15th August is one of the biggest days that we as a nation celebrate; this takes me back to my school days. The preparation for the big day used to start atleast a week before. The best part about the whole week was that there were less number of classes, less studies, less burden of homework and loads of fun. The preparation for dance, singing, marches, decorations, competitions, speeches etc. used to go on full swing with a hope that every thing would go well on the D Day. Teachers used to bang their heads against the kids so that the young chaps perform well, and leave a good impression in front of the Chief Guest in turn making the Principal swell with pride. The best part about the preparation was that every second student was eager to participate in atleast one of the competitions, so that students get maximum time to bunk their classes in the name of Independence Day Preparation. Competitions for dance and singing were the easiest to prepare but the speech competition used to throw the biggest challenge. As kids, the fantasy of standing in front of some 1000 odd faces and speaking something that could leave people in awe used to be great, but then who knew how to write an inspiring speech at the age of 12-13? You may have grown up listening to the bravery tales of Freedom Fighters but trust me it does not strike at all when you are struggling to write a speech just to gain a high position in your teacher’s ‘list of favourite students’. So, the immediate help that comes to your mind is either your parents or your elder sibling. They write, you speak. Easy! But still a request about carrying the speech-chits on the podium never used to cease, just in case students forget the difficult words while speaking in front of awed audience.
Then comes the much awaited 15th August. The morning starts with patriotic songs playing at every 100 meters in the vicinity. We used to get ready for school in our ultra white uniforms, white (washed) canvas shoes, tri colour ribbon bands tied on our wrists, and all the stuff needed for whichever competition we were taking part in. Students were to reach the school much earlier to decorate the school premises, give a final practise to their act, and wait for the programme to begin. Teachers used to align the students according to the ascending order of their heights ( being tallest in class, I hated standing in the last….always), the voice of ‘shussshhhh’ from teachers used to fly around, and the nervousness on the faces of students who were taking part in competitions was inevitable. The Chief Guest used to enter the school amongst the applaud from the students, hoist the national flag and everyone used to sing the national anthem followed by the perfect salute to the flag. Then starts the programme for the Chief Guest, and the nail chewing session for the students.
The feelings from going to the stage to coming back were nothing less than an accomplishment. ‘Shivering legs before going to dais to deliver the speech….. a fake nervous smile as soon as you stand on the podium….start the words that you have learnt by rote….Stop and hurry away from the stage.’ In this hurry of stepping away from the stage, you forget if anyone even applauded for you. You come back, take a pat from teacher, and look for your friends so that you get to sit next to them. Friends are great; even if you have delivered the trashiest speech in a day, atleast for that entire day they tell you that you did well. Ha!
After all the competitions and parlances get over, starts the much awaited sweet distributing ceremony. That’s also a tricky business. As soon as you get your share, you have to leave the premises so that you can’t come for a second share. Sometimes if you don’t like your sweets, you can exchange them with your friends (although in very rare cases). Then come back home early, sleep, play, and enjoy your kind of day.
For me 15th August is all the more special because it’s my dad’s birthday. For years I have been telling my dad that I am two days elder to him. The biggest excitement of coming back home early on 15th August (s) was that mom used to prepare special dishes, and there was a special outing arranged for the evening.
Today again it’s 15th August so, Happy Independence Day to India and Happy Birthday to Papa.:)
Don’t forget to eat the cake before you leave.