I woke up this morning to the sounds of Vande Mataram, right outside my bedroom window in my society’s grounds. Looking at the joyful and proud faces of people near the flag, my face reflected their sentiment. Amidst all the ruckus surrounding race and religion and all there is in between, people were celebrating India, the nation, today with the deepest emotion their heart could fathom.

India, the sentiment.

The first flag I ever made had the wrong number of strokes in the ‘Ashok chakra’. My dad wouldn’t have it that way. You make a multiply sign over a plus sign and put two strokes in each gap. Growing up with a patriot as my father has been my greatest blessing. As a child, the idea of celebrating ‘Freedom‘ sounded more like a history essay than a cause of family celebration and yet it was just that. We went to school for the parade and came back with the I-day sweets (laddoos) in our pockets. Back home, Papa would recite poetry for us followed by our meals. In our home, all of us celebrated India, the nation, with the kind of joy only kids can have.

After all, it was India, our mother.

I must have been in kindergarten or so when I misspelled the word ‘maratha’ during the National anthem. I mumbled ‘paratha’ and I hated myself for the entire day. Years later, the count of my embarrassments and mistakes has only grown larger. Despite all my flaws, this country nurtured me with colours, fed me with care, guided me with thoughts and raised me with heritage. India still gives me strength when I am weak and willpower when I am spent.

After all, it is India, my heartbeat.

I once asked my Dad just how he loves India so much when he has faced his fair share of adversities here? He said, “You pick up the soil and you put in on your forehead and you wait for it to give you all the strength you need. It is your honour to face adversities on behalf of your country.

On this celebration of Freedom today, here is my heart’s prayer for our future as a nation, in the words of Rabindranath Tagore:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake!

Jai Hind!

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