Friday, August 12, 2022

Flash Back - The 50th Anniversary of Indian Independence

The entire India is celebrating Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav - 75 years of Independence. The special occasion has rejuvenated the spirit of nationalism in Indians and many events are being planned to commemorate the landmark.

On this occasion, let me tell you the story of the celebrations happened on the 50th Independence anniversary in 1997 from the eyes of a 15 year old boy.

Now, how did a 15-year was a witness to the grand celebrations that happened in Delhi in the night of August 14, 1997?

In June 1997, Gujarat SSC board examination results were announced. To the surprise of many, this boy was a joint state topper. This itself is an interesting story, but let's do it some other time. The result brought invitations to many events in the life of that boy throughout the next year. Luckily the year was 1997, and the Indian government was planning to celebrate the 50th Independence anniversary in a grand scale. They had scheduled a grand event on the eve of Independence, and invited delegations from various states. Gujarat state decided to send a number of artists, players and also students who did exceptionally well. Because of this, the topper boy got a chance to be a part of that delegation, along with other bright students, in a long train journey from Ahmedabad to Delhi. 

In Delhi, all members of the delegation were accommodated in the Gujarat Bhawan rooms. There were members from other states also staying at different places in Delhi. A lot of new friendships formed while staying there. The members knew that they will be a part of the celebrations, representing their state, on the night of August 14, and all were very excited. Though it was one thing to anticipate the grandeur of such an event and a completely different thing to experience it in person when that happened.

Finally the evening of August 14 came, and all members reached India Gate. The boy was thrilled to stand on the road near India Gate, a special honor in itself as the road was closed to common people. More and more delegations representing different states came, and the atmosphere was vibrant. There were patriotic songs playing along the road and various performances were happening on the sides. Everyone started walking towards Rashtrapati Bhawan along the Rajpath, waving their flags and showing their happiness.

Then the boy heard a new song, performed live by the music legend there. The song was specially composed for the occasion, sung by the master composure himself. The song was none other than the famous 'Maa Tujhe Salaam' by one and only A R Rahman, the first time it was released to the public then. 

The walk had many such moments, seeing and meeting other public figures, memories of which slowly faded over the 25 years. The walk along the Rajpath lasted for approximately four hours, and by midnight all reached the other end of the road. The young boy , though still very excited, was exhausted as were other members in the delegation. They all boarded their buses and headed straights back to our accommodations. In a couple of days, the boy returned to his home, and went back to the school as usual. But he knew that the experience he had in Delhi on the night of August 14 was nothing sort of a dream!


That 15-year old lucky boy of 1997, Nimesh Desai, now lives in Pune.

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