by Nuggehalli Pankaja
(Bangalore, Karnataka, India)
DAWN……as usual, but, with this difference—WE WERE FREE!
Free at last from the yoke of servitude crippling our personality from so many years! (1776-1947) And we had achieved this through sheer AHIMSA, setting an example to other countries crying out for freedom likewise.
Along with the air of exhilaration, a tinge of apprehension also…….Will we be able to rise up to the occasion? Learn from the heavy price paid due to our disunity of past? THE FATE OF A GREAT HOARY NATION WAS IN OUR HANDS,BEGGING US NOT TO REPEAT HISTORY………
People spilled out into the streets as never before, waiting for newspapers, discussing the speech of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru proclaiming our Independence exactly at midnight just gone. And what a speech! One to find a place in the annals of rhetoric! “At the stroke of midnight hour, when the whole world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.”
That powerful sentence had all of us crowding around the radio. (There was no T.V then, few houses had telephones) experience an unparalleled thrill! Mother India herself must have experienced it coursing through her veins when that speech known as ‘Tryst with destiny’ went on awakening her children to the huge responsibilities looming before them. “Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenges of future?” When the strong voice questioned, all of us automatically nodded in assent, realizing freedom was not just a bed of roses as envisaged. World around would be looking at us with a mixture of feelings, some with expectancy, some with trepidation, aye, quite a few with misgivings. We had to prove ourselves and set an example to other dominated parts of the world.
Long after Nehru’s speech was over, elders sat discussing, right from the freedom-struggle to this dream-hour, while we youngsters tried to glean with rapt attention. Never had we ever felt so involved with British Raj; The scene must have been the same in all households. Next two days were feasts with distribution of sweets, pujas at temple in the name of Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, Rajaji, even Jinna, et al. (For, had he not parted amicably?) Pujari wanted to know the gotras-nakshatras of the leaders before doing archana, then decided to allot Vishnu-gotra enmasse.
The servants were also happy, thinking their penurious days were over. What they wanted was lands to till – education of children had not yet made its mark. Even hereditary bonded laborers looked up with hope at the photos of Gandhi and Nehru, certain they would also be freed. Nehru had assumed the form of Devata, and fairy tales were woven around him. “Now, we can face the Britishers as equals, and assert our rights’- England-returned Indians, and those working in their firms lifted their heads proudly, inferiority complex ebbing away. But some of the old timers, especially those who had been in Government service, hence enjoyed benefits, along with pensions, did feel a bit apprehensive. Their cocoon of security threatened, and could be seen studying ‘Hindu’ the only popular daily then. Many of the youths who had boycotted college in the name of strike, found it hard to resume studies, and opted to take up politics through Congress, the one and only powerful party of All India stature then. Sarojini Naidu, Vijayalakshmi Pandit, et al, became role models of girls, and silent rumblings of rebellion-cry for emancipation of women began setting a new trend.
Most remarkable part art of the independence was the co-operation extended by all the Maharajas of the numerous states!.Credit goes to Vallabhai Patel.
Though the partition had taken place without bloodshed, much of it was shed unnecessarily on both sides soon after the partition. Though both Governments were alright with each other, people on either side would not let it be so. Hindus and Muslims who had lived in close amity from so many years, suddenly found themselves enemies!
Many had the foresight to shift before the partition, but those who stuck on, unable to tear themselves from their roots, and stayed on with blind faith in their friends-neighbours, had the shock of their lives when human feelings were overpowered by callous beliefs. Rich becoming beggars overnight, honour rent, families torn, some escaped,to start life afresh as refugees in a strange country; all because they were of a different religion! Residents of north India-both Hindus and Moslems, had nightmares escaping from the communal warfare.(i> “Amma, idena svaatantrya?”- Maidservants began to ask, seeing the pathetic state of refugee women. We were also bewildered. Authors of all Indian languages started reeling off stories, dramas, poems, novels, even films based on that tragic theme. Many masterpieces have flowed from the pen of eminent Indo-English writers also, classified now as period-writings enlarging the vision of the present generation.
Yes, but where was Gandhiji on Independence-day?
In Noakhali helping out the victims of partition. ***
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