Today is August 16th - it is one day post independence day. There are still a few nationalistic messages coming through on facebook probably due to the fact that some of our friends who see the sun a wee bit later, are still living out yesterday. In a day, those remnant messages will also die out.
And then we wait for the next Independence Day to start the whole wave again.
This note is not about what we should or should not do on an independence day. It is rather a personal attempt at trying to understand a culture where we have come to observe specific days for specific purposes - and then conveniently forget those very purposes or causes, until the same time next year.
I start off with my biggest gripe - Happy Birthdays. That day when everyone waits for 11:59 to tick over and practically rush in to shout out that strange greeting. What is the difference between 11:59 on the previous day and one minute later the next day? I do not know. But apparently there is a huge difference and that greeting must indeed wait that one extra minute. The things we do on birthdays, especially for our children! As a family, our philosophy is rather simple - we don't celebrate birthdays. No birthday gifts. In fact, I joke with the kids and tell them that I may buy them a gift either a day before or a day after, but not on the birthday itself! But there's a hug almost every other day; and there's a quite word whispered on most days - of how they are a blessing in our lives. You don't have to wait a year to tell them that. Nor do you have to wait for the minute hand of the clock to tick over to give them a hug and wish them a Happy Day, every day. And let's not even mention surprise birthday parties - the biggest farce of them all - when everybody including the birthday boy or girl (more likely the birthday man or woman!) knows it, but are expected to play along that they are completely in the dark, and when the lights come on, squeal out in joy! Surprise? Indeed. I sincerely wonder how many of us know what we are saying when we greet someone with "Many Happy returns of the Day"!
And then you have wedding anniversaries. That day you just should not forget, in fact you better not forget! Spend a fortune on a gift; of course, a romantic candlelight dinner is a must. Sit across the table, hold hands and look into each other's eyes - for a full hour. I have seen colleagues literally terrified on their wedding anniversaries - is the restaurant good enough, is the gift good enough, what will I wear? Thankfully you have 364 days to prepare for the next such moment! Now, come to think of it, I and my wife were apart for the first eight (you heard right!), first eight anniversaries. By some strange quirk of fate (mostly work, and don't try to tell her that I planned it that way!), we would be apart - mostly on different continents even. And then our anniversary would be spent by walking out into the starry night and watching our favourite constellation of stars, knowing fully well that both of us, miles apart were looking at the very same stars! But of course, that cannot compare to sitting across a table looking into each other's eyes - I know that, but we managed somehow; and by God's grace, I hope that we will continue to manage somehow.
But I must admit that my issue is probably not with these days themselves, it is more the annoyance at how these days have been taken over by those large corporations; for whom it is a big marketing opportunity. These "happy" days are what make the cash registers ring at toy stores, jewellery stores, fancy restaurants and so on. Maybe I am completely outdated and I am totally missing the point; maybe we live in a world where these days are a must for a thriving economy. I don't know - but I am not sold on that theory yet.
And then you have Happy New Year, Happy Easter, Merry Christmas, Father's Day, Mother's Day, Children's Day, Valentine's Day, International Women's Day, International Men's Day, Earth Day, Friendship Day, AIDS Day, No Tobacco Day, Food Day, Beer Day, Coffee Day - there is some happy day for every day of the year. Particularly to blame are Valentine and Christmas. Most of what I wrote about wedding anniversaries, holds good for Valentine too. As for Christmas, the less said the better. Among the glitter and the glamour of a snowy white Christmas with the Christmas trees and all the gifts, is there any space for that little infant in whose name the Christmas bells ring? Christmas celebrations, at least the way we do it nowadays, are indeed probably the worst of the lot.
Well then, do such Happy Whatever Days serve any purpose at all? I am sure the argument can be made that such days are largely symbolic; it gives us an opportunity to remember an event in the past, maybe remember and pay homage to a few people who were involved in that event when it happened. And it makes sense, because we probably do not have another occasion to remember them. And so, on Independence Day, when we remember our great freedom fighters and leaders who made the dream of freedom a reality, there is indeed a great sense of gratitude that all of us feel.
Another argument is that some of these days raise awareness. If an earth day helps us or reminds us that we need to do more for the environment, then why not? But sadly these sentiments remain only for the day, and in many cases only for a few hours!
And that is why, I would like to wish you all a Happy Post Independence Day.
When you step on the train tomorrow and see the same soldier of whom you sang praises just yesterday, do remember to lift up your hand to your forehead, and offer a salute. Or extend an arm to shake his hand, and say a word of thanks. Or maybe, just look at him and nod an acknowledgment. Or just offer a smile. For he is still braving those enemy bullets this day, as he will be doing for the rest of the year.