Last month, I joined fellow Americans in celebrating the 4th of July. I listened to a musical concert and sang along during patriotic songs. In the afternoon, I prepared traditional side dishes, salads, and dessert. Later in the day, I watched my husband barbecue the main course. I oohed and awed as fireworks brightened the evening sky. With little fanfare, I followed my 4th of July routine.
Today (August 15), I’m in Mumbai, India. The entire country is celebrating Independence Day. In 1947, India gained its freedom from British rule. To commemorate this day, all national, state, and local government offices are closed as well as businesses, stores, markets, banks, and post offices.At the start of the weekend, the newspaper reported that an excessive number of people caused long waits on the roads that led out of the city. Like Americans who travel on the 4th of July, Indians were finding respite outside the city limits. Many took advantage of the 3-day weekend to travel, especially to cooler hilltop locations. The recent heavy rains left some wondering whether or not it was worth going anywhere.
The day started off with a bit of sunshine. It rained slightly on and off. Overcast skies have lingered. Fortunately, the weather hasn’t put a damper on outdoor plans or travel.
A few days ago, I tried to learn about this national holiday. The word—“Freedom”— was the most common word used. Time has yet to dull the connection between the events leading up to independence and the separation from the British. The significance of “freedom” is still embraced by a random sampling of people.
No one was willing to share any Independence Day traditions or memories. But everyone was happy to have a day off from work. Most mentioned flag raising and the singing of patriotic songs as common events. I looked through the newspaper for a list of local holiday festivities. Unlike the U.S. papers that provide information for parades, free concerts and events, and fireworks, the newspaper didn’t share anything.
Hmm… I was left to see what I could find within walking distance of our son and daughter-in-law’s apartment.
Judging from the number of cars in the apartment parking area, most of his neighbors have chosen to stay home or possibly flew out-of-town. Before the temperature became oppressive, I walked around the neighborhood. Policemen and policewomen were everywhere. Like other places in the world, holidays can be open season for terrorists and troublemakers.
I saw a small group of kids in identical outfits singing a few songs in front of a memorial plaque. The group was organized by a couple of adults and quickly disbanded when the short medley was completed. Even though schools are closed for the day, it is a common practice to do something patriotic for a short period of time.
I walked to the sea. Along the way, garbage collectors were sweeping the streets and removing trash. Apparently, they rotate shifts so that there is garbage pickup every day. Despite their daily efforts, litter and large crows are ubiquitous.
Runners and walkers were participating in an event. Some were on the promenade while others were on the street. As they passed by a small refreshment stand with a Red Bull banner, individuals and small groups stopped momentarily.
Further ahead were a handful of young adults chanting a slogan and waving an Indian flag.
Flags and banners were everywhere. Even peddlers displayed Indian flags on their carts. A patriotic spirit was rampant.
To all Indians, here and abroad, best wishes for a Happy Independence Day.