Of Shackles And Smiles

“Just a little left….”

 I said out loud in my mind, holding my camera. I wanted to capture the little girl with her hair braided into two symmetrical halves tied with white ribbons, donning the blue and white salwaar kameez and looking straight at the NCC cadets who were perfecting their march past, minutes before the flag hoisting ceremony. She eventually turned left and I got my shot (not perfect, but pretty much the way I had wanted). That moment when light captured her emotions on the screen of my digital camera, a wave of realizations gushed through me. A quick streaming through the memory lane brought out some subtle incompetence that I thought was wonted with such complacence.

The NCC ground slowly started brimming with similar piquant faces, little girls and boys hovering around with National Flags in their hands, reserving their places to get a vivid view of the Tiranga. It was obvious enough to notice that they were enlivened by this holiday and had deep regard for the ostentatious word, “Independence”. It stuck me with a vagrant guilt. In all those years of my schooling, we were “blackmailed” or “forced” by our teachers to attend the celebrations in exchange for some remarks on our report cards. It was atoning to see that these kids were wise enough to imbibe in them the significance of the day. It meant much more to them than attendance for a day or some red marks on their report card. 

     One cannot be taught to feel. One just does.

 True enough!

When one sees these kids, all one can see is the smiling, innocent, hopeful faces, with a pinch of mischief and insanely unconditional happiness. However, having spent a year with them, I have a rather clear picture of how interwoven and byzantine their lives are and yet, in spite of all, how determined and indomitable they are to experience all that life throws at them. 

“Why are you not having your tiffin?” I had asked a girl once while at NSS at a nearby government school. She was the smartest of her class, and her hand would fling up in the air every time a question was shot. But, unlike other times, she did not have an answer this time. She looked at me with a half smiling, half confused, half perplexed face. Sensing her discomfort, I thought it was wiser to ask her teacher. And the reply I got was that she had given her tiffin to her younger sister so she wouldn’t stay hungry. I looked at her again, and there she was, quietly going through her books oblivious of how intense her gesture was.  She did not understand that, but I guess, we, for whom, troubles mean not getting internet, or some DC++ IP address change, or the soda machine at Jo’z not working, or getting four assignments for a four day weekend, ought to understand that. Sailing along on the shallow necessities of life, we tend to forget the importance of Independence. 

For us, Independence Day is a National Holiday, a day when BBA is full of events and internet access available throughout the day, though, there are thousands of others for whom this day holds a lot of allusions and optimisms. This day is often mingled with all those harsh wars fought and the thousand lives lost. But then, a single glance at those kids, cycling, giggling or gossiping their way out of the NCC grounds after the event  with the same unblemished smiling faces, even happier now holding the little food packets  makes you realize that no problem is big enough to bring you down unless you want it to. Shackles of life, however abstract they may sound, are but physical. Nobody can chain your heart, your happiness, but you yourself. 

A lesson learnt this Independence Day!