New Delhi | January 25, 2006 5:13:42 PM IST
"Take this (Indian) flag for twenty rupees only," an ill-clad child says when he approaches you at one of the numerous traffic signals in New Delhi. At that point of interaction, you realize that another Republic Day is around the corner.
Contrastingly, newspaper headlines like "Raisina Hills Fortified" and "14 simultaneous blasts rock Assam" tell us that Republic Day is tomorrow.
As the nation celebrates 57th anniversary of the formation of the Indian Republic, it is interesting to see and hear what the majority of the Indian population, most of which is rural, has to say about January 26.
In the lanes and by-lanes of mofussil India, signs of "National Celebration" are virtually non-existent. Do they know that Thursday is Republic Day? It seems not! Most react with surprise and ask "Oh! Tomorrow is Republic day?"
Just 25 kilometers away from Rajpath, the central point of Thursdays Republic Day parade, where the political hoi polloi, the civilian and defence brass will jostle for space to greet Chief Guest Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, the King of Saudi Arabia, rural India prefers carrying on with its daily chores oblivious to the media glare surrounding the auspicious event, and other side bars like Bofors, Volcker, phone tapping and politics et al.
Republic Day for many is "the day when our country got independence from the foreign country." Ask a few of them that which foreign country ruled us, some reply ‘America’ while others say it is ‘England’.
You can’t blame them, as they don’t have the benefit of being suitably informed in spite of the recently introduced Right to Information Act, illiteracy notwithstanding. Rural India’s Gen X impishly believes that America is and continues to be our tormentor.
Kadarpur village on Delhi -Sohna Road is no different. Here, 40-year-old Roop Chand tells us that "why we bother of what happened on that day, it is just a national celebration, that’s it." He pauses for a moment, and then nonchalantly asks "Any other question?"
Seventy-year old Rama Devi takes in the rays of the early morning sun, and astounds you by her sheer knowledge of how she visualizes Republic Day.
"It is the anniversary for celebrating the introduction of Samdhan (constitution) in our country", and goes on to tell you how she makes "kheer and puri for the occasion."
Perhaps, for her, it is the time to revive old memories- A heart warming nostalgia.
At the Boharpur Government Primary School, Sudha, one of the teachers, suspiciously inquires "Why you are asking such questions to the minors?", and firmly tells us to seek the necessary permission from the authorities.
Teachers of the rag-tag school finally relent and ask few minutes from us to ‘brief’ the children. But children are too young to memorise the lines. They simply recapitulate: "It is a national holiday".
When asked more, they just tell us that "they like to watch the parades at Rajpath and the colourful ‘jhankis’ on TV (television)."
The teachers told us the significance of the R-Day went by reading through a written script, scribbled in five minutes time with ‘valuable’ inputs from her colleagues.
But when asked that "in which year India became a republic?" they thought for few minutes and replied-‘1947’.
Finally, to avoid further embarrassment, the children were asked to sing the national anthem and they obliged in their own innocent way.
The encounter at Boharpur’s sarpanch (village head) house was equally memorable, he used the interaction to eulogise the government’s ‘developmental’ work.
But a confidante sitting close to him could not help expressing himself about what many see today as wasteful public expenditure.
"You are asking me the significance of it (Republic Day). It means nothing to us as it is just another day. The government simply dumps money for a useless parade and no money is given to construct the dilapidated school from where you have just come," he said while another gentleman chips in "At least, there is uninterrupted electricity supply throughout the day on January 26."
As we move down National Highway-8 and request a young urban passerby to sing the national anthem, he gives the "are you joking look", and says "it would be better if you ask me to sing Kajara Re." (ANI)