Independence Day

ZToday is August 15. On this day in 1948, India became independent of British rule. 65 years of Independence! Midnight’s children are now senior citizens.  “Jai Hind!” They say, “long live India!”

On this day in 1968, my parents were married. Today would have been their 45th anniversary.

This is just a coincidence. The story I’ve been told is that astronomically, 15th August 1968 was actually a pretty inauspicious day. My father was in a hurry to get married and return to the United States to begin teaching.

Some would say that it’s impossible to talk about Independence without talking about partition. Thousands, (millions?) of people were uprooted from their homes, crossing the boundary of the newly formed states of India and Pakistan. Violence errupted. After partition came decades of political instability, developing world problems, etc. “Birth pangs,” they say. When written out like that it’s a tough story.

And it’s hard for me right now to think about my parent’s anniversary without thinking about what followed. Struggle, mental illness, instability, death. On paper it’s a tough story.

People still celebrate Independence Day, despite what followed. People celebrate the moment of self-determination and freedom. In that moment is the seed of potential, of possibility. What happened after independence happened after independence. To minimize this day’s importance just because of the challenges the country has faced after that, (some of which possibly stemmed from the manner independence was gained), is specious and wrong. Today is a day to celebrate that moment of possibility and promise. That pregnant moment, full of the unknown.

No one is here to really celebrate my parents’ anniversary, I guess it’s not really an anniversary since both of them have past away. Sometimes I worry that in making this documentary I might focus too much on the negative, the social issues that intersected their lives and problems they faced. My sister likes to remind me that our mother loved going out to Chi-chi’s, a Mexican restaurant, and eating chips and salsa until her nose was running.

So I’m going to table all the other stuff, and take today to celebrate that moment they shared on the 15th of August 1968. I picture my dad at that time, younger than I am now, imagining his life stretched out before him, the possibility, the promise, the unknown. He had just gotten his Ph.D, and was marrying a beautiful young woman from his caste. He was doing everything right. He was going halfway around the world to live in the United States. I picture my mother, a teenage bride, unsure of what to do, turning down an offer from medical school to make her parents happy. But maybe she was intrigued and charmed by this shy, curly-haired boy and his intellect. Maybe she was inspired by what this unknown life in America could be, far, far away from the life she knew growing up in Jaipur, India. I hope that on that day they felt the promise of independent India, the promise of America, the promise of each other. They had a moment when it was all there within reach! They were there together, intoxicated on the possibility and the unknown stretched out before them.

Life was happening, and they were living it!

That’s what I’m going to celebrate today. Jai ho!