As we began discussing the myriad festivals of India - our many reasons to celebrate, the children in my Friday class eagerly got down to listing all the festivals - Holi, Eid, Durga Puja, Diwali, Christmas. The list kept growing as the little ones kept calling out the names.
Just then an earlier-silent eight year old jumped up and added, "Independence Day".
It hit me like a bullet. How could I forget the one day we shed all biases, inclinations, religions and regions?
How could I forget the one festival we celebrate as one people, one nation?
To youngsters born in the late 90s and children born in the new millennium, how does one convey the feeling of living a life of slavery - the feeling of not being 'free'?
It was a task indeed. Most of the children attending my class knew that it was a special day - a holiday - a "flag hoisting day" - "a day when patriotic songs are sung".
As they grow older, the pages of their History text books would make them aware of the struggle, the strife and the heroes of our Independence movement.
Presently, to make them understand the concept of freedom - and more so, to understand their concept of freedom, I decided to ask them a simple question: how would they feel if they were to go home that evening and realise that their homes had been taken over by complete strangers, their families ordered around, with no free will whatsoever?
As my question pierced through the routine buzz in the room, their expressions began to change.
Their eyes searched for answers, and the look on their faces spoke but word - unacceptable.
"What if you were told that you could no longer attend school, and that your parents are now bonded laborers? All that is yours - your books, toys, crayons, your chocolates, are forcefully taken away. How would you feel?" I prodded on.
An unsettling silence shrouded the room. I could all but see their minds ticking, as they struggled to process this inconceivable thought. They questioned themselves and each other about what they would do if faced with such a situation. They looked up at the ceiling, stared out of the windows, and glared down at the floor, as if searching for their answers.
And then one spoke - a little hesitant at first, but soon determined and vocal. Another added to her answer - and then a third explained further. Most began by saying they would call the Police, and I gently reminded them that all phones have been disconnected or taken away. Some were stumped, while some continued to explore other avenues.
A seven year old girl in the fourth row stood up and spoke with firmness - her resolve very evident. She said she would fight them with her knowledge of Judo.
A boy of eight years had a plan in place - when the strangers were asleep he would make a dash for the main door and get help to free his parents, grandma and sister.
Another youngster talked of using "a trick to escape" to escape from the house - "in disguise", he meant.
The ideas were now coming quick and fast, and I could see the anxiousness to break 'free' growing.
There was a definite restlessness to remove the shackles - an obvious resolve to take back their home.
Lastly, a wise but shy bespectacled ten year old proclaimed calmly yet confidently that he would "start talking to them"; he would explain to them that this was not the right thing to do. He seemed sure that he would be able to remove the strangers through negotiations and dialogue.
Soon the class ended and the children looked happy to return to the pleasant reality of present times.
As they strolled homewards, I even noticed a few of them clutching onto their parents' hands a little firmer than usual.
Later that evening, I sat down to make notes about that Friday class.
As I was recalling the series of events, it suddenly occurred to me that right there - in that very room, I found a Netaji, an Azad, a Bhagat Singh, Jhansi ki Rani and a Gandhi. Therein continue to live our heroes.
India - our mother, is in safe hands.
Source: Team M3.tv