Freedom Struggle Flashpoint

(carried in Deccan Herald on 15th August, 2015)

Every year, I approach Independence Day with a great deal of respect and fear.

Respect for our brave freedom fighters

And fear at thought of having to dress up my kids as ‘freedom fighters’, as per the standard Independence Day celebration protocol in residential communities.

One 15th August morning, I ask my kids:

‘So which freedom fighter do you want to be?’ I decide to be democratic in the true spirit of the nation.

‘Sonia Gandhi’


Since both responses are inadmissible even after sanctioning enormous creative liberty, I go back to good old autocratic ways.

I tell my daughter she could dress as ‘Annie Besant’ or ‘Sarojini Naidu’. She hears me describe the outfits and then, politely declines.

She wants to be ‘Jhansi Rani’. Like all the other girls. A popular choice since she dresses like a queen. I give in.

I notice that since re-creating her exact look is tough, girls just stick to broad guidelines: pretty Indian clothes and lots of jewelry.

So, we have many Jhansi Ranis that evening, dresses in sarees, lehengas, salawar kameez, laanchas, and ghagharas, giggling and pirouetting daintily at the battle-front.

I focus on converting ‘Benton’ boy into a suitable freedom fighter. After some thought which yield no ideas, I dressed him up as ‘Anonymous Soldier’, dressed in a kurta pyjama and give him a toy sword. Not only does this gesture salute those that paid a nameless tribute to the nation, it leverages on the only kurta he has, very well.

At the venue, the kids are lining up to enact a play to depict the freedom struggle. I realize there is a problem:

There seems to be a shortage of British soldiers. The kids playing that part either don’t want the ‘loser’ role or their parents have insisted they’d need to air their ethnic costumes. There is a crisis.

Then, suddenly, I see my daughter, the erstwhile Jhansi Rani in a Brit-soldier look – a magenta evening gown with hat and stole, brandishing her bejeweled sword.

Another last-minute British recruit is a girl dressed in Barbie shorts with a name placard hanging around her neck with ‘Lord Dalhousie’ written on it.

There is also a Lord Macaulay in bermudas, with an orange and blue water gun saved from last ‘Holi’. These are some last minute entrants that salvage the play.

The plot of the play is simple: basically, a war comprising kicking, punching and pulling hair is waged.

Then, ‘Gandhji’, wearing a skin colored skull cap enters and implores for peace after ducking few punches himself.

All of a sudden, the British soldiers display exaggerated emotions of respect for ‘Gandhiji’ and fall at his feet. Curtains fall.

It is time for the tri-coloured cup-cakes, you see.

Rachna Singh is a humourist and author of Dating, Diapers and Denial