A NATIONAL FESTIVAL IN YOUR SCHOOL—INDEPENDENCE DAY
Independence Day was celebrated in our school on 15th of August as usual. The lawn was cleaned and a raised platform was erected for the Chief Guest. A pole was erected by its side for the National Flag. There was an order the earlier day that all the students had to remain present at seven sharp. The staff members too had instructed the students in the classes to be punctual. Junior NCC cadets had to come a little earlier.
As I came out of my house I did not find any rumblings in the streets as we generally find on our festivals Diwali or Dussehra, Idd or Christmas. Some people were, of course, going to their offices to attend the flag salutation ceremony. With an uneasy feeling I proceeded to my school. As the presence was essential almost all the boys reached the school before seven. The school has its own playground. Some students were playing the tune of a national song of the thirties written by Iqbal who had migrated to Pakistan after partition of the country.
The Mayor was our chief guest. He arrived just at 7.30 and was received by the Principal at the gate. Just on his arrival the band was silent and the Mayor inspected the guard of honour given by the NCC Cadets. The National Flag was unfurled by the Mayor. The national Anthem was played on the band and all stood in attention.
The Mayor was requested to deliver a speech. The speech was quite impressive. The Mayor asked the students to be great patriots as the great old leaders and revolutionaries were. He referred to great men like Subhash, Vivekanand, Vallabhbhai Patel, Mahatma Gandhi, Rajagopalachari and Bhagat Singh. The students should follow thousands and thousands of Martyrs since the first War of independence in 1857. He referred to the fights fought against the Britishers everywhere in the country. He also talked of National integration, secularism and democratic socialism.
The principal thanked the chief guest and exhorted the students to follow the footsteps of the great men. The whole exercise was rather a mechanical one. For the younger boys the most important thing was the sweets distributed at the end. The students dispersed with happy cry. I wonder if the speeches inspired them or they were happy for they were now free from their captivity in the school.
While returning I noticed that the function was celebrated only in educational institutions and government establishments. What about the rest. Didn’t they feel happy for it was the greatest national festival as the nation was free from foreign yoke on this day? The second was about the day itself. My grandfather had earlier told me that it was the day on which our country was partitioned. It was divided on religious grounds. It was then rather funny to talk of secularism and national integration. My heart was heavy and I spent the rest of the festive day at sea shore.