Like everything else in childhood, the night before used to be frantic and fun. There wasn’t much work to do, but there were many to do it, but few capable of actually doing it. There used to be at least a dozen of us, all yelling at each other to do the dreaded duties and delegating the easier ones to oneself. Everyone wanted to be a part of it, contribute and see it all come together, but if they could do it by just pasting the flags on the strings and not by digging a hole for the flagpole, they’d be happier and still be equally thrilled. More than doing the work, more than celebrating the ‘Independence Day’ of the country, we simply wanted to be outside at that late hour – something we were, generally, not allowed to do.
Before the stroke of midnight, when the world was about to go to sleep, we would have hung the tricolour laden strings across the street, not so high in the air. The flagpole, covered in the national regalia, too would be erect and ready for its duties tomorrow.
In the morning, one of us would assume the responsibility of a cartographer and draw up a map of India on the ground, at the foot of the flagpole. The map only vaguely resembled the original outline of the country and if believed to be true, it would’ve resulted in numerous territorial disputes with our neighbouring countries. Like everything else, it too was painted in national colours by filling it up with coloured sawdust and white flour.
After returning from the celebrations in our schools, all of us would gather around the flag to do it again, to hoist it and celebrate independence! But who should do it? Who should hoist the flag? Who was worthy enough? None of us, for sure! So, that duty was assigned to a retired headmaster who lived close by. We welcomed him by a garland around his neck and offered some snacks. After the formalities, he along with the dozen of us and other bystanders hoisted the flag, sang the national anthem and chanted patriotic slogans. This was followed by a small speech from the headmaster, which we had to bear, but were rewarded monetarily in the end as he handed over a hundred rupee note for ‘sweets’ as we ran off!
Image Credit: https://saiacs.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/republic-day-at-saiacs