This blog post was triggered by my walk this morning. Contrary to normal practice, I was not listening to my iPod today and was also a walking a little later in the morning than is usual. Today was a public holiday here in Mumbai and so I did not have to rush through my morning routine.
As can be expected from me, I was walking along at a chugging pace, deep in thought.
About 5 minutes into my walk, I suddenly stopped short because an auto-rickshaw pulled up right in front of me. I was really annoyed at the “stopping on a dime” trick and looked up to see a little girl, may be 7 or 8 years old, alight from the auto.
She was all dressed up as a traditional Maharashtrian lady, in a nav-vari saree, nath (nose ring), veni (woven flowers) in her hair, and a pooja thali in hand. She could have just as well stepped out of a Raja Ravi Varma painting.
She was followed by a young boy, perhaps 10 years old, carrying a red flag and dressed in a suit with a wig of flowing white hair and a cotton beard. And then came a middle-aged lady dressed “normally”!
It was a surreal moment before I realised that today was May 1; both Labour Day and Maharashtra Day, and that I was walking past a school. And the little boy was Karl Marx. 🙂
It reminded me of another morning walk on another public holiday, a few months ago; again involving schools and school students. As usual, I was walking at a brisk pace and it was about 7 AM when I suddenly noticed my fellow walkers coming to a halt and standing still; where they were.
The Mumbaikar that I am, my first thought was that there is some sort of trouble ahead. But the fact that people were just standing still and not turning back did not gel with this thought. Just as I was puzzling over things came the first notes of Jana Gana Mana, India’s National Anthem, wafting through the air. It was January 26, India’s Republic Day, and we were passing by a school. The school children were in, bright and early, for the traditional flag hoisting and were now singing the National Anthem.
What touched me was that the man (and woman) on the street stopped to pay respects when Jana Gana Mana was sung in a school that they were passing by. And everyone (including early morning cooks and workers at a nearby famous eatery, milk men, newspaper boys; just about everyone) stood still till the National Anthem ended. And then joined the school children in a resounding Jai Hind!
Jai Hind! indeed, and Jai Maharashtra! Mumbai is one of the few places where you could see and experience such things!
- Jana Gana Mana: Leading me back home (myteeaphrodite.wordpress.com)
- Speaking without words (utpalaj.wordpress.com)
- Jana Gana Mana – Audio (www.youtube.com)
- Jana Gana Mana – Audio – Instrumental (www.youtube.com)