‘We were children and could not distinguish freedom from bondage, but we could understand that a momentous and happy event was imminent.’
How did little children celebrate the first Independence Day in a village school in Bihar? Professor Ajit D Masih, 84, a retired professor, remembers the momentous day when he first saw the Tiranga raised up a bamboo pole in the school ground.
The boys got half a glass of a sweet drink [sugar dissolved in water] and a laddoo.
“Since Jana Gana Mana was adopted as the National Anthem only in 1950, we sang Jhanda Ucha Rahe Hamara,” remembers Professor Masih who attends the flag hoisting ceremony on Independence Day and Republic Day in the college from where he retired 24 years ago.
On our first Independence Day, August 15, 1947, I was in Class IV in the Middle School in Chanpatia which is now in the west Champaran district of Bihar.
The school was under the jurisdiction of the district board. The school was built during the British period and exists even today.
There were about 20-25 students in my class. There were no girls. Female literacy was very low at the time of Independence; girl students could be seen in the schools of the big cities, but not in the villages and kasbas.
From the beginning of 1947, my teachers had been telling us that India would be free in a few months and our days of captivity under the British Raj were nearly over.
We were children and could not distinguish freedom from bondage, but we could understand that a momentous and happy event was imminent.
When we came to know that August 15, 1947 was chosen as the day India would have Independence, we were told that the Indian flag would be hoisted that day.
‘India will be free. The British will leave India,’ the school teacher told us.
As the day came closer, the school was filled with anticipation and excitement.
All students were told to wear a white pajama, kurta, Gandhi topi. We reached school in the morning, stood in in line and the teacher told us that Pandit Nehru had given a speech the previous night in the Constituent Assembly.
We came to know that the Union Jack had been lowered, our Tiranga had been hoisted and that Pandit Nehru would give an address from the Lal Qila in Delhi.
The headmaster hoisted the flag. The flag was slowly raised up a bamboo pole and we all clapped. Since the National Anthem came into being only in 1950, we sang Jhanda Uccha Rahe Hamara, Vijayi Vishwa, Tiranga Pyara [written by Kanpur native Shyamlal Gupta. The song was adopted at the 1938 session of the Congress].
We all got a laddoo each from the school.
Then we all went in a procession to the sugar factory. We were given a sweet drink of sugar dissolved in water. We got half a glass each.
There was a radio in the sugar factory club which was used by the British and Europeans. I went there again in the evening and heard Nehru’s ‘Tryst With Destiny speech’ which was played on the radio.
I did not understand it then, but I have read and heard that speech many times since. It is one of the best speeches delivered in Parliament.
I got a taste of freedom in my own small way at that time in 1947 when we could go near the bungalow of the British supervisor of the sugar factory without any fear. Previously, we could not venture near the premises and would be shooed away by the staff.
I later saw Dr Rajendra Prasad, Jayaprakash Narayan, who were both from Bihar, Nehru and Lal Bahadur Shastri when I was in high school and college.
Nehru had come for the convocation ceremony at Allahabad University, which was the best university in north India at that time. Later as a BA student at the university, I was in the crowd when he came for the election campaign at the railway ground near Allahabad station.
I have attended almost all Independence Day and Republic Day flag hoisting/unfurling functions since 1947. I have always liked being a part of it; it is a day which always fills me with pride and I like being a part of it.
In 1950, when the National Anthem was introduced, I was in Class VI in Siwan, Bihar. I was among the students selected to sing it on Republic Day.
A teacher first learnt the tune on his harmonium and taught it to us. I feel happy that on the first Republic Day, I was among those chosen to sing the National Anthem at the sub divisional officer’s court premises.
This year too, like every year, I will be participating in the flag hoisting ceremony.
Happy Independence Day to all of you who are reading this. Jhanda Uccha Rahe Hamara…
Watch: The Tiranga flies high at Professor Masih’s home in Bihar.
My father, Professor Masih, like he does every year, is preparing to attend the flag hoisting ceremony on Independence Day.
If you have parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, relatives, family friends who witnessed India’s first Independence Day, August 15, 1947, please do tell us about their eyewitness accounts and mail it to [email protected]
Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com
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