Although this story was written to celebrate Independence Day, it makes for a relevant read today, when we celebrate our nation on Republic Day.
A Flag for Independence Day
Shubham and Sahit had just settled down to work when Grandpa wandered in. And just like he always did, he asked, ‘What are you up to?’
Sahit said nothing because the question hadn’t been directed at him. Also, he was a little tired of Grandpa’s constant questions. Sahit tried telling himself that Grandpa was simply interested in everything they did but it still annoyed him. In the past Sahit hadn’t minded Grandpa’s questions, instead, he had eagerly shared everything, like silly Shubham was now.
‘We are making a flag,’ Shubham announced importantly.
‘A flag? What for?’ Grandpa settled down beside them. Sahit groaned silently. Now they would have to answer Grandpa’s questions and listen to his boring stories.
‘For a flag making competition,’ Shubham explained. ‘For Independence Day.’
Sahit let Shubham’s excited chatter wash over him as he examined the flag he had drawn on the chart paper. Now to cut it and colour it!
‘Stop!’ Grandpa said urgently and Sahit turned around irritably. But it was Shubham Grandpa was telling, ‘That’s not the correct size of the Indian flag!’
‘It’s not?’ Shubham asked in dismay. ‘Then what is?’
‘First of all, the Indian flag is rectangular,’ Grandpa said. Sahit examined his flag. Rectangle? His flag looked more like a square.
‘And,’ Grandpa went on, ‘the ratio of the length and width is 3:2.’
What? Sahit wondered. Where did ratios come into making the Indian flag? How was he going to calculate the measurements now?
But the advantage of having Shubham around was that his brother asked all these questions.
‘Simple,’ Grandpa laughed. ‘The length is one and half times the width!’
Ah, Sahit thought, erasing busily, now that made sense. He measured the length and width while Shubham chattered on, asking a hundred questions a minute. How did Grandpa keep his temper with Shubham’s silly chatter? Then he remembered himself three years back. Hadn’t he chattered as much as his brother? Grandpa had been equally patient with him, answering his questions and doubts.
‘Done!’ Shubham sang out and beside him Sahit nodded. His flag was cut too, its edges smooth and straight.
‘Now,’ Shubham announced importantly, ‘I will colour the flag. ’
‘Saffron first,’ Grandpa instructed. As if they didn’t know, Shubham thought irritably. Grandpa seemed to have forgotten that they saw the flag at school.
‘Actually,’ Grandpa said, ‘the first band was originally going to be red in colour.’
Really, Shubham thought, surprised. ‘Yes,’ Grandpa said, as if he had heard the question. ‘Red was chosen to symbolise the sacrifices of our people. Then it was changed to saffron, white and green.’
‘Saffron, white and green,’ Shubham sang out. ‘I’ve finished colouring my flag!’
Sahit threw a quick look at his brother’s flag and was impressed. Shubham had done a good job. He hurried, splashing green in the last band. Just a little more and the flag would be ready.
‘No,’ Grandpa said. ‘The flag isn’t ready yet!’ Sahit’s head came up. What did Grandpa mean?
‘What about the Ashok chakra?’ his grandfather asked. Oh yes, Sahit thought, how could he have forgotten the chakra?
‘Where does that come?’ Shubham asked worriedly.
‘Right in the middle of the flag, on the white band,’ Grandpa instructed. ‘It is blue and it has exactly 24 spokes, evenly spaced.’
Silence fell as the two boys bent over the paper, creating the evenly spaced spokes in the Ashok chakra.
‘If you were making a real flag,’ Grandpa said, ‘you would have to follow the measurements of the Ashok chakra too. And you would have to make sure it was visible on both sides of the flag!’
Sahit looked at his flag. He knew it was only a pretend flag, painted on thick paper, he knew it had only been created for a competition. But somehow, with Grandpa guiding them, they seemed to have created a very correct and very real flag. He longed to tell Grandpa this but the words stuck in his throat.
Shubham had no such problems. ‘My flag is beautiful!’ he said. ‘And it’s all because of you, Grandpa!’
‘I did nothing,’ Grandpa protested and Sahit saw that his grandfather really believed that. Perhaps it was because of Sahit’s silence? Or his rudeness? It was suddenly important that Grandpa understand just how much he had helped them.
‘We thought,’ Sahit began, his voice rusty, ‘a flag was a piece of paper with three… four colours. But you told us about the shape…
‘…and ratio!’ Shubham chimed in.
‘Yes, the ratio,’ Sahit laughed. ‘And you told us about red and what it meant and even though we didn’t measure the Ashok chakra… it’s not just a piece of paper!’
‘It’s a real flag!’ Shubham said.
‘It is a real flag,’ Sahit agreed, smiling at Grandpa. ‘And you helped us understand that!’
This story was published in Young World, the children’s pages of The Hindu under the title ‘Successful Flag Off ‘.