August 15th means a lot of things in MrsK – from flag hoisting to new uniforms for everyone to sweet kheero (milk or payasam). Art class for grade 1 was out on the corridors – the Indian flag with mud, chalk and leaves!
Drawing, singing, speech and other competitions are held during the week. The kids drew their ‘magazine’ which is a notice board for each house. This year, they learnt a Kuvi song (lyrics by Purno and adapted to the traditional gho-o-di tune). They played the bangsi (bamboo flute), gho-o-di (a one key metal instrument), dhunduki (stringed, with bamboo and gourd) and ghunghuru (bells on a stick). It was truly impressive!
The kids get one set of new maroon uniforms on 15th August, and everyone is so smartly turned out. Especially the littlest ones in grade 1, for whom uniforms are a new concept (these days, they often wear the blue government school uniform dresses of their older sisters).
The 40-odd children from the Kachapaju government school process through the paddy fields, cross the stream and join the celebrations. Their ‘official’ school teacher lives miles away and so the school is run by Anando, on deputation from MrsK.
There’s the usual flag hoisting, chief guest’s speech, prize distribution, leaf and paper flag decorations and of course, sweets! Tagore might have been squirming in his grave at the last few jeya jaya jaya hey’s of the national anthem (somehow, I’ve never heard that last line sung tunefully in Odisha). Mr Luther, from CHB, spoke about a whole range of things from the constitution (which he described as a big book of freedom) to ATM cards (he showed the kids his) and growing up to be responsible citizens.
Sometimes I wonder. Adivasi communities live as closely to the earth as possible, leave a zero carbon footprint, grow their own local food, build climatologically appropriate houses and use resources sustainably. What has 65 years of independence meant? What is the ‘victory’ that we celebrate? Exploitation by outsiders. Still goes on. Forest and natural resources being snatched away. Still happening. Malaria and tuberculosis. Still dying. And so we intervene with vaccines and tablets, school books and computers. Is education the tool that will liberate and truly set free. Change has already come and will continue. It might create a destructive, greedy, inward looking, individualist society. Or it might bring a complex blend of more sustainable community living. Fortunately, where there is life, there is hope…
65 years on, I hope India will stop and listen to her people. The ones who grow our food, who build our roads, clean our sewers, drive our children to school. The ones who work in factories and in the family. Those who gain power through capital and those who chose to give it away. India and Bharat hardly seem like the same country, but rub shoulders constantly. May we take what’s best from each other, and work for love & peace! Jeya jeya Jeya…