Awakening of the Midnight’s Children

The sound of freedom

The sound of freedom

The sweet sound of a flute wafts in from the window as I am enjoying my holiday at home on 15th August. It’s a guy on the street selling flutes and he is playing an old and popular patriotic songs. The music gets a hold of me, tugging at all of my chords of patriotism and nostalgia. It gets me thinking on what does India’s freedom and patriotism really mean to me?

Today, India won its freedom 65 years ago. I wasn’t born then, and I only know about it from the subjective narratives of various authors. The narrative in my school history books was about how evil the British Empire was and looted India (but no one told me that the net outflow was less than 2% of India’s GDP at that time, i.e. the Brits had to spend as much on India as much they took out) till Gandhi arrived on the scene. As per the Indian historians, freedom movement was led by a few good men, but they painted all Brits with the same evil brush. For a dispassionate non-Indian historian, India as a country itself was a fluke and was never meant to be held together given its fractious history of the innumerable bickering kingdoms before Brits came to India. There is another view which never gets spoken about in India – that British empire was bankrupt after the 2nd world war and they just didn’t have the money to run India operations anymore.

I am not alien to the feelings of patriotism. My father served in the Indian Army, and even fought one of the wars. As a fauji kid, I was acutely aware that when my father was posted to the Indian borders, he was going there to defend the country from foreign enemies. There was a possibility of violence and of war. Every political standoff impacted my life deeply – army would get mobilized as the relationship with our neighboring countries went from sweet to sour in the unending cycles. Such experiences probably shaped my feelings about India very differently than the ‘civilian’ kids. My current civilian life feels like a completely different mind-space, as I sit there listening to that flute, at peace.

I think of 15th August with mixed feelings. Does patriotism have a place in this world where economics has taken over politics as the core driver of geo-politics? When the greatest threat to any country is an external economic contagion or the flight of hedge funds? Where a subprime crises in a suburb of California impacts a middle class housewife living in the suburb of Mumbai?

While we need to take pride in what India has achieved in the last 65 years, we also need to prepare ourselves for a lot more inclusive future. Patriotism is going to be an increasingly anachronistic concept in the globalised world and we need to evolve beyond geographical borders which were hacked by random historical events. It is time for the Midnight’s children to wake up to globalization and play a bigger role as a global citizen.

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  1. Dilnaz Karbhary says:

    Hi Rahul ,
    I did’nt know you were a writer too ! But then there is really not much about you that i do know.
    I echo a lot of your sentiments in your article being a fauji child living in the civilian world. It was a tough crossover and i felt very alien to it in the beginning .
    Staying in Bombay does’nt help as truly Bombay is its own country within India . I will never forget instances when this city walks around very normally, even if the rest of India is in deep turmoil .
    For me today Patriotism is different in this sense . I feel that the generation today has very little around us that inspires patriotism . I commend the efforts of the Jindal industrialist – because of whom atleast we can hoist our own flag in our own ( would have to be a bunglow – again not possible in a BOmbay flat 😉 ) homes !!
    We’ll talk over a drink soon !
    So long then ,
    D

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