Every man, woman and child was a warrior in war of independence. The country united to fight the non-violent war waged by Mahatma Gandhi. Protest marches and civil disobedience were the order of the day. Thousands offered arrest every day. Jails were overflowing. A handful of young revolutionaries differed. They were convinced that direct action was necessary to win freedom. Inspired by Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Subhash Chandra Bose and others they targeted British officers and assets. Many fought in their own way. My brother and I did too, not that I knew what ‘independence’ meant.
We lived near the Governor’s residence in Nagpur. The Governor’s house was in the middle of a huge ground enclosed by a three feet high wall with not a sentry in sight. Its pathways were covered with pieces of shiny mica. My twelve-year-old brother would jump over the wall to ‘liberate’ a handful of mica while five years old I kept a watchful eye for the sentry. Both of us would return home with the loot which, as was the fashion then, our sisters would tuck on their jumpers.
My brother and I, we escalated the war. We would take the rats trapped in our house and discharge them over the wall to the Governor’s house. I was too short to reach over the wall. To keep me from crying my brother removed a brick or two and made a hole in it.
My brother and cousin, both twelve-year old, further raised the bar. During their long evening walks they would hurl stones to break street lights. Sometimes, the stones actually found their marks and a few bulbs were broken. Bothe fondly believed that their efforts caused a dent in the British treasury. I imitated them on the rare occasions they condescended to take me along. But my feeble throws could not reach that high.
Our combined efforts brought fruit and the British decided to leave India. The big day arrived – 15th August, 1947. A joyously proud day. The country had become independent. A large crowd gathered at Itwari ground to witness unfurling of the tricolour, our national Flag. I was there too, in my mother’s lap. A low flying aircraft dropped thousands of tiny paper tricolours attached to all-pins. People rushed to pick them. I cried because I could not get one.
I seem to have cried a lot in my childhood. I should have saved some of my tears for the present day. We have not yet got over the habit of destroying public property at the drop of a hat. When will we learn that the property we are destroying is our own.