66 years of independence have slowly faded into sepia toned images that newspaper companies pull out of their archives, blow the year old dust away, gingerly pull out of their cover, take a look, heave a sigh of relief and send off to the editors’ desk. Then in the week prior to the holiday we are treated to various versions of nostalgia and reminiscence. People celebrating on the streets, the kind of cloths that people wore then, the cost of things then, the debate – was it “better” then?
A few people, in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and maybe older ….sigh! They have some crystal or vague memories of these things. Some saw them with their own eyes, others heard of them from their parents and the more pressing tones of their grandparents, urgently trying to paint pictures of their lives on their mortal grandchildren, their slender links to immortality. We listened, overcomes with strange images and ideas. When there were jackals on Malabar hill. When food and bus tickets cost “Annas”, when cigarettes came in tins of fifty sticks and when Radio Ceylon ruled the airwaves.
The ghosts of these past lives must have some kind of grip on my thoughts; I like these memories and cherish these images. Like my head, this country was less crowded then. On Independence Day it was possible to eat cream filled doughnut from MAFCO at Worli sea face without having to stare at 10 sets of couples trying to snatch a moment of freedom from the Arabian sunset.
One thing about Independence Day has not changed. It was a holiday then, it’s a holiday now. It was one day off from work, school and life….to just sit and relax, watch the world, catch your breath. Sitting where I am today, surrounded by 20/30 something’s, I am seeing the new meaning of Independence Day emerge.
Independence Day has gone from being a day of refection and nostalgia to one of the most important pillars of modern lifestyle and mythology.
All hail “The Long Weekend”.
Here is some data to show change in perspective, Skyscanner’s flight search data reveals, we are aiming to celebrate doing one thing in two diverse places – we will party on the beach in Goa or party on the moonscape of Ladhak. As per this data, the destinations of Leh and Goa have emerged as the most searched destinations by us to celebrate our freedom. I think the 20/30 something’s are onto a good thing. The seaside does fill us up with the feeling of freedom and anybody who has been to Ladhak, anyone who has walked on that arid, blustery, magical land knows a thing or two about feeling liberated.
This new meaning of Independence Day is also good for business. Coming as it does in the peak of the off season. Here are some more numbers. Flight booking to holiday places like Goa and Kerala are up almost 80% for the long independence weekend. This pushed fares to almost double the standard rate. The average fare for a return journey from Mumbai to Udaipur was Rs. 20,000, at least Rs. 6,000 more than the normal rates. Peak off season rates on hotel stay drives this business to great degree, Goibibo.com offers 20% discount on hotels in Goa at this time and has witnessed an 80% surge in hotel booking.
Forget Radio Ceylon, the new sound is the jingle, jangle of the cash machine. Happy Independence Day! By Rajesh Baruah