On Sunday, January 26, India will celebrate its 70th Republic Day. Over the past seven decades, India and Indians have excelled in various sectors and paths, renewing its place in the global order. We of course, cannot miss the contribution of Indians abroad who have conquered milestones after milestones in the fields of business, finance, education, culture, arts, and others.
Indians overseas take justifiable pride in the nation's progress on the path of liberty, equality, and fraternity. The Indian Republic was born on January 26, 1950. 70 years do not seem long enough in the annals of history. However, if one closely follows its progress, they won't stop short of marvelling at its success today. There may be many of you, who were in schools in Mumbai State during the celebration of India's first Republic Day. You will remember that the government had distributed two annas to every student in the schools to mark the occasion. It was not a small effort to make the day unforgettable.
I, myself, have certain clear memories of that day...
I was in the fourth grade of Bhadran's Tulsidas Bakorbhai High School. After prayers, headmaster Pandya Saheb enthusiastically explained the importance of Republic Day to over 350 students. Not much usually stays with restless 13 year olds, especially when coming from the headmaster.
Dear readers. If you were one of the blessed ones who could experience our first Republic Day, you would know where I am going with this. As time passes, and the world around you evolves. And before you know it, all your special moments are nothing more than memories imprinted in your head that you can replay whenever you choose. I remember one such incident.
After the prayer and headmaster's story, our school ended. Dressed in a pair of shorts and a shirt, my tiny fingers were clenched tightly around those two annas, I too had received. After school, most of the students rushed to the small carts outside to buy snacks, and peanuts. Makarsankrati had just passed. I vividly remember carts selling dried dates too. Children swarmed around these vendors, but not me. My small group of friends and I ran home. We yelled “Praja Praja” (Short for Prajasattak Divas – Republic Day) as we reached closer. Our young minds could barely hold the full word.
My mother held me by my arm and sat me beside her. She asked my intentions with the whole two annas I had in my palm. I told her fellow students bought sweets and snacks with the money. So I too intended to bring something. She advised me to buy some string to make a toran with the money to hang along the street. She asked me to go buy a string with the money and pick some leaves from the banyan tree nearby.
My young mind quickly liked the idea. I rushed to a nearby store having convinced a couple of friends too. “What do you want?” asked Purushottambhai. Swiftly handing him the two annas, I said, “I need a some string.” Curious, he asked why. “Today is our Republic Day. I need it to make a toran,” I replied matter-of-factually. Impressed with my intentions of using the money, he asked his assistant to give me an extra 10 feet over the 20 feet rope in exchange for the money.
Our small gang of boys then ran to pluck leaves, and then two of us sat down to make a toran. Our childish zest was at its peak and while the string seemed never-ending, we found ourselves short on leaves. After almost three hours of what seemed like a massive task, our toran was finally ready. We not only decorated the courtyard, but managed to cover a couple of walls too. The whole area gleamed with our decoration. We were impressed with our skills.
As we stood there priding ourselves at our work, someone yelled 'Jai Hind' and our entire courtyard roared with the two words. My group and I were bright with ourselves. But it was the next day, that we experienced true happiness.
Our deputy headmaster Sanghvi Saheb, and his three teacher friends RM Shah Saheb, Pancholi Saheb, and Bariya Saheb would take a walk along our street every evening. That day too, they walked by, only to be surprised by the decorations. They stopped and inquired about the decorations with one of the elders standing near the entrance. The reason amused and impressed them. The next day at school, they recognised our celebration after the morning prayers and commended us. They asked all students to learn from us.
I informed them that the idea originally belonged to my mother. Sanghvi Saheb specially praised her, my friends and I floated around school with our collars turned up the whole day.
Patriotism, community service ; these words and the feelings they evoked in me came at a later stage in my life. However, as time passed, I realised it was my mother's advise to tie a toran that had planted the seed. Now, I can't speak for how much I stood true to her expectations, but I can vouch that I always strived to walk on the path created by her.
Dear readers. A simple look at where India stands today will give you a clear idea of how much the country has achieved in the last 70 years. On the top ring of every field, it has a respectful identity of its own, and so does every Indian or people of Indian-origin.
Happy Republic Day. Jai Hind.