Every year on August 15, Indians rejoice and celebrate Independence Day. As a kid, Independence Day was one of the most eagerly awaited public holidays. It was one of those rare days that waking up early and going to school was fun; the school day would be short — we’d be going just to see a local dignitary hoist our national flag; we’d sing our national anthem along with the school choir and hear our school Principle give a rousing speech about the virtues of patriotism.
For me, fast-forwarding a few decades, and as a parent of three biracial children living abroad, the importance of Independence Day has petered out a little. I haven’t really been celebrating it with my children because they are too far from it and they were too young to understand the nuances of the day. But this year feels different..
This year as a home schooling family, my children have been exploring the history of India. And it just so happens that they have just started reading about the devastating impacts of the British Raj on India. Finally, Indian independence activists like Gandhi, Nehru, Baba Ambedkar, Subhash Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh are now household names. So whilst my youngest is still too young for it, this year I have allies in my older children who feel my sense of patriotism and desire to celebrate this day.
One of the things I have been thinking about is that children — including a lot of Desi kids studying in the UK — are deprived of the true historical narrative of Indian Independence. Not only is the history curriculum completely white-washed, they hardly touch — certainly at primary school — in any depth on topics beyond WW1 and WW2. Colonial and post-colonial struggles are a whisper, if heard at all. That sense of attachment to India’s struggle to achieve independence has been snatched away from our children. The responsibility inevitably falls on the shoulders of the parents and with our busy lives it isn’t always easy. This lacuna in the British education system is one of the many catalysts that pushed me to homeschooling and after almost three years of deschooling (a process to decompress from the patterns of mainstream learning), we have finally managed to learn more our heritage. So today, we will be listening to the National Anthem, we will making flags, decorating cookies, watch a few patriotic films and say a little prayer for the ones who fought for our independence. There are also many forms of colonialism; some more subtle than physical appropriation, and it is a fantastic day to reflect on all forms of liberation, so we’ll be doing that too! Vande Mataram.