Freedom at last: Vignettes of that memorable day in 1947

Independence day holds a mix of emotions for each individual. But the common feeling of freedom remains the same in everyone. Patriot talks with few individuals who witnessed the events of that momentous day: 15 August 1947

15 August 1947

CARRIED AWAY: Crowds broke barriers to shake Lord Mountbatten's hand on his farewell ride / Photo: Getty

Octogenarian Vijay Puri was five years old when India celebrated independence from British colonial rule. She recalls that though the sense of anticipation had been building up for years and it should have been a day of pure celebration, because of Partition, the day was not one of unalloyed joy.
“I think people had mixed feelings: joy of freedom and anxiety of resettlement,” says Puri. She continues, most people, including her family, were happy to come out of the trauma of mass migration at short notice.

15 August 1947
TOTAL RECALL: Vijay Puri, then 5 years old, remembers the day clearly

“They heaved a sigh of relief to be with their family members already in India.  But migration was tough so the celebration was there but in limits,” she
says.
She recalls that people in her neighbourhood distributed sweets and sang patriotic songs. There was a wave of joy all over the country.
When India gained independence, Mrinal Kumar Roy was growing up in Bihar (Sitamarhi). He says, ”I remember my maternal uncle had come from Giridi. My father, a doctor, was a busy man, so my uncle made all the arrangements.”

15 August 1947
FESTIVE FEEL: Mrinal Kumar Roy, then 12, remembers flowers and garlands at his home in Bihar

As the 87-year-old  recalls, his uncle  bought flags, garlands and decorated the hallway. His whole family along with his elder brother and younger sister were involved in decorating the table along with their uncle. They put up a photo of Subhash Chandra Bose.
“We kids got to know we are now independent and the British will leave our country. We were very happy. We realized we were dependent and now we have become independent”, he adds.
As for Vijay Puri, who was six years old at the time, the government school in which she was enrolled conducted celebrations like every other place. “The atmosphere was very bright and people were happy to be their own”, she adds.
On the following Independence Day, she remembers the excitement about going to the Red Fort and listening to Jawaharlal Nehru’s speech. Her maternal grandmother was an Arya Samaj worker from Lahore and after independence they led a simple life.
For Roy, the meaning of freedom was that India was finally shrugging off the British yoke. He says with satisfaction that now people are in charge of their own destiny.
Talking about how the nation has changed over the years, he says, “Things have improved so much as compared to before. But politics is tainted now and it has become party-centric.”
He continues, “A lot of people are suffering from increasing unemployment and inflation over the past few years.”
“We never imagined India would part this way”, says 87-year-old Nirmala Dutta from Vishnu Garden. She says, “My father was a colonel in the army, so we didn’t have to face much difficulties while moving from Rawalpindi to Delhi.”  She was 12 years old when Partition happened and still remembers the fear in other people’s eyes and the distress refugees felt about leaving everything behind.
She is glad that her parents educated her till matriculation, which was a bold decision during the 1950s.
HC Sharma was nine years old when India witnessed the historic moment in Indore. “On the day of independence, people were roaming around hoisting the flag and chanting Inquilab zindabad!”

15 August 1947
PATRIOTIC FERVOUR: HC Sharma, 9 years old in 1947, remembers slogans of ‘Inquilab zindabad!’

He remembers asking his father about the noise outside and his father tells him that the British are no longer ruling India. “The news of independence was spread through the radio and patriotic songs were being played throughout the day”, he adds.
“It was a whole different situation because it was a new feeling and all of us felt a sense of  belongingness.”

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