The Spirit Of Freedom Lives On
The Spirit Of Freedom Lives On6 mins 280 6 mins 280
It is not one of the best-known places in Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India. Neither would tour operators dare publish photographs of this part of the city in their publicity brochures. If they did even by mistake, I am sure they will lose a large number of their would-be customers; such was the condition of the area.
The dingy houses on either side of the narrow road were sandwiched with shops selling anything from electrical goods to bangles to bread to vegetables and flowers.
If cobbled stoned footpath was dangerous for the un-initiated as it was very un-even and dangerous to walk, the road was no good either; king-sized potholes were so large, they almost threatened to swallow speeding scooters. The potholes were too many for the speeding two-wheelers to avoid. The ride was as jerky and frightful as some of the movie posters pasted on either side of the road.
It was August the 15th and like most of the other places in Bangalore, this area too was full of tri colors and wore a festive look. The Indian flag was fluttering atop almost all the buildings and many a shop owner flaunted them on either side of their shop, sticking it on the walls.
It was late afternoon and the August sun was beating down with ferocious power unleashing his prowess on the un-suspecting humans. I slowed down partly to avoid one of the larger potholes and partly to pull the bike aside to take a breather and wiped my sweating face and looked around.
The telltale marks of Independence Day celebrations early in the day were still visible; a makeshift flagpole had been erected right in the middle of one of the crossroads and decorated in garish colors.
Although the map of India drawn around the pole would have made a staunch nationalist’s chest swell with pride – it encompassed Pakistan, Burma and parts of Russia – purist would have loathed. Obviously, the artist who drew it must have referred a map of 1930 or even earlier period.
The roads were narrow but there was heavy traffic on it with two and three wheelers taking the lion’s share. However, what was common was, that virtually, every passing vehicle on the road had an Indian flag stuck in the front; some were so outrageously large that it almost toppled people coming from the opposite side.
It was celebration time!
The boy came running from a narrow by lane and braked his imaginary scooter sharply in front of my bike. His imaginary scooter was idling and he mimicked appropriate sounds. He appeared to be barely six years old, was bare-chested with heavily grown curly hair and wore big-sized torn shorts, which he kept pulling up.
His small sharp eyes scanned the surroundings, missing nothing. He kept looking at the passersby; every time a vehicle passed by, his eyes would follow it concentrating on the flags stuck on the vehicle.
He ignored me though I was very close to him which didn’t surprised me; my bike didn’t have a flag!
He kept looking at the vehicle as it passed, then shifted his eyes to the next one, with the same result; concentrating hard on the fluttering Indian national flag.
It was obvious that he badly needed a flag for his imaginary scooter too, but from his looks, I could make out that he couldn’t afford to buy one, though, a flag seller was standing just around the corner.
I parked my vehicle and decided to find out what the boy would do. I contemplated buying a flag for the boy and stated moving towards the flag seller across the street. But I refrained; my curiosity overtaking my generosity.
The boy oblivious to what I was doing, kept looking around, his eyes fell on a family traveling on a scooter. The man rode the scooter while the lady, who looked like his wife, sat behind holding a small child. The child held on to a plastic flag while the mother fed ice-cream from a cone held by her; it was obvious that the child wanted to eat the ice cream but wouldn’t let the flag, held in its tiny hands.
The boy looked at the passing scooter and concentrated on the child eating ice cream and whetted his lips. It was obvious that he badly needed an ice cream too.
We both looked at the passing scooter; even as the man tried all the driving tricks known to him, he still hit a rock protruding from the open pot hole and the scooter shook wildly; the lady dropped the ice cream while the child dropped the flag. The mother looked back helplessly at the fallen flag and the ice-cream cone. The child started crying, even as the scooter sped by.
The boy who saw the whole episode – forgetting his imaginary scooter and with scant respect for the speeding vehicles – ran to the middle of the road to grab the fallen flag and almost full ice-cream cone.
The boy grabbed the fallen flag and ran back to where he had parked his imaginary scooter, leaving the ice-cream to melt on the road.
Honestly, I thought, he would pick up the near full ice cream cone too; I was wrong!
The boy didn't even look at it!
His eyes sparkling, he eyed the plastic flag and held on to it tightly.
I saw the boy, holding on to the fag, looking here and there. I was confused; no, he was not looking for another flag. Something else.
What does he want now? I thought and mesmerized by the boy’s action till now, forgot my work and stood there watching.
The boy started walking, looking at the shops on either side; I meekly followed him. After a while, the boy stopped, looked up at the board of the shop. It was a shop selling and repairing electric goods but was shut down as it was a holiday.
The boy knelt down, kept his flag aside and started sifting through the rubble lying in front of the shop.
My heart started beating faster. What does he want? What could be there in front of an electric shop that he is so desperately searching?
The boy finally found what he was looking for!
I looked at his discovery; a long piece of discarded red colored electric insulation tape!
Realization hit me hard. Now I knew what he wanted to do.
Even as I watched, he slowly wound the middle part of the insulation tape around the flag’s handle and two parts on either side, stuck it on to his bare chest and secured it.
He kicked his imaginary scooter by making appropriate sound and grinning from ear to ear, rode off in style on the narrow road with a blaring horn sound coming from his mouth!
Reams have been written about India’s freedom struggle and the value attached to it.
But honestly, I never understood them correctly until I saw that boy.