our school uniform and wait for the sweets at the end of the event, but also go home with our heads 2 inches taller after listening to the heroic stories.
    Yes, with being born into freedom, I don’t know how it feels to be a slave, but living in another country does make you miss the comfort of home and ARR’s maa tuje salam wells me up everytime.
    Happy Independence day!!

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    1. Nice to see you here after a long time Shilps. Thank you so much for the appreciation. The fervour goes on decreasing — from our parents’ day to ours and on to yours, but as long as the spirit is maintained it is fine. Only when it becomes a ritual does it deteriorate into something crass. Home is home and nothing came come close to it. Wish you a very happy Independence Day too!

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  21. Fantastic post!!!!

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    1. Glad you liked it Anu.

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  22. brilliant post!!!

    HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!!

    JAI HIND!!!

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    1. Thank you Deepak. Very happy Independence Day to you too 🙂

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