Mumbai Memoir 37- ‘Freedom lessons at Mumbai’s traffic signals’
Its been 68 years that India attained political freedom from the colonial rule. Since then the country has been heading towards new horizons. As a Mumbai’kar, I feel proud that Mumbai is referred as the ‘financial capital’ of India and has been majorly contributing to the national GDP. This status is only possible because of the people of Mumbai, who have kept the city on the move in their own small or big way. Most of the people have a history of migration. Some of them are 2nd or 3rd generation residents of the city. Once in Mumbai, people like the freedom and opportunities that the city offers here. But ‘freedom here comes for a cost’ and determined Mumbai’kars are ready to give the cost of their dreams. The city is full of tales of many hardworking people who dreamt under the street lights at mid-night and made it big one day.
A week before 15th August (India’s Independence Day) Mumbai showcases a lot of artefacts with the Indian flag theme on it. Some restaurants have food items that have the Indian flag tri-colour theme. It’s a delight to relish Falooda, ice-creams or some Indian sweet like Rasagulla that are specially made in saffron, white and green colours. These colours are symbolic of the values of ‘sacrifice, peace and prosperity’ theme that the Indian flag propagates. Most of the heritage buildings are especially illuminated with the freedom theme, particularly the Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station and the Gateway of India monument. There is a beautiful air of patriotism and sense of pride around the 15th of August in Mumbai.
I enjoy buying the tri-colour paper flags from street vendors at traffic signals. I like the twinkle in their eye when someone purchases a flag from them. Most of the traffic signal vendors struggle to make a living. But on national festivals like the Independence Day and Republic day they see scope to earn extra bucks for their families, irrespective of a downpour from the heavens above. Yesterday I saw a little boy helping his mom sell flags at one of the traffic signals in South Mumbai. I was impressed with the kind of pace with which he was communicating in English with customers and counting money which his mother had earned. The tshirt the little boy was wearing was that of an NGO named ‘Akanksha’, which empowers underprivileged kids with education. No wonder the kid was smart and confident at helping his mom. Since 24 years the NGO has been inculcating the value of education in an around Mumbai area. Recently I had seen the NGO’s video featuring kids, who they teach, singing the Indian national anthem (which is in the Bengali language) and educating India and the world with its meaning. I highly recommend you to see the extremely creative video posted here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20RTyGQuAp8&spfreload=10
As the signal turned green I smiled to myself, as I reflected that the green traffic light was just not symbolic for drivers to proceed but also hinted about a progressive India that is gradually being educated at traffic signals of Mumbai.
A visitor to Mumbai may wonder about the real face of ‘Free India’. Its puzzling to them to figure out if India is all about the poverty, struggle and chaos that is apparently seen when sight- seeing around, or to trust the fact that the nation is heading into a new era of development. The truth is that with all its practical might the nation and its people are individually or collectively attempting to progress. I believe, just earning freedom is not enough, steps towards sustaining it too is of utmost importance. Every empowered Indian can support a social cause dear to his/her heart. That’s how we can be the new age freedom fighters combating social and economic evils that still are prevailing around. I support education and feel happy to see that value of education and passion to upgrade one’s social status has gradually percolated in the grassroots of India. The current Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, proudly tells of how he use to help his dad sell tea during his school breaks. The 11th President of India, Shri. APJ Abdul Kalam use to sell newspapers during his school days to support his family income for pursuing education. Who knows the little boy who is helping his mom sell paper flags at Mumbai’s traffic signal today, may hoist the national flag as the President or Prime Minister of India one day!
Happy Independence to All!
*Dedicating this article to my niece Ishita Sankulkar, as she starts her journey in seeking formal education from this week onwards. Happy Schooling to her!
Photo credits: Aditya Chichkar, www.akanksha.org , Free Internet source.