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Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Independence Day - the Tata way

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.
Semolina Pudding
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.



  1. its good to feel patriotic!i do wonder about todays generation though....their only desire is to go abroad........anyway,nice and simple pudding,chilled would be really nice:)

    1. Actually it is difficult for this generation to imagine what life was like even 30 years ago when we were kids so I am sure they find the pre independence era totally alien. It is up to us to recreate that magic of patriotism the way the Tatas did for me.After all our country still has a long way to go.

  2. I miss my country and more so I couldn't attend the Independence Day Parade in NYC today. Anyways, Happy Independence Day to you and thanks for the recipe.

    1. Yes I am sure missing the flag hoisting makes one sad. I certainly would be. Happy independence day to you too

    2. Mouth watering !
      I like Samolina Pudding a lot.
      But for the 'Independence day edition' - little garnishing
      with Carrot & ? Dhania patta would be more appropriate.
      It is perhaps a mismatch but one can always leave these for
      Really QUICK recipe !

    3. Good idea! Sparrows must celebrate independence day too :)

  3. That was a very nice post Varsha,it told me something about our first independence day....strangely,i never thought of asking my parents about this; & now it is too late.Thank you once again.

  4. Thanx Indu. Yes there are so many things that our parents want to tell us and we dont have the patience to listen to. And then there are so many things that they never have a chance to say at all. In the past few months since I have been writing about my life on my blog I have become acutely aware of the fact there are so many of my parent's stories that I have half forgotten and so many that they still have to tell. This has propelled me on a mission to compile a collection of these stories in a little diary that my daughter can read when she is older.
    Thanx again - it is nice to know that someone else thinks the same way

  5. A very different kind of Independence day indeed!.In contrast today's generation considers it just as a "HOLIDAY". When i strolled through the train in the morning on 15th i was sad to find scores of our national flags on the floor,muddy,wet and crumpled by irresponsible citizens who dont care for the nation or its values.I hope this asticle instills the same belief and patriotism in today's youth.Jai Hind!

  6. Yes it is amazing that people can disrespect the flag like this. In contrast is the story of the four class four staff of Mantralay in Mumbai who stayed on to lower and roll the flag and carry it out of the building only after they were ordered to do so by the CM even when the building was on fire and people were running for their lives.
    I wonder why people buy flags when they cannot care for them?
    I hope that at some point that proud feeling of patriotism rubs off on them as well.

  7. Thanks for sharing this Varsha

    Brought back memories of Independence Days while growing up. Mornings on the building terrace. The eldest residence hoisting the flag. A few songs. Shingara and jilipi. Then back to studies

    I'd been to Jamshedpur once when in college. Remember having dinner at a place called jubilee park at the food trucks there

  8. Dear Kalyan,
    Thank you so much for your comment.
    It is great to be innundated with nostalgia sometimes.
    I enjoy it immensely.
    I loved your Mom's post on Delhi too. Nostalgia at it's best.
    Jamshedpur very faintly resembles it's old self now. You must visit it again sometime.