ANANYA S GUHA recollects memories of Independence Day celebrations in Shillong
My first memories of Independence Day go back to childhood in school but they are blurred. I however, remember some excitement in school, the flag hoisting and the Principal addressing us on what we were told is a most propitious moment. Yes, we understood it. We understood it even better when the school celebrated for almost a year the birth centenary of Mahatma Gandhi. In school the day was also marked by a festivity and there was a general air of celebration around us.
Back at home things were also the same. In fact, the day before animatedly, we would prepare for hoisting the tri-color flag. Our house was what was known as an ‘Assam Type House’, something akin to a large cottage. The flag had to be hoisted against the tin roof or against the arches of the house. That in itself was an exciting moment. The day before that the flag had to be washed as was customary and after Independence Day the flag was relegated to the store room, to be forgotten till the ensuing August 15of the next year.
My mind ripples with memories when I think of celebrating Independence Day as a child, here in Shillong my home town. This dates back to the sixties or seventies. I vaguely recall my father being invited to the Governor’s House for tea in the day time and we would look at him with awe for this invitation to a hallowed precinct. Similarly, something would take place I vaguely remember at the Shillong Club where my father and mother would be a visitor. What exactly happened in these venues was something my imagination could not unravel, but what I remember is my parents ostentatiously prepared for the occasion and coming back home with a beaming smile on their faces. What happened? I would ask, my infantile curiosity would always remain in a state of animated suspension because only vague replies came in a mumble, and some names of Shillong’s elite were mentioned. Someone like Brigadier Baruah! However, what I was more interested to know was exactly happened, what was the food like and apart from the Governor who else were the Chief impresarios.
The turn of the 1980s however, saw something which I generally would not like to recall. The signifier then was bandhs called by groups who themselves wanted Independence! So, there was a call to boycott the Independence Day on August 15. Very few flags fluttered and the roads were deserted. It meant being confined to home, but some of my bureaucrat friends would of course say that they went to the Governor’s House and met the upper strata of the society.
I do listen to such narration only wistfully. Not being a person in the echelons of power I can only imagine what took place there, thinking from the confines of my house or room. Independence Day now has been manacled. What I read of it is from the newspapers, and what I see of it is a distant flag unfurling itself in the vistas of my memory. The last few years have been more active though, and despite bandh calls people have been coming out to the roads in a gesture of intrepidity. Children too are walking their ways to school.
However, memories of Independence Day in my childhood still surface like a recurring dream. The present is however a mere shadow of the past.