Tuesday, August 15, 2006

on independence day

Early morning cool gives way to searing heat degree by degree. Attendance is taken, suitable punishment for the absentees are devised. Single file we march out in to the quadrangle. A sea of bluish-white uniforms, frayed collars and white tennis shoes. Hair oiled and braided, adorned only with tattered ribbons and lice. The scruffy ones are made to stand at the back.

One arm distance to the front and double arm distance to the sides. Ahalya Bai, Sarojini Naidu, Vijayalakshmi Pundit. We are divided along these names. But they mean nothing to us. Instead we worry that the green belt is not as nice as the bright, red one.

We whisper about what we will do when we get home, what movies are on television and speculate on the choice of sweet distributed this year – Lacto King again? Rottweiler Ruby tells us to keep quite. The chief guest will be here any moment now. Bets are placed on the length of his speech. Will he pronounce banyan as baniyan like the last one did?

The Chief Guest is late. He will no doubt stress the importance of punctuality in his speech later on without sensing the irony of it all. Irony. A word we did not know then. But sensed.

He tugs at the flag. It unfurls slowly, releasing rose petals, hanging limply in the still air. We salute.

Inside the cool, dusty auditorium we sit on the floor glaring at the smug, prize receiving class mates in the VIP section. We sit patiently through the speeches – the chief guest, the trophy hoarding 11 year old who gesticulates wildly as she quotes Bhaarathi and the fawning Principal – her beehive bun threatening to fall over and crush the chief guest. Or so we imagine.

The national integration cultural show. Song, dance and skit. We clap – not because we enjoy it but because everyone else is. We shift restlessly, our behinds sore, our calves patterned with dust and the zig zag imprints of our rubber soles.

Finally it is over. We stand up, legs, feet and backside numb. We limp towards the exit taking the chocolate we should be so grateful to receive and walk home. Finally.
Freedom.

37 comments:

TomCruiseChellum said...

Vande Mataram
Bharat Mata ki Jai
Mahatma Gandhi ki Jai

Nee said...

Everything came together so well..."Finally. Freedom"! Loved this!!

kaaju katli said...

Delightful! Happy Independence day :-)

B o o said...

Wow! Luved this one. Lacto king huh? Lucky you! We got sticky candies not chocolates. :)

sunshine said...

freedom indeed!.... brought back great memories..
happy independence day!

WA said...

:)

Sujatha said...

Very nice I say!

F e r r a r i said...

We got orange mitaai!
Jai hind!

Shree said...

First time here... what a nice post!

apu said...

Lovely post...Can really feel the sense of "freedom"!

Mridula said...

Reminds me that in the year 2001 independence day we were catching a train from a small narrow gauge station Kandaghat on Kalka Shimla route and we were given laddoos just because we were there. Best Independence dai I can remember!

Ravages said...

The B word again! Bravo!
The last line kills anything I can and will come up. (For the next week atleast)

Swathi said...

some of these memories seem to be intertwined with mine;
i remember the names of our 'houses' used to be sapphire, ruby, Amethyst and Topaz..

ggop said...

Made me smile..and realize how many years its been since I've attended school :-)
gg

another AV-ite said...

the fourth group was lakshmibai....

VC said...

good one!
btw, Rottweiler Ruby tells us to keep quite (sic), yes?

Anand said...

Alakananda, Bhaghirathi, Cauvery, Ganga were our houses .. and all whites (at least at the start of the day) .. brings back such good memories .. Thanks .. you write beautifully !

angry fix said...

Super post.
One crucial question:
Do all Principals have beehive buns?

Nilu said...

I like good prose. Like, every once in a while.

But just that and that alone, kinda sates ....kadasiya enna solla varenna...onnum illa.

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

Tcc :) Jai Hind!

Nee, Kaaju - thanks

Boo - It was either Lacto King or the one that had the toffee vs coffee fight in the ads. Can't remember the name.

sunshine - :) same to you

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

WA, Suja - :)

Ferrari - Orange mittai! The round ones that came in the clear wrapping?

Shree - Welcome and thank you

Apu - I felt that freedom, every year all through school and college :)

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

Mridula - that sounds lovely. ladoos! yum

Ravages - danke. I doubt you'll make us wait that long.

Swathi - I wonder what criteria they used to come up with house names?

Ggop - Doesn't it just? makes me feel old :(

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

AV-ite? yendha batch? and thanks - that last name completely eluded me.

VC - thanks! and aaargh! yes sic only

Anand - thank you. I don't think alot of us even started the day in all white. some uniforms used to have that blue tinge of Regal Blue!

Angry Fix - of course all Principals have bee hive buns. It's a pre-requisite. :)

Nilu-saar :) puke-nu sollama irundha seri

F e r r a r i said...

Yes the one with a transparent covering. I liked it, rather still like it :D

Rubic_Cube said...

this was one brilliant... can u submit this on the short-story club on orkut? pls do...

shyam said...

We got orange mittai too. I LOVE those lil round fellas! :) Cant get them nowadays... not the original kind, anyway

D.N.A. said...

"...we sit on the floor glaring at the smug, prize receiving class mates in the VIP section..."

Tugs a chord inside. But I worked the system and rigged the prize distribution in school final year. That's the only prize I got!

The Inquisitive Akka said...

Yup orange mitai it was! We used just wait for the teachers to distribute them so that we could go home! Hmm.. this brought back so many memories!

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

Ferrari - :)

Rubic-Cube - Thanks! I don;t have an Orkut account though.

Shyam - I'll look for them next time I'm in Madras and bring some back for ya!

D.n.a - :O Cheater! (Though I sercretly applaud your cleverness)

Akka - :D`

Alex said...

I'm throughly delighted by the way you tie things together. Managed to read all yours posts in a weeks time :)

another AV-ite said...

yenda batch-aa!!??? A few zillion years ago when Ruby existed and Radha Rao and a guy who ran the computer science classes!!!!! And when the Gill guys came to the AV auditorium to collect their lacto kings, among other things...:)

smallfontkuttebaspam said...

Provokes nostalgia so much so I could not help thinking about Raman's Soda Factory in Cochin in my days where the kiosk used to sell orange mittais which came with a white powdery coating!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

dazedandconfused said...

I don't think I've read a better last word in a story. :)

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

Alex - :D thanks so much! Am in last day at work drunken haze!

AV mami - I remember the computer saar too! avalavu vayasu aacha yenakku?

sfk - white powdery coating? sounds dubious...

d&c- many, many thanks!

MumbaiGirl said...

Wow! That was nice. On one I-Day at school, when we all had to stand around silently, I stepped into a mound of fire-ants. I hopped up and down and turned red with pain but didn't make a sound. Alas, my bravery in keeping quiet wasn't appreciated by one particular teacher.

Deepali said...

I love how you weaved it all into 'finally. freedom'

=)

vande mataram :)

anantha said...

Yo..silent reader for long, on Bloglines!

Somehow this one eluded me. Lovely post, as always.

Nice house names, though ours was simply red, yellow, blue and green! And that... inspite of sharing managements! In any case, we would have complained, regardless. Atleast yours were much more "regal"!