Minal Gangwani, 34, Lawyer
I was a really patriotic adolescent and literally bled saffron. It was so bad that I had started a ‘nationalist’ club in middle school. It was called DYNAMIC, which was an acronym for ‘Dynamic Young Nationalists Assisting in the Mother India Cause’. We used to have awareness sessions about current affairs. Thankfully, our school principal noticed our club and made us organise gender sensitisation workshops as well. I think all that adolescent patriotism was because it helped explain and channel some of my too-earnest and no-chill tendencies. It was mainly my best friend and me leading it, but we had a good 20-30 other members. It was very exciting, it gave us a sense of purpose and of being useful. We thought we were the only conscientious people, and every one else was wasting about.
I guess going to college and reading about Naxalites was really a turning point for me: I saw the amount of pure violence that goes into the idea of maintaining nationalism, and it really scared me.
Priya Anand, 26, Accountant
Back in school, the Independence Day celebrations would begin much earlier during the practice weeks. We’d have students representing their state’s dance, and in the end all the dancers would come together and dance to a song praising India. That feeling was amazing. The school would also be decorated with the tricolour, and I was part of the marching team. The moment of saluting the flag – that was the moment we would all wait for.
Now I don’t even work for an Indian company anymore. I don’t feel connected. In the office we just put up the Indian flag and have a quiz about India, which most of us can’t even attend. I feel jealous of my parents, I wish I’d been born in their time. My dad’s visiting card used to have the national emblem on it since he worked for the government. My ID card has my company’s name on it.
Akriti Surekha, 31, Homemaker
Independence Day became special again when my son grew up a little. He goes to an over-enthusiastic school where they get the kids to make tricoloured fans, posters, lanterns and drawings for several days beforehand. I hang up everything he makes, so the house ends up looking very festive. The housing association organises a flag hoisting and breakfast from the same darshini every year, so Independence Day dosa has also become a tradition. It’s easy to celebrate anything my son is excited about because he really gets into it.
Zarmeen Shabir, 19, College Student
Independence Day used to mean a lot to me when I was in school – I was part of the junior school version of the NCC. I used to stand straight and never flinch. Once, I was marching in a parade and I felt so insulted that my parents didn’t care about it or turn up to watch me in it.
But as I grew up and understood more about the situation in my home state of Kashmir, and after spending some time living there, I realised that what they tell us is lies, and it made me feel quite unpatriotic. I don’t feel patriotic at all on Independence Day, in fact, it’s the day when I groan and think, “Oh god, here come the patriots again.” On Independence Day, I’m only reminded that it will always be us against the world.
Saritha S, 20, Bookshop Assistant
When we were in school, we used to celebrate Independence Day because teachers used to tell us they would cut five days attendance if we miss it. We used to get chocolates also, so we were all pretty excited about that. I used to do all the rituals on Independence Day like attending the flag hoisting since we were forced to in school. It’s not like I used to be more patriotic at that time or anything, just that everyone had to do it, so we did. Now, I don’t really celebrate because no one forces me and it’s a holiday, but I like to go to the Parade Ground to watch the flag hoisting some years.
Harnidh Kaur, 23, Poet
I’ve always been super patriotic and proud of India so every independence day was a huge deal with music and inspiration and joy, music, reading, trying to do something good with the world, you know? Once I fed a group of kids. Another time I donated to a charity. Because I had hope that things will improve. This year, however, I’m not celebrating. I’m heartbroken and sad and unfamiliar with the land I once loved because of the things happening around us. Gorakhpur. Atrocities against authors. The realisation that this country is fundamentally rotten to its core. It’s not a cosmetic defect. I have nothing to celebrate.
Aditi Devanathan, 25, Director, Media Ghar
Back when I was working at a crowdfunding platform called Milaap, we were set to raise some money for a woman who was trying to study to support her family, and I think that was one time when celebrating Independence Day meant something. I felt a lot better about seeing a woman become truly financially independent on Independence Day than mechanically watching a flat hoisting. I guess doing things like this on Independence Day is more memorable and meaningful than forcing kids to watch a flag hoisting, no?
Ayushi Mohan, 7, Class I Student
I’m going to go to school and see the hoisting tomorrow — it’s my first time. Even if it’s early in the morning I’ll take a bath and go because it’s a festival for the country.