Subramaniya Bharathi, one of the greatest poets of India wrote this poem which begins; “Let us dance, let us sing a hymn, that we got our freedom.” What was so special about this? Well, he wrote the poem some thirty years before we actually got the freedom from the British rule.
The very thought of freedom has made him to break into song & dance. So we can imagine the happiness and joy Indian citizens would have felt on 15th August 1947. My mom who was ten at that time, told me yesterday they had holiday at school and my great grandfather who was an engineer with PWD hoisted the national flag. I also read a story from Asokamitran and he describes the feelings of children in this wonderful story:
Till I went to Class VIII, I did not know there was place called Sutan Bazaar which was about seven or eight miles away from my home. I got to know the place only because I did not buy a text book in time. The shopkeepers in Secunderabad told me to go Sultan Bazaar as they had run out of stock. Even in those days, the place was very crowded and a tall peepul tree (ficus religiosa) was standing proudly and majestically near the police station. Once I got used to Sultan Bazaar, I wanted to go there even if I wanted to buy a pencil and cycling such a long distance made me happy and proud. Every time I went there, I looked up at the peepul tree.
As I entered Class X, the struggle for freedom reached its peak. The ‘direct action’ by the brutal British rule resulted in hundreds of corps lining the streets in Calcutta. Also it became evident that without an independent Pakistan state, freedom would not be possible. When that got confirmed, people started wondering what would become of Hyderabad Nizam State? Well the Nizam decided that it would remain ‘Hyderabad Nizam state’ and not a part of India.
But many people had a different opinion. They thought that Nizam state should join the Indian union. The Nizam was a friend of the British all these years. Now let him be a friend of the union.
Madanmohan my friend and I did not know about all these. All we thought about was hoisting the tricolour on the 15th of August. Somehow a flag landed us at our home and we decided that we should hoist it somewhere.
From early July, Nizam’s police raised their lathis and brought them down heavily on the heads of anyone who uttered ‘Vande Mataram.’ Also the private army of Qasim Rizvi called Razakars beat up anyone who was wearing a Khadi shirt or Khadi cap. There was atmosphere of fear and we wondered where could we hoist the flag? Madanmohan and I looked at many places in Secunderabad but decided against them because we are used to these spots and someone may recognise us.
“Shall we try in Sultan Bazaar?” I asked him. After school, we both started towards Sultan Bazaar in our bicycles.
In July and August there would be rains in Hyderabad and whichever direction you peddled the cycle you would fell you are facing a headwind.
When we reached the Sultan Bazaar, we found the place deserted. Young men wearing Khadi caps kept shouting, ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Indian Union Zindabad’ and the Nizam’s police arrested them and took them away in Tongas. People who had assembled there got beaten mercilessly.
Though I have decided the place, I did not know where and how can we tie the flag without getting caught. Only when we reached the spot we understood the difficulties. We could tie it on the lamp post. But it was not possible without getting caught. If a broken kite had fallen on the post we can climb under the excuse of retrieving it and tie it up there. There are concessions for retrieving the kite. But would a kite fall on the post on 14th for our convenience?
Madanmohan had lost enthusiasm. He said we could use the scout sticks as a flag pole and hoist it near clock tower. For scouts, making a pole was a lesson. We used to join two sticks and make it a pole to pass the test. You could see in Telugu movies all young men would carry a stick. The scout stick looked something similar. It was about five feet in length and instead of making a pole, we could actually tie the flag on it and run around.
When our thirst for freedom and hoisting the flag was coming down, I remembered the peepul tree. I told Madanmohan, “I know a place which would be perfect. Come let me show you.”
He said, “but you are going towards the police station.”
“The place is near the station.”
“Near the police station?” he was having doubts.
“Come let us make an attempt.”
The peepul tree was next the police station. People who wanted to circumambulate the tree for a prayer or a boon would be forced to circumambulate the police station as well. There was a very small gap between the two and goats some how, got into the gap, climbed on the wall of the station and were chewing the leaves from the trees.
“We can climb on the tree and tie the flag to one of the branches.” I told Madanmohan.
We could not believe our luck. Though the station had a terrace there were no stairs to get there. If we somehow manage to get on top, we could tie the flag to the branch without being seen.
We felt little sad that we did not bring the flag with us. But we decided to visit the place on 13th or 14th with the flag and some twine, tie it up and welcome our freedom.
But it started raining from the morning on the 13th. There was some sun in the afternoon but it started raining again heavily this time.
By the time I reached Madanmohan’s home, I was totally drenched. He was down with fever and his mom sent me back from the door not allowing me to see him.
I stood under a sunshade in a nearby shop and swatted the water from my head. I was sneezing continuously. I removed the flag from the paper wrap and used it as a towel to dry my head. When I wrung it afterwards to remove the water from the flag, the water had turned into a mixture of colours. If we hoist a flag which drips colour like this, Nizam’s police would struggle to think what they should punish.
Madanmohan and I welcomed the dawn of India’s freedom with high fever. There was a palpable commotion in the city. Someone had hoisted the tricolour in the midnight. The Government had suspended few policemen.
I was desperate to know where did they hoist the flag. Since action was taken against policemen they were in a irritable mood. My father’s friend was a writer (admin clerk) in the nearby police station. I asked him without letting my father know. He said, “Sultan Bazaar. Why are you asking me?”
I asked him, “Is it on top of the peepul tree near the police station?”
He asked, “Yes. But how do you know?”
He was a policeman after all. So I did not tell him.
You can read my blog published on last year Independence day here: Independence Day – Some Thoughts
Ashokamitran (September 22, 1931 – March 23, 2017) was the pen name of Jagadisa Thyagarajan, an Indian writer regarded one of the most influential figures in post-independent Tamil literature. He began his prolific literary career with the prize winning play “Anbin Parisu” and went on to author more than two hundred short stories, and a dozen novellas and novels. A distinguished essayist and critic, he was the editor of the literary journal “Kanaiyaazhi”. He has written over 200 short stories, eight novels, some 15 novellas besides other prose writings. Most of his works have also been translated into English and other Indian languages, including Hindi, Malayalam, and Telugu.