Every year, I approach Independence Day with a great deal of respect and fear. Respect, for our brave freedom fighters. And fear, at the thought of having to dress up my kids as ‘freedom fighters’, as per the standard I-Day celebration protocol in residential communities. One August 15 morning, I ask my children, “So which freedom fighter do you want to be?” I decide to be democratic in the true spirit of the nation. “Sonia Gandhi!” “Ben Ten!”
Well, since both responses are inadmissible even after sanctioning enormous creative liberty, I go back to the good old autocratic ways. I tell my daughter she could dress as Annie Besant or Sarojini Naidu. She hears me describe the outfits and then, politely declines. She wants to be Jhansi Rani; like all the other girls. A popular choice since she dresses like a queen. I give in.
I notice that since re-creating her exact look is tough, girls just stick to broad guidelines: pretty Indian clothes and lots of jewellery. So, we have many Jhansi Ranis that evening – dressed in sarees, lehengas, salawar kameez, laanchas, and ghagharas – giggling and pirouetting daintily at the battle-front.
I focus on converting my ‘Ben Ten’ boy into a suitable freedom fighter. After some thought which yield no ideas, I dress him up as an ‘Anonymous Soldier’ in a kurta pyjama and give him a toy sword. Not only does this gesture salute those who paid a nameless tribute to the nation, but it also leverages on the only kurta he has very well.
At the venue, the children are lining up to enact a play to depict the freedom struggle. Suddenly, I realise there is a problem. There seems to be a shortage of British soldiers. The children playing that part either don’t want the ‘loser’ role or their parents have insisted that they would need to air their ethnic costumes. There is a crisis.
Then, suddenly, I see my daughter, the erstwhile ‘Jhansi Rani’ in a Brit-soldier look – a magenta evening gown with hat and stole, brandishing her bejewelled sword. Another last-minute British recruit is a girl dressed in Barbie shorts with a name placard hanging around her neck with ‘Lord Dalhousie’ written on it. There is also a ‘Lord Macaulay’ in bermudas, with an orange and blue water gun saved from last Holi. These are some last minute entrants that salvage the play.
The plot of the play is simple: Basically, a war comprising kicking, punching and pulling hair is waged. Then, ‘Gandhiji’, wearing a skin coloured skull cap enters and implores for peace after ducking a few punches himself.
All of a sudden, the British soldiers display exaggerated emotions of respect for Gandhiji and fall at his feet. The curtains fall. It is time for the tri-coloured cup-cakes, you see!