A short story by Anuradha S. Bannore
‘Ma, I want to ask you something. May I?’
‘Oh my God, there you go again with your endless queries’.
‘No Ma, don’t say so but please explain the meaning of ‘Azadi’ [freedom] to me. Some people shout slogans of it and ‘Bharat Ma ki Jai’on every 15th of August. Why do they do so, why?’.
‘My dear child, on this day many years before we got ‘mukti’ [freedom from bondage/rule] from the British Rule’.
‘Ma, now you are confusing me. We were talking about ‘Azadi’ and where did this ‘Mukti’ come from and what does it mean? Please don’t confuse me anymore.’
‘Oh my God, what should I do with this child?’.
‘Nothing, you just kindly explain to me what ‘Azadi’ (freedom) means.’.
‘Okay, on one condition that you won’t trouble me anymore and let me do my work’.
‘OK, my dear Ma, I won’t.’.
‘Alright then listen. On 15th August, 1947 we finally got ‘Azadi’ (Freedom) from the British Rule and they had to leave our country.’
‘But Ma, what did we gain from it? We are still as poor as before, that’s what Dadu [grandfather] says. Even today we have only rags to wear. We don’t even get two square meals. The roof of our house is all broken because of which we suffer the most in winter and monsoon seasons. Quite often we don’t even get clean drinking water. As for electricity the lesser we say, the better it will be. Is this ‘Azadi’ meant only for the rich people because even today with our own people ruling we are still the victims of atrocities of someone or the other?’
‘Now what should I say? Those who sacrificed their life for this ‘Azadi’ couldn’t even in their dreams imagine that the coming generations would be so gluttonous for power that they would become the enemies not only of their own brethren but also of Bharat Ma.’
‘If Bharat is our Ma, as you say, then why doesn’t she do anything for us? Doesn’t she love us?’
‘No my dear child, don’t even think of such things because every mother loves her children very dearly.’
‘Oh, then it means she’s probably angry with us just like you! So now you tell me where does she live? I’ll go to her and plead with her. I’m sure she’ll listen to me just like you do when you are angry and I manage to persuade you tactfully and make you smile. Come on quickly take me to her house.’
‘Oh my God, what have I done? In trying to explain things to this child, I’ve landed myself in a dilemma! How do I explain to him that our country has become a victim of some greedy and selfish people which benefits only the rich in amassing a lot of wealth while the poor suffers poverty stricken. This freedom has become a tool in some people’s hands for looting our country. That’s why even today we stand divided due to caste bar, rich and poor etc and are neither able to prosper nor rise above our differences. In a way we have become murderers of Bharat Ma and her prosperity which is an extremely shameful thing for all of us.’
Seeing his mother worried the child quickly said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll not only find Bharat Ma but also persuade her not to be angry with us. Ma, I’ll serve and protect both you as well as Bharat Ma very devotedly just as Bapuji, Bhagat Dada, Sukhdev Dada, Rajguru Dada did. Dadu has narrated many stories about their chivalry to me. Then not only we but the entire country with its populace will finally get ‘Azadi’ in the true sense of the word. Then once again Bharat [India] will rise to great heights in this world.
Hearing this, the mother’s eyes filled with tears thinking what a Herculean task her little one had taken upon his delicate shoulders. She hugged her ‘little innocent child’ with big dreams very proudly while the tears rolled down her cheeks uncontrollably.