A sleepless 14th August night in the heavily surcharged atmosphere of expectation - was the norm when I was growing up. Independence Day always left me breathless with its promise.
I didn’t know much about what independence meant in those days, but I could feel the tears that were just beneath the surface in my mother’s eyes as she spoke about that day in 1947 when they listened with disbelief as the news of freedom travelled to them many hundreds of miles in distant Kharagpur from Delhi. As the long play record of patriotic songs trilled on continuous replay she told us about how the streets were filled with a joyous madness when independence was announced.
Her sentiments would probably have remained alien to me had it not been for the Tatas who even thirty years later managed to inject the same mad enthusiasm and patriotism into this national holiday. If you lived in Jamshedpur it was impossible not get swept up in this wave of patriotism.
In our little town this was not a day for sleeping late. We would patter out in our pyjamas at 4 AM to watch the Prabhat Pheri as senior school children paraded the roads of the town. As the Prabhat Pheri permeated our sleep drenched eyes it would dawn on us that the long awaited day was finally here. Frenzied fights would ensue as we fought to get to the bathroom first in our rush to be the first ones to be dressed for the Flag hoisting and our faithful record player would be silenced in deference to the patriotic songs now booming all over the TELCO Colony. Even the worst cynics would be forced to sing along.
As we threaded our way through the sea of people on the way to the stadium, we would buy armloads of paper flags and wave them high in the air. Then inside the stadium, my parents would have to struggle to keep us in our seats through the flag hoisting and the march past of the twenty odd schools and ten departments of Tata Motors. They would finally relent and lift their restraining hands as the crowd favourites – the canine section and the live band went past.
There were no televisions to drag us home and a palpable sense of regret pervaded as the ceremony wound up. Reluctant to go back to the mundane, little groups would crowd into friend’s houses and breakfast with more tales of those years before 1947.
Now – so many years later – when my eyes cloud with tears every time I hear the Jana gana mana my heart fills with gratitude for those lessons in patriotism that the Tatas taught me.
This semolina pudding was my Mothers Independence day favourite - probably because you can make large quantities in minutes.
1. In a pan mix 2 tablespoons of sooji with a glass of milk
2. Add sugar to taste. I add less than a tablespoon because I am not a sweet lover
3. Put the pan on the gas and allow the milk to come to a boil. Stand right there to avoid a mess.
4. Once the milk boils – lower the flame and simmer, stirring continuously.
5. The mixture slowly thickens.
6. When it starts going “phut – phut” turn off the gas and transfer the pudding to a bowl
7. Put the bowl in the fridge to chill.
8. It can be served hot but I love it chilled.