Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Independence Day

I always stand up if the Indian national anthem is playing. Always. And I will deny this if we ever meet in real life – I even stood up when it was sung in uber corny movie K3G. I’m not sure if initially it was patriotism or just ingrained habit or just school parades for Independence Day. I am sure that now it's patriotism.

I am not going to wax lyrical about freedom from the British, partition and modern day India. Others do that far better. For me it's about being patriotic, if from a distance. And this year I shall do a better job of it than the short post last year. Although I must say that Nehru's speech was brilliant and maybe at that point no more needed saying.

There is something about living away from my homeland that brings out the patriotic in me. It’s akin to never having been closer to my folks than after I got married and moved out of their house. Suddenly my bones, blood and skin are more Indian. My brown-ness and strange neutral accent are special (only to me; they are just strange to people here).

Now that I live 8 flying hours away from India I take every opportunity to talk about India, the culture, the people, the food, the festivals, the gods, the cities, Delhi. And mainly I’m defending everything to the Brits who have no inkling. (I must give you an example here. Recently an American volunteer at my organization has announced that she is leaving us to go and live in Bangalore with her Indian boyfriend. Her line manager sidles up to me the other day and asks if I think “she will be alright in Bangalore. I mean do people there speak English? Will she be able to go out of the house on her own?”. What should I say?!)

I try and find a connection with every desi I meet: “So where did you grow up/ go to school/ college/ work?”. And if we find even the slightest of connections I work to make them my friends – another usually unsuccessful operation (but why is a whole other story)

I celebrate as many festivals as I can remember: Diwali, Holi, Karva chauth, Onam, Vishu and some. I celebrate them with more seriousness and piety than ever before. I have a more beautiful ‘puja’ than ever before. I visit as many temples as I can while on holiday in India.

I still think of Republic Day, Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanti as ‘my’ national holidays even though I haven’t been there for any of them for the past four years.

I hunt down obscure Indian recipes made by ancestors and try to recreate them. Mainly to disastrous results. At least I try.

I suddenly love dal – all kinds, cooked in all ways - something I successfully avoided eating till I hit 25.

I am suddenly more aware of my Indian-ness. I like accessorizing with nice Indian jewelry and patterned shawls/ scarves. I try not to stand out like a sore thumb but to wear the odd ethnic piece that is so far removed from the standard English Black and Blue.

I watch the news on the Indian channels everyday. I read the news on a number of Indian news sites. And I hurt when India hurts. I even try and read the BBC South Asia in Hindi so I don’t forget how to.

I call home and random family members all over the world on a regular basis, trying to cement that Indian connection. I have large phone bills.

I even miss the dreaded Delhi winters and am constantly favourably comparing it to the grey English one.

I miss the sunshine and the extreme temperatures it beats down on us. I miss the coolers with khus khus in the soaked side pads.

I miss the rain because it breaks and beats down in sheets, lifting the smell of mitti (which the English don’t have). And I compare that too, constantly, with the dripping Chinese torture rain in England. They are also missing any serious, meaningful thunder and lightening.

I never thought I would say this but I miss cricket. I only ever watched it live once in India and that was a blinder of a match but for the most part I just ignored it. Now I watch snatches of it with the ardent V when I can, cheering on the Indian team, screaming at the screen till I’m hoarse. Or better still watching the scintillating NatWest final against England, live at Lord’s, where Yuvraj and Kaif chased 325 to win. Sachin meeting us was a big deal

I miss the mess, the chaotic roads, the markets, Dilli Haat, the fabrics, the textures, the chaat, the unending curiosity, the people. I miss it all. And I love it like I never did when I was there.

I cry (not out loud or even with tears, just a strange internal crying) at strange hindi movies that show India so beautifully. Also when I hear the ‘Rang de basanti song’. And thanks to S I have a load of hindi music on my ipod that is prioritized over the English for when I travel to work.

I miss India – in case you missed what I’ve been drumming on about - very very much. And no, before you ask, we are not going back “in the foreseeable future”. As plans stand “we will live life day by day and see where the road takes us”. Besides I can’t imagine packing and moving – again - quite just yet.

I don’t think I have ever used the word Homeland before.


  1. Anonymous7:49 PM

    Now that we're thinking of leaving India, more than ever before I'm filled with thoughts about what it is to be Indian.
    One of the things I love about being Indian is being ambivalent about the state this country is in, but I hear once you leave, you can't bear to hear a word in critiscm.

  2. A nice Independence Day post. When I was in school, this and most other holidays were just breaks we looked forward to, but now, they are days I notice much more.. and perhaps give a little more thought to. Roots are stronger than I thought they would be, and I like it, they give me a sense of belonging.

  3. Happy Independence Day.

    While I still refuse to watch cricket, I watch every Tamizh movie I can get my hands on.

