Nothing has caused more grief for less gain. For hundreds of years, it has caused bloodshed and unhappiness. Today, this artificial idea with no validity in the natural scheme of things remains the only generally acceptable excuse for rape, murder and looting. I am talking of the concept of a nation-state of course.
In a world where xenophobia is a hated word, where it is increasingly unacceptable to ask a person for his or her race or caste, it is okay to exclude people because of their nationality. Environmental laws are increasingly stringent, except where they 'threaten national security'. Running amok with a bomb is criminal, except when done in the name of the nation.
Despite this, my mother, my sister and I cook a sweet every Independence Day. The nation has nothing to do with it. The people we have loved are the reason we celebrate. For me, Narvekar Aaji is the reason I will be making kheer today.
She was not my blood grandmother, but a friend of my parents. However, she was the main grandparent for me for much of my childhood. Fierce to the point of aggression, she was capable of loving with the same intensity. Her husband, Bappa Narvekar, was a gentler soul but equally loving. They loved India with the same unquestioning tenderness that they showered on us children, and in the same manner.
They would celebrate India's birthday just as they would celebrate ours- by making and distributing sweets. On Aug 15, we would visit to eat the kheer or the halwa she had made. And that was not the only time they gave us sweets either. At the beginning of term, my sis would catch the 6:45 am bus to the town her college was in. Bappa would be at the bus stand, holding a parcel of jalebis- her favourite sweet.
The photograph? I thought of putting one up of the tri-colour. But this man represents my India. He is a jalebi-maker in the little village of Sulibhanjan where I worked for about 2 years. He made a living and took care of his family despite infinite odds. He was unfailingly kind, courteous, always retained that broad smile and delighted in life. And he makes wonderful hot, syrupy, crunchy jalebis.
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