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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Saare jahan se achcha: Marking India’s Independence Day in Brisbane

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A few months ago, social media circulated a viral forward about TIME magazine’s pre-elections article on Narendra Modi, and faced a barrage of criticism over the headline which interestingly labelled him the Divider-in-Chief. It talked about how Modi had apparently divided India citing various incidents of religious intolerance. The article itself was very cumbersome to read with archaic language written by Aatish Taseer, a Massachusetts
educated columnist of Pakistani Indian heritage and ruffled some feathers in the Whatsapp groups that I am part of. Even though TIME tried to strike a balance by publishing another
article immediately after Aatish Taseer’s article by Ian Brenner, titled ‘Modi the Reformer’, which tried to present a view that the current economic climate in India is conducive to growth and development, it did not strike a balance with the vitriol that had already been thrown, probably because human nature tends to react to the barbs more than the bouquets.

After hearing about the protests that the Indian Independence Day celebrations in United Kingdom faced from hooligans, it was with a sense of apprehension that I headed to Roma
Parklands on 17 August for the celebrations organised by Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), Queensland to mark India’s 73rd Independence Day.

It was a warm sunny day and the first thing that charged my senses were the vibrant colours on display everywhere. It was almost as if I was in a time capsule and was transported thirty years ago to the front rows of the student cohort assembled at Delhi’s Red Fort, awaiting the flag hoisting ceremony. In the backdrop there was a frenzied activity of stalls promoting Indian food, handicrafts, travel, real estate and even a police presence to prevent any untoward incidents. That is when the reverie was broken and the realization hit me that I was not in India celebrating the 43rd Independence Day, but this time round, marking 73 glorious years of a nation which boasts of current reigning female badminton world champion and an indigenously manufactured spacecraft circling the moon. India has indeed come a long way, judging by the enthusiasm of the Indian diaspora collectively representing India in Queensland and cheering the cultural performances put up by organisations of Indian heritage.

The stage was set with a veritable feast of cultural dances from different parts of India performed by children and adults of various ages. The cultural show encompassed both the
traditional and the modern. Folk dances from Orissa, Kathak from the north, Bollywood style music from the west, Bhangra from Punjab, fusion music from central India, drums from Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu… you name it and it was there on display.

The highlight was the parade from the different states and cultural groups showcasing what their region has to offer and illustrate how diversity can still be a precursor for unity.
Yousouf Ali Khan of the Sangeet Premi Club belted out a few golden oldies which reminded the crowd of Kishore Kumar’s melodious legacy. Patriotic fervour hit a new high with the
rendition of Australian national anthem followed by the Indian national anthem sung beautifully by the angelic kids from Sargam Music Academy. The festivities continued even as the stars began peeping out of the night sky. Such was the spirit of the occasion that I did not murmur when an enthusiastic fellow desi brother cut me off in the line for masala chai and samosas.

As I munched my snacks, the thought occurred to me that whatever the world media, Whatsapp groups and Twitter feeds had to say about India, the time has come for India to take its rightful place in the polity of nations and show the rest of the world the path of peace, heritage, cultural diversity and progress despite the vitriol that will be inevitably thrown and whatever the detractors of Independence Day celebrations had to say in
other parts of the world.
We are so lucky to be in Brisbane where there is freedom of speech and a peaceful environment to celebrate what is truly a glorious milestone for India. Jai Hind!

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Vish Chilumkurti
Freelance Columnist, Incorrigible Time Traveller and a Failed Cook.

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