Since I was a part of the Scout/Guides troops in school, Independence and Republic Days are very close to my heart. It wasn’t about the hours of marching we had to do. It was more about the freedom to bunk boring lectures, march in the sun during chilly winters (those classrooms were morgues!!) and be entitled to a bag of goodies (refreshments, we called them) after the practice. Needless to say, I didn’t mind a minute of all that Left-Right-Left !! Somewhere in my cupboard in B’lore, I still have my uniform, the indigo blue frock, brown leather belt, the tightly wound rope that hangs from the belt, the scarf, the line-yard and the beret.
My most wonderful memory of Republic Day has to be in the one in the year 1990. Though I was a Guide, in those days I also used to be a member of the school choir. Which meant, endless hours practicing welcome songs for the chief-guest along with the sessions of march-past, which means, an entire day off from classes !!!
Anyhow, so there we were, soaking in the warm sun, waiting for the chief guest to arrive. For the life of me, I cannot recollect who the person was. I just know that he looked snooty and acted the part. He came in late but we were okay with it….we had come to school around 7AM and given the terribly chilly Bhatinda winter, standing for hours in the sun seemed like a boon. The chief guest arrived sometime around 8:30-9:00 AM. We sprung up from our chairs and lustily sang some welcome number. After the usual welcome speech by the Principal, it was time for the flag hoisting. The school band was in attention, itching to play the National Anthem as soon as the flag fluttered high. The chief guest stepped over to the podium, the sports teacher handed him the rope.
We waited with baited breath.
The chief guest tugged at the rope.
He tugged harder.
He tugged with all his might.
The by now severed rope gave way and the bundled flag landed on the chief guests head with a loud “Thump”.
A thousand plus children laughed uproariously while a miffed Principal yelled over the mike to “Keep quiet” and “Haso mat!!” Haso mat!! Indeed!! Was it even possible?!!
The Chief guest was seriously ticked off and the sports teacher, who had tied that unfortunate knot, was almost bent double, apologizing profusely . The music teacher started the harmonium, which was cue for the band to start playing and for us to start singing. So yeah, even though we didn’t ‘hoist’ the flag, we had our Republic day .
After that incident, each time I visit any flag-hoisting ceremony, I somehow keep wondering if the flag will open or just land on someone’s head . This in no way is an indication that I disrespect the flag, its just that having the flag give the chief guest (specially if its those kinds who think they are doing the rest a big favour) a nice public ‘spanking’ , is a thought too delicious to ignore
Anyway, this year, I decided to take the twins along to my office, which hosts the flag-hoisting ceremony twice a year. The Chief guest is none other than the MD himself and the crowd is the usual one which comes every year. The preparations to take them along were started a week in advance. The twins were so eager that they were ready to sacrifice their sleep on a Saturday morning.
We left for my office around 8:30 AM (the old office actually. I now sit in the new office building at a different location). The twins were so excited that they didn’t even want their morning milk!. Once at the office, I realized that hardly a couple of employees had brought their kids along. My kids, not the ones to keep their opinions to themselves, wondered aloud how long they would have to stand around. I did a lot of “Shhh”, but obviously they are immune to that sound. Lui was social enough to shake hands with my friends and even talk to some seniors. Shobby hid himself behind my dupatta
The actual flag-hoisting was a short affair. The twins kept disturbing me as I was singing the National Anthem…Shobby insisted loudly, “Mummy…please aap gao mat !!” Yes, everyone around now knows what my child thinks of my singing skills . Anyhow, once the parade by security guards went by, we trooped inside for a hot cup of tea. I took a few snaps, posting them here :-
Try as I might, the two refused to salute!
Once inside, they sat down with their cups of tea and quietly sipped at it. A few people came around to meet them, thankfully my children were well mannered and cordial with them all!
The twins took a fancy for the water glass. They were stuck there for ages. I had to literally drag them away from there. A friend clicked this snap for me -
While leaving, I took the kids outside to a tiny garden maintained by my company
The twins ran around for a while and then we left for home. On the way, the twins insisted they wanted the stick flags (those paper flags with a windmill attached to it). I bought two and we went back home.
Throughout the day, I reminded the children about the flag-hoisting and how we were free people now compared to being slaves earlier (blah blah blah… am sure it went over their heads). Each time, they nodded their heads sagely, excited only when they remembered the shower of petals from above, something they both LOVED on sight
Overall, it was a day nicely spent. I felt glad that I did my duty as an Indian.
Towards evening, Shobby’s paper flag tore (both the kids were using their sticks as swords). He came running to me with the torn paper in his hands. “Mummy, this is broke”, he said and then holding out the piece of paper, added further,”Yeh kya hai?”
“Oh no!! This is the flag baby!!”
He looked at the windmill on the stick with a puzzled look.
“Toh, yeh flag nahin hai??”
Some lessons still need to be taught !!