When she was born I was 10 years old I guess, or may be less. She was one beautiful little princess. She was born under my star, my sun-sign resembling my mother (her aunt). I remember staging clown dances to make her eat, singing songs when she was to sleep and teething her alphabets and words out of her charts. She was a very bright kid who loved poppy flowers for their name. When we went to Kodaikanal (a hill station in south India) she would point at every flower bud asking if it was poppy. Funny bright kid she is.
I always was there around her helping her with school. She wouldn’t let go of any opportunity to be on the stage.
It was like an exercise for me, to write essays, speeches and collect information for her projects and such like. We used to sit together and make drama scripts laughing endlessly to ourselves. Whatever may be my schedule there has not been a single time when I haven’t enjoyed helping her out and in turn grooming her. Every time she wins a competition (which she almost always does) she makes a call to tell me of her achievement. That is proud moment for me. I would tease her asking for half the certificate to be in my possession. “Akka….” she’d cry.
I know she would grow into a promising young women someday. Now she is 13 and all bubbling in the whims and fancies of teenage.
I just thought I shall post one such speech I made for her declamation competition lately.
Topic: The nation is sleeping
The nation is sleeping
When I sat thinking what to write about under the topic given – The nation is sleeping, I was lost in thought all along. I did not know where to rest my finger on. Should I talk about the youngsters who are lost in lazy slumber? Should I talk about the women who fail to stand up to their potential? Should I talk about politicians? Well, they aren’t asleep after all! They are just working arduously on the other end of the thread, building blocks to strengthen their own pockets. Or should I talk about the atrocities committed in the name of caste, honour, pride and superstition? What will I talk about? Are we really united in diversity? Or are we too diversified in our heart to be united?
I feel bad. I feel very bad to stand before you pointing out the blotches on my beautiful mother’s face. My mother India. She has lost her face behind all the scars we make on her.
I am young. I am as young as 13. Should I feel so disheartened? I think I should. Because, we can’t waste time sleeping any longer. We have to wake up in the mother’s womb itself. We have to know that we are responsible, socially.
Cha cha Nehru said we are in a tryst with destiny. “At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom,” he said and he asked us to “take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.” His words echo in my heart! “future is not one of ease or resting but of incessant striving so that we might fulfill the pledges we have so often taken and the one we shall take today. The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity.” What suffering they would have endured in the freedom struggle? And what vision they would have had when the clock struck 12 and we raised the Indian flag marking our sovereignty? I wonder if our leaders slept at all? If Cha Cha Nehru had slept, if the Mahatma had slept, where would we be today? These questions haunt me. Do they not haunt you? He believed that India was awake to the fullest that night. “The appointed day has come – the day appointed by destiny – and India stands forth again, after long slumber and struggle, awake, vital, free and independent,” were his very own words of faith.
But today we are indeed back in deep slumber and struggle. We struggle in our own slumber.
I would like to state a few incidents from my own life. A few incidents that woke me up and gave me a purpose to stand here on this stage…
We have the elections round the corner. Yet another five years of rule in the state has rolled over. When my father went to vote last time, I asked him if everyone must vote. He asked me to accompany him to the polling booth. I was 11 years old. The long queues to polling appalled me. I asked to go home. ‘How does our one vote matter? Let the others do it’, I said. He turned to face me and said, “because every little drop of water is part of making the big ocean Madhu. You remove the droplets one by one, and the ocean will become a mere pond.” Barely 60% of Indians vote. They have indeed made the Ocean like India a mere pond in its own degree. My dad and I had long conversations about democracy, citizen rights, the responsibility to know what is happening around us, making right choices and more. My father woke me up to my responsibility as a citizen, to my voting right as the daughter of India. I am not 18 yet. But when I become, I know I will vote. I came to understand what the word democracy meant. How beautiful a concept it is and how it still remains only a concept in the country. It is because we have slept over our own rights and privileges. We stopped demanding and we stopped performing what we owe our mother land. We are good fathers, mothers, sons and daughters to our family, but not to our country. I know you and I can see what is happening around us. But we shut our eyes. We are not sleeping. We act like we are sleeping !
Cha Cha’s words bellow. “We have hard work ahead. There is no resting for any one of us till we redeem our pledge in full, till we make all the people of India what destiny intended them to be.
We are citizens of a great country, on the verge of bold advance, and we have to live up to that high standard. All of us, to whatever religion we may belong, are equally the children of India with equal rights, privileges and obligations. We cannot encourage communalism or narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thought or in action.”
Wow. Who could have made a better speech that day? Who could have told us better of whom we are and what we hold? We had great leaders. Their sacrifices are not lullabies. We cannot sleep.
At the airport one day, There was one woman, stout and grumpy, probably back from a vacation abroad. The scent of home seemed to crook her nose. The displeased face scorned unpleasantly as she exclaimed aloud, “what a dirty, littered country! How clean the roads were abroad! This country has gone for dogs.” The irony is that while she said so, she cut her luggage check in tag and threw it right on the floor, approximately 2 feet away from the dust bin. My sister went directly to her, picked up the tag, threw it in the dust-bin that proudly gleamed ‘USE ME’ and told her on her face, “go check on the mirror for one of those dogs” and walked back. Well, no one who saw the scene can possibly forget the look that the woman wore on her face that day.
This is what India is made of. Or I would rather say, that this is the ugly make-up, the people of India have chosen to wear. We know to accuse. We know to find faults. But we don’t know to “be the change we want to see”. Yes, our leaders have said all that we need to hear. We have had the greatest of scholars and the greatest of everything to be proud about. But we still sleep. We refuse to open our eyes and our hearts.
Again, the same voice. The same question. “The future beckons to us. Whither do we go and what shall be our endeavour?”