All the privileges of independence that we take for granted

When the air in our rooms stink, we do everything possible to freshen it. But when things stink in the country, we merely blame the system.

My grandfather was a freedom fighter who was jailed a couple of times during the independence movement. What I remember of him is an old tired man being taken care of by his daughters.

He was one of the recipients of the Tamra Patra from the Government of India. I remember him freely sharing smiles and roses from the gardens with people passing by, to the extent that he came to be known as Rose Tatha.

He could not find a single shop selling coffee the day Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated. He vowed to give up coffee that day and remained true to it. He inspired my mother too — she never became a coffee drinker.

I too do not drink coffee, though others in the family do.

Independence day always brings back a lot of memories of my maternal grandfather, the struggle he and his family went through and the journey of each of them post-independence. Bitter sweet thoughts.

‘Only those born prior to 1947 know what independence truly means,’ my mother would say often. She had after all participated in many Congress meetings and other freedom related events during her childhood. Much as I hate to acknowledge it, what she said is indeed true.

Tamrapatra: Given by the Govt. of India to the author's grandfather, Shri T S Sampath Kumaran on the 25th anniversary of India's freedom. His name is inscribed in Kannada at the bottom right corner.
Tamrapatra awarded by the Government of India to my grandfather, Shri T S Sampath Kumaran on the 25th anniversary of India’s freedom. His name is inscribed in Kannada at the bottom right corner. Pic courtesy: Deepa Vaishnavi

Recollections of an independent childhood

I lived in big-sized houses in townships during the first 18 years of my life as my father worked in steel plants, in Bhilai first and then in Vizag. Everything from school to shops and play grounds were literally right next door. These plants started in 1955 and 1982 respectively.

I did not have to struggle to get an education — in fact, thanks to my KV schooling and being a ‘girl child’, my annual school fees was a mere Rs 60. The Kendriya Vidyalaya was established in 1963.

Read more: Independence means having a choice…and being able to live it

My father’s first scooter in the early 1970s was an Indian made Lambretta (CPR 2019, I think, was the number), for which he had to wait for months after booking it. Prior to that, the humble cycle was the only mode of transport for him and his family. He later owned a Fiat for a while that had been manufactured by PAL during the early 1970s. He drove a Maruti Van during the latter part of 1980s. All Indian companies.

I was a recipient of the NTSE Scholarship during my under grad and post-graduation days. This flagship activity of NCERT commenced in 1963, within two years of the latter’s creation.

An HMT watch was a much sought after and a prized possession at home. Till such time Titan Watches entered the scene. Every educational milestone was marked by a watch being gifted.

Like most students in townships during the 80s and 90s, it was a matter of great personal prestige if one got into an IIT or IIM. I managed to complete my postgraduation in Bangalore University. All three were founded between 1950 and 1964.

At the time of his retirement at 58 years of age, my father’s salary was around Rs. 3000. My starting salary was Rs 4000 and I went on to earn many times over during the years that followed.

That reminds me… I started my career in a start-up IT company in Bangalore. This was possible only after the city was recognised as the IT Capital of India, say around 1984?

My mother continued her passion for music and arranging dolls even after my father passed on. She went on to establish a locality-based senior citizens’ organisation that is functional to this day, even eight years after her passing. I do not even want to think of how things would have been for her if we had not been an independent country.

All my new freedoms, from Portuguese Goa to an independent India

Freedom and entitlement

Independence, for me, is something I have grown with. I take it for granted, like the presence of air in the atmosphere.

Sometimes, the air stinks. If it is at home, I open the windows to allow in fresh air or I use some air freshener to drive out the smell. If that doesn’t help, I try to find the source of the bad smell and remove it. If it is someplace outside, I usually hold my breath / cover my nose and try to get away from the smell at the earliest.

However, when things stink in my country, I merely complain, forward messages and blame the system. All because I pay my taxes and feel entitled. Entitled because I have been born in a free country.

Now is as good a time as any to acknowledge the various blessings that my country has to offer and see how I can freshen up her air. And leave behind for the future generations a glorious country that my ancestors worked towards freeing.

Wishing you happy Independence, now and forever.

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