Independence Tales

It was a daily ritual, the walk to the bus stop. And Dadaji and Vivek used it to exchange news, share jokes and generally make a good beginning to the day. But today Vivek walked in frowning silence. Dadaji said nothing. He knew that Vivek would speak when he was ready. Sure enough, Vivek suddenly burst out, ‘Dadaji, isn’t 15 August an important day?’

‘The most important day in the history of our country,’ Dadaji replied promptly. ‘Just yesterday my friends and I were discussing what we remembered of the day India became independent!’

Vivek looked enviously at Dadaji. His friends were all old, but they seemed to have the right idea about things. ‘My friends laughed when I said our Independence Day was an important day,’ he said sadly. ‘They said it was a holiday which meant that they could play and that’s all that mattered!’

‘That’s because they weren’t around on 15 August 1947,’ Dadaji explained. ‘If they had been, they wouldn’t think of it as only a holiday.’

‘Were you around on the day India became independent?’ Vivek asked with sudden interest. He knew Dadaji was old, but was he old enough to have been around on this  historic occasion? 

‘Of course,’ Dadaji said. ‘I was only five years old, but I still remember the Indian flag fluttering, the decorations, people laughing and singing! It was like a huge party!’

‘I wish I could have been there,’ Vivek said enviously. 

‘My friends can tell you so many stories,’ Dadaji laughed, ‘that you’ll think you were actually there on the day India became independent!’

Vivek looked up, struck by a sudden idea. ‘Will your friends,’ he asked, ‘will they tell my friends these stories?’ 

‘Why not?’ Dadaji said. ‘The more, the merrier!’

Of course it wasn’t easy to convince Vivek’s friends that they should meet Dadji and his friends. But Vivek persisted and cajoled and finally, they abandoned their game of cricket to go with him. And that’s why that evening the corner of the park where Dadaji and his friends usually sat was very crowded. People who were walking around the park looked curiously at the group. It seemed strange to see so many young boys and girls with the group of old men. What could they possibly be discussing? Whatever it was, the walkers decided, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. 

Sudden bursts of loud laughter sounded through the park so the people in the park looked around, startled. But there were long silences too, when the children listened spell-bound to the stories being narrated. Dadaji and his friends had such vivid memories of everything – the days leading to the independence of the country, the discussions and sudden spurts of excitement and joy and finally, the night none of them had ever forgotten, when India was declared independent. The children sat there while twilight fell around them, listening to the thrilling tales of the most important days in the history of their nation. 

The next morning, Vivek was bubbling with excitement on the morning walk to the bus stop. ‘Dadaji,’ Vivek said, ‘my friends and I are planning a special event for Independence Day. We would like you and your friends to come. You will come, won’t you?’ 

‘Of course,’ Dadaji beamed. ‘But what is this event?’

But Vivek only shook his head and smiled mysteriously. In fact, none of the children was willing to say a word about this. All they would say was that it was on Independence Day and would be right after the flag was hoisted in the park. To all other questions their response was, ‘It’s a surprise!’

Dadaji and his friends were still wondering about it as they watched the flag being hoisted on 15 August. Then Vivek and his friends appeared, pushing and shoving each other, grinning nervously as they faced the crowd of people looking at them curiously. There was a small tremor in Vivek’s voice as he said, ‘For most of us, 15 August is only important because it is a holiday!’ People laughed because it was sad but it was also true. 

‘We think it is important to understand what actually makes this day special,’ Vivek went on.  ‘And so, we present Independence Tales, narrated by the people who were actually there!’

Dadaji’s jaw dropped as Vivek gestured to him. ‘What?’ he barked. ‘What can we tell people?’

‘The most important thing,’ Vivek said. ‘You can tell them what makes this day so special!’

And that’s what Dadaji and his friends did. 


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