Another 26 January. Woke up with a call from a blogmate who wanted to know if I had read his Republic Day post yet. He was worried about a number – the Radio said 60th Republic Day, yet it seems, when he had Googled, 1950 is when the Indian Constitution had come into force, so he is concerned it should be 59th to be accurate.
Frankly, I wasn’t sure, because I don’t care, as am not a number person. I just told him if it is Media, it should be careful, somebody should write in to get them to correct it. I went on to think if the day meant anything to me presently, personally, apart from being a holiday.
Nostalgia day, I realized, a day I would want to forget because it makes me miss my father, who is dead (three years now). Then I realized, as offspring, it is my responsibility to keep him alive in my thoughts until I can pass it on to someone else. After all, father has nobody but me, to remember him.
So, what was it like with him around? He loved to be in front of the TV on all 26 Januarys, after his retirement. The Republic Day was one day when everybody had a holiday together. So this was family time proper, everybody would lovingly watch the pageant, the parade, and as a youngster I and bhai, my little brother, was particularly fond of the fighter plane show, “ooooh that’s a Sukhoi?”.
My father was in the Indian Air Force in the beginning before ‘running away‘ to join Bharat Air which later through various stages of evolution became Indian Airlines (Indian today). So talk about aircraft was common in our household, the children seeped in that talk naturally curious about these things. And as each aircraft was displayed, along with the commentator’s, we would hear my father’s own version, as he translated technical jargon to everyday units for us, in terms of distance, span, strength, speed, function etc.
His face would be aglow with a strange pride and excitement. My father is one person I met in my life, who never ever even for ONCE regretted being in India or being an Indian or a Bengali.
Me? O, I complain all the time, when somebody supercedes me in queues, or speaks English to get their way in crowded places, or when am plain-hell serviced badly, I whine about people not respecting value of “time” or “money spent”. Especially, after my five month stint at Wipro BPO in New Delhi, working as Retention for AOL, I wizened up to what service and money and labour meant in the West. I kind of learned to appreciate the attitude – to resource.
I believe, it is because they have such huge respect for things and people as “resource” in the West is why they are developed in so many respects today, it isn’t just money or know-how. The Indian legacy is richer than the West in most respects. I mean, consider the first lock-gated dockyard at the Desert region of Gujarat. Maths, Astronomy, Sports, Measure, Science, Civil Engineering, Metallurgy, Literature, Philosophy, Religion – yet, somewhere this country failed in some major way and ended up being poor and unable to feed its own, without begging or borrowing. The same country that was raided seventeen times and more later for its gold by the likes of Nadir Shah. The same country that traded silk with Mesopotamia (watch Ten Commandments, carefully note the scene where the Egyptian king receives gifts in durbar one morning and from the Land of five Rivers comes a gorgeous piece of red silk saree which Nefertitti wraps around her arms as she feels its cool sensual texture on her skin…) in circa before Christ…dyed its textiles, used alloys….
Anyway, so Republic Day means memory of days spent with my father.
Then after wards, while we ate lunch, we would all listen to Jim Reeves and Leonard Cohen together and Ritu Guha on an old Panasonic 2-in-1 tape deck, which we were all extremely proud of. This day was always a happy-day-at-home which was otherwise a circus with so many divergent thinking assertive people under one singe roof – an Aries mum, a Scorpio bro, pet of the family, a Sagittarian sister with wayward ideas and a calm, Piscean father – shock absorber, buffer to keep everything in fine balance.
Three days later, we would watch the Beating Retreat together. This time it would just be father and me – I personally, loved this part of the Republic Day celebration the best. (If you want to sample the music, this link takes you to where there is a YouTube clipping, I myself don’t know how to upload music files here or wd have made ur life easy for u)
Beating Retreat is the finale to the jazz of the pageant started on the 26. The sombre notes of the bugle and cannon shots and the tone of the male commentator mixed with the colour of the setting sun on the TV screen seeped into our thoughts and stayed in our imagination for days.
This is the sound that made our country’s history come alive in my head, for fleeting moments I would have vision of Rani Lakhsmi Bai astride her sage-brown Arab steed with an arm raised and pointing forwards, shouting her commands, the image of the last Mughal Emperor apologetic and remorseful turning away, his beautiful aristocratic drooping eyes seeking refuge in another page of the poetry book in his hand, the fierce screaming of the dying at the grounds in Punjab, and then Netaji’s speech,
Freedom is not given, it is taken.. One individual may die for an idea; but that idea will, after his death, incarnate itself in a thousand lives. That is how the wheel of evolution moves on and the ideas and dreams of one nation are bequeathed to the next……‘ Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose‘
over Japan Radio and finally, the voice of Nehru’s, with his call of the Tryst with Destiny.