When the Clock struck 6: An Independence Day Post

A chain of thoughts led me to the realisation that it is for the first time that I am at home on the 15th of August since I moved to Delhi over 7 years ago from Odisha. Why is it significant? Because in the years before that, we used to organise a flag hoisting ceremony on the rooftop of our apartment early morning at 6, before we proceeded to go and attend the function at school. A practice that stalled when I moved away from home.

The tricolour hosted on our rooftop. Picture dated: 15 August 2006
It used to be an elaborate process. We were a group of 8-15 year olds who had formed a children’s club in the colony. We called it ‘Jagriti Amar-Tinkle Club’ or ‘JATC’ in short. (Yes, there was a ‘Tinkle’ link) We met on Sundays, twice a month, usually at one of the member’s house in rotation, and organised activities and contests for ourselves. We would get elders in the colony, our parents and grandparents, and teachers from school to judge the events. We went on to even celebrate our sports meet and annual functions with full-on performances over the three years the club functioned (2004-2007). Uncle Pai, the founding Editor of Tinkle, was my guiding force, who helped me in setting up the club and kept an eye on its activities.

It was during our club’s first year itself that we decided on celebrating Independence Days and Republic Days with a flag hoisting ceremony on our rooftop. Our usual drills for these days began about a week before the event. We got white paint and painted an old unused iron pole to use as the mount for the flag and got the flag stitched with the Ashok Chakra painted by my art teacher at school. We would invite every one in the apartment for the flag-hoisting. My father usually got the sweets (Gulab jamuns) to be distributed.

On the D-day, the members (most of them at least) would wake up as early as 4-4.30 AM (even in the cold month of January), take a bath, get dressed in our white school uniform and assemble on the rooftop to make the arrangements. Filling the flag with flowers and putting it up on the pole was usually the major task and I confess here- We could never, in all 3 years, tie the knot in the right way such that it would open on pulling the string. It usually used to either be too loose or too tight and on pulling the string, it would get stuck and we would have to use a stick or climb up the pole to open it. (Yes, it was a big deal and by the 3rd or 4th celebration, all the guests were ready with their laughter and were certain it won’t be any different this time. But then, we were all kids and it was acceptable.) Of course, only when the flag opened, we would start singing the national anthem.

When the rope would 'knot' and we would struggle to open the flag
Picture dated: 26 January 2006
As the time would go closer to 6, we would send a couple of members to go to each flat and ring the bell until people (mostly our members’ parents) woke up and showed up for the ceremony (if we kids can wake up at 4, sure elders can wake up by 6, right?) Thankfully, no one ever scolded us, nor complained and mostly would join us.

The grandfather of a member was the eldest person in the entire apartment and we would have him as the ‘Chief Guest’. Dadaji, as we all call him, would hoist the flag and give us a short inspiring speech. I remember over the last couple of functions, we even started organising a parade (with 3-4 people), and a short singing and dancing programme as the cultural programme. The function would end with the customary distribution of sweets and we heading to school for the day’s function.

Our Chief Guest, Dadaji, Shri Kirtiprakash Gupta, during his speech. Picture dated: 15 August 2006

The audience and the 'young' members. Picture dated: 15 August 2005

The audience. Picture dated: 26 January 2006

The club members. See the complete dark sky? That's before dawn. Picture dated: 26 January 2006

The club members. This picture was published in Tinkle later. Picture dated: 15 August 2006

The club members, now growing up. Picture dated: 26 January 2007

We didn't like the traditional ladoos, so we got gulab-jamuns. Picture dated: 15 August 2006
When people from nearby apartment blocks would tell me “We spotted the flag with the JATC banner on your rooftop”, it filled me with pride. We were perhaps not doing something huge, but we sure were making waves ripple.

Just before sunset we would again assemble for the flag lowering ceremony and call it a day.

Probably that’s what patriotism meant for us. We were just a few school kids. 8-14 members at most. The youngest in the 4th grade, the eldest in 9th or 10th. There was no one who forced us to organise these flag-hoistings. It was a very low-key affair but something that we looked forward to every January and August. I don’t remember if it was ‘patriotism’ that drove us. I don’t even remember if all of us knew what patriotism exactly meant at that age. But there surely was a driving force that made sure we woke up at 4 in the morning and head for the success of this all important ceremony.

Probably in all our innocence, we, the future of the nation, were doing our duty. Taking a small step at a time. Making a minor dent in the universe. Mother India smiled, free from all worries.

Happy 69th Independence Day!

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

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