  4. Anonymous11:30 PM

    very nice...i feel the same...went for the independance day parade here...it was quite sad...the mela was great...good food and stalls...40in2006

  5. Nice post :)I recently loaded a bunch of Indian music/songs on my ipod too.
    Plus- the title song of 'Rang de Basanti' still makes me v.happy and for some reason,proud!

  6. Excellent post! Happy Independance Day!!

  7. You summarize my thoughts. I guess one factor is the staying away from home...

    I put it as, I'm just doing my time before the roads take me home again.. for good, I hope

  8. Oh man, this really tugged at my heartstrings!

  9. Anonymous11:02 PM

    You are most welcome. The song that does it for me is from Swades. That of course makes me the max Mohan Bhargava as possible.
    I can vouch for B also when i say that.

  10. as I shuttle between Europe, India and US this year,I realize I do not miss India as much.Instead i heave a sigh of relief at the organized traffic and clean restrooms.Independence day is jus another holiday for ppl in India and yeah I'm one for indian food and indian music whether i'm in India or elsewhere....

  11. Beks: My Indian-ness is all I have in this outside world. And yes taking critisism is much harder!

    Pea: You never do realise it while you live there, but your roots are far stronger than you imagined. And I like it too! ;)

    Shoefie: Gasp! No cricket?!

    40in2006: Good food + sad parade + ok time.

    Sunrayz: RDB is constantly spinning in my head. I simply love it!

    Visitor: Thankee kindly!

    Me: The chance and choice to go back are seperate and increasingly difficlut with each passing year. I hope your road does take you back - with wider perspective and much enthusiasm!

    Nee: I am glad. That was the intention.

    Sher: You have to sign your posts man! And should I start calling you Mohan now? As for B, mention of her name is no longer allowed on my blog.

    Swathi: I am saddened that you find yourself not missing India. I do, terribly. Messy road, restrooms and all the advances it makes in both those and many other spheres. In my view Indians today don't just think of it as a holiday but as a day to mark freedom. But hey thats just me. Enjoy teh cleanliness abroad. I Hope it does not turn hollow and lonely in the long run.

  12. I live right here but I know exactly what you feel! Btw, you are linked:)

  13. Oh I just saw you've linked me :) Thanks a lot pa!

  14. The funny thing is when I lived in India: I always complained about the heat and the rains and I always took a cab or an auto instead of walking even a cm. Now when I go to India on holiday I love the heat and I feel like I could walk for ever and ever...memorising every smiling face I see on the way.

  15. Me nodding my head in agreement..My stint in US and UK made me appreciate India more and more..And now when i see back it's not only with me Seen others with similar experience..Not sure what is it outside there that makes us realize the importance and love we have for our homelands..

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  17. Very nice post. MAde me appreciate some of the things that one takes of granted... though I think I have had enough of this year's endless monsoon and potholed roads...

  18. I still stand up when the national anthem is played, but I feel little nationalistic pride. Borders between humans seem senseless.

    On the other hand, the milieu that these humans create ... one misses that terribly every time away from home.


  19. Inquisitive: Thanks. And thanks.

    Akkare: I love the Indian summers now - its the sheer absence of long hot sunny bright days here that makes me yearn for the once heated heat so much.

    Sangita: The thing outside that makes us realise all this is the fact that we are outside - and taht all these things/ experiences/ food is not readily available to us any longer. Cherish what you have while you have it!

    Rohini: Sympathy about the incessant rain and potholed roads. The grass is not always greener on the other side!

    J.A.P: Glad to know I am not the only one to stand up when my National Anthem is played. I miss India more than I ever imagined I could.

  20. Happy Independence Day to you!

    What i liked best about Iday this time was that one news channel did a feature on all those lov seva sanchar ads that used to come on tv in the 80s. It was so nice to see/hear "Mile sur mera tumhara" again.

    do you remember them?

  21. I missed bhel puri and so I made it today... surprisingly it was soooo awesome!

    happy indepedance day!

  22. Anonymous11:10 PM

    Thank you for visiting my blog and commenting :)

  23. Anonymous10:17 PM

    I have a mother who still remembers what that first Independence Day was like and still lights up when talking about the excitement.

  24. I believe the title for this post should have been "I Miss India" and not "Independence Day".

    Celebrating Independence Day and mentioning "Happy Independnce Day" is not just what it is all about right? We all know what we should do and what we should not but what have we contributed ? Why should I be happy ?? That's the question

  25. Aqua: Those lok sanchar sevak ads were the best. Someone should combine them onto a cd and sell them under a patriotic banner to NRI's pining for home!

    Pratap: Bhel puri. Yum

    Jinal: Only when deserved.

    Vibhor: Thank you

    Rajesh: No, the title was well thought through. It was about missing India on Independence day.

    And let's agree to disagree. I think it IS worth celebrating a day of independence. It is not only something to be happy about but also to be proud of - to be independent from an empire's rule. As for conrtibuting, each of us does what we can and each small thing (even talking about our country in a positive way) is a drop that makes up the ocean.

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