An overwhelming majority of us were born post 1947. In fact, 65% of the Indian population is below the age of 35. That translates into simple math of around 780 million citizens who have been born after the year 1980….almost 33 years after India gained independence from British rule. What then does Independence day signify to these 780 million young Indians who are children not only of a well and truly post-independence India but also a post-liberalization India?
My observations: Independence day eve and we are all ready on Whatsapp, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr etc. (despite the pain from the carpal tunnel) to try and be the first to post the “Happy Independence Day” messages at the ‘stroke of the midnight hour’. The actual day starts off with some of us posting pictures of us attending a flag hoisting ceremony somewhere decked up in full ethnic regalia. After all, we want our friends (or friends of friends or the public at large) to know that we are the flag-bearers of national pride and those who wear ‘Desh Prem’ on our Kurta’s sleeve. We spend a few hours on the big day returning congratulatory messages and engaging in the game of re-forwarding, re-tweeting, liking and commenting until such time that we feel we have achieved ‘maximum impact’. Finally, some of us cap off the big day on the social media platforms of our choice with more photos of us attending an Independence day theme party with the Saffron, green and white of the tricolor perfectly playing its role as the ‘trend du jour’. The clothes, the decor and the food all have a ‘Trilcolor theme’. There might even be a ‘Tiranga’ Martini!!. I don’t want to generalize but the matter of the fact is that 99% of us engage in the aforesaid pageantry to varying degrees including yours truly.
So is it merely another national holiday when we all get to enjoy a day off; a day when a marathon of patriotic themed movies makes its way across our television screens? It is all well and good to remember and pay tribute to our founding mothers and fathers by waxing eloquent on all media portals and saluting our flag fluttering on the ramparts of the ‘Lal Quila’ or shedding a tear or two in remembrance of our heroes whilst watching the aforesaid patriotic potboilers. But do the youth really get the essence of this day, are they really cognizant of the price that was paid to gain this hard fought independence and the true debt of responsibility we owe to our country to have the privilege of living and breathing in an independent India? Perhaps, we don’t and most likely we have taken this independence for granted.
Most of us count our national holidays as ‘paid time off’ which we are ‘entitled to’ and a day which we use to rest and relax or spend time with our families in picnicking or at home watching movies or engaging in similar pastimes. I have no issues with the fact that we get the day off from work (our professions) . In fact, I think we should get this day off but not for using it for our personal ‘powering down’ but instead to ‘re-boot’ the nation. I think we ought to start thinking about what we should really be doing as citizenry on such days of import to truly honor the memories of those we celebrate.
I have a few ideas this year to get the ball rolling and I would like to share those with you which I believe will not only help us appreciate the sacrifices of our freedom fighters but also help us appreciate and value the freedoms we enjoy today. For starters, I think each and every one of us between the ages of (18 – 45) should spend at least half a typical workday i.e. 4-6 hours of a national holiday performing some socially useful and productive work that benefits the communities we live in. The only ground rules are that we undertake this activity with our families and local communities so that we build and strengthen the familial and community bonds and also that we exhibit the same devotion during those 4 hours as we do whilst in prayer. Here goes:
- We can start with picking up trash especially the ubiquitous and non-biodegradable plastic bags and bottles. We can then collect these in central holding bins which can then be picked up by the recycling companies. We achieve multiple benefits by doing this a) We rid our environment of these toxic plastic products which as already said can’t be broken down by bacteria and which also contain very harmful toxins like BPA. These toxins then find their way into our soil as ‘plastic dust’ (after being degraded by light; ‘photodegradable’) and then into our underground water and then into our produce and finally into our bodies. b) we help in more recycled plastic being produced thereby reducing the production and proliferation of any new plastic bags or bottles which is in itself a huge respite for our planet.
- We can help our municipal bodies to cover as many open manholes, drains and bury any open bore-wells and other such potentially dangerous hazards. We will potentially be preventing many accidents from occurring and hopefully also prevent many innocent young lives being lost (the death-trap of open bore wells) .
- We can plant 5 saplings within a 200 meter radius of our homes and pledge to ensure that we we will do everything that is necessary i.e. regularly water, build a fence around the sapling etc. to keep that plant alive till it’s first anniversary or exactly a year from that particular national holiday. Just imagine if only 200 million people participated and pledged to do this we would have approx. a billion trees being added to our planet in one year and if we were to continue at this rate we would have added the same amount annually with nature pitching in once these plants started flowering and pollinating. Imagine the fully realized power of this when I’m talking about only 1/5th of our population joining in now!!
- We can commence the building of rain water harvesting systems in our respective societies, homes and businesses (if possible) and have it completed prior to the arrival of the next monsoons so that we start collecting rain water at that time. Again, an example of setting a target on Independence day this year which we want to accomplish by the time the next anniversary comes around. Rain water harvesting has several benefits: We mitigate the run-off of rain water and silt into storm-water drains thereby lessening the chances of clogging of these drains and the resultant flooding of our roads and thoroughfares every monsoon season. The water harvested can then be used for toilets, laundry, watering of plants (the very saplings that you planed earlier!!), and general washing and cleaning of infrastructure and equipment thereby reducing the burden of the water supply which are already stretched thin and precious ground water which is all but disappearing.
These are just a few of the myriad things that we the youth of India can bring to bear to not only benefit our community, our country, our planet but also in doing so discover a deep appreciation for the Independence we have and maybe from that point on strive to keep it from devolving into a culture of dependence that constantly looks for someone else to solve our problems, the very problems that are most likely of our own making. Our forebears earned (with their blood, sweat and tears) and bequeathed to us an Independent India. Let us now solemnly resolve to bequeath to our future generations a vibrant, flourishing, clean, uncorrupt, affluent, sustainable and Independent India which our forbears had most likely envisaged. We can materialize this vision one Independence day at a time.
“Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions and the spirit of men…” ~ Mahatma Gandhi