One represents the birth of what is considered the world’s oldest democracy. The other represents the birth of the world’s largest democracy.
On July 4th, 1776, the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, thus paving the way for 13 American colonies to becoming a sovereign nation.
On August 15th, 1947, India won independence after over 200 years under British rule – a victory that came at a very high price, including the partition of the country.
That’s about where the similarity ends.
Although these dates may both represent the Independence Days of the respective countries, when you look under the surface, the contrasts could not be any starker.
I won’t go into the details here as that would be beyond the scope of this post. But here’s a fact that reflects the vast difference.
The American War of Independence lasted 8 years. India’s Freedom Struggle lasted for about 100 years.
Of course, you can’t really compare the two situations. And citizens of one country can’t possibly understand how those of the other really feel.
But when you think about a country that was known as a flourishing land where ancient civilizations and cultures thrived, you can’t really picture it being enslaved by a modern country.
And yet history does not lie.
So, when I think about the fact that this Saturday, August 15, 2009 will mark India’s 63rd
Independence Day, I have mixed feelings. As someone born and raised in India, sure – pride, joy and nostalgia are in the mix. But so is a kind of sadness. I can’t help but admire the courage and patriotism of the countless, nameless, faceless people who made the supreme sacrifice to win a freedom they would never live to enjoy, the hardships and humiliation they encountered, the unquestioning faith they placed in the nation’s leaders and in themselves.
So, yes, while I will celebrate India’s Independence Day, probably by sending free ecards to my friends and family, listening to patriotic songs performed by Indian artistes and probably singing a few with my family, I will also take a moment to remember the sacrifice of those who made this day possible.
All over India, in schools, colleges and other institutions, Independence Day celebrations usually include a flag hoisting ceremony early in the day followed by a patriotic speech and cultural performances.
When you compare it with the fanfare associated with the Fourth of July celebrations, Indian Independence Day is a relatively somber affair. Perhaps that’s where the difference lies.
One marks the Declaration of Independence of a great country. The other marks the end of a long and hard struggle of an ancient land that should never have been colonized in the first place.