Freedom at Midnight

This is my winning entry at ACK Media‘s (Amar Chitra Katha) Independence Day Contest 2014. The article made its place among top 5 entries.

freedom-at-midnight14th August, 1947. This date means a lot to a lot of people but, to my father it was the beginning of a new era. It was the morning of the fourteenth. My father’s education required him to move to Delhi to live with his elder sister and his brother in law. That morning, his college friends were all geared up about that night. They had made several plans to go to the Parliament house and bring in a new tomorrow for India with their fellow mates by their side as Mr. Nehru addressed the nation.

Around noon, as my father was preparing for a long walk over to the Parliament, his sister who was pregnant went into labour. Now as fate would have it, that morning his brother in law had been called over to Agra to deal with a documentation issue in his office’s Agra branch. There wasn’t anyone else around and so even though he panicked he maintained a brave front for his sister to see as he gave her gentle encouragement all the way over till they got to the hospital.

His spirit was calling upon the Gods to help him deal with this chaos. Seeing his sister fret and scream only made him more nervous. His brother in law was meant to come later that night and so he rushed home to inform his neighbours of his ordeal so that they’d inform his brother in law and send him over to the hospital. After an intensive and grueling seven and a half hours of labour his sister finally gave birth to a beautiful and healthy baby girl.

The nurse scrunched up her nose as if his sister had brought shame on to the family. My father’s family had always been miles ahead in thinking to the people around them. It was this progressive thinking that confused my father even more as he failed to comprehend what all the fuss was about. His brother in law walked in with huge boxes of motichoor ladoos and gave them to him as he held his daughter for the first time.

The nurse looked over to him sympathetically. He looked onto his daughter’s face and a single tear managed to escape his eyes. He smiled as he looked up to my father and said “Today, I am a father. I’ve been blessed with Goddess Lakshmi herself. Go on. Distribute these sweets to everyone in the hospital. There mustn’t be one soul in this hospital that doesn’t know how much I have been blessed by the heavens today.” The nurse looked over in disbelief as my father shoved a ladoo towards her. She hesitantly bit into it as he heard Pandit Nehru talk about a new tomorrow for India on the radio. He said, “India has been freed from the hold of it’s perpetrators and now India will welcome a brighter tomorrow with open arms”. My father looked over his shoulder and saw his brother in law look at his daughter adoringly as he gently cooed to her and reassured her of how much she was going to be loved all her life. And then, he realised India truly had broken free not just from those who meant to own it but, from the taboos and stereotypical and backward social norms that hold us back every day, holding us captive to our past. Yes, India had become independent at last.

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