On Independence Day

In the ever growing list of days to celebrate, Independence Day has started looking more and more like any other of them. In the world that I inhibit or am forced to inhibit, these days are marked by a surge in Orkut messages, group mails, gestures so meaningless that I am amazed over and over again (like changing your Orkut profile pick to Indian Flag on 15th Aug). Nonetheless, Independence still brings back the memories from the past, from the days of innocence when it was so easy to believe in things. Back than the morning actually felt a little special on such days and heart felt a little extra spring.

But I am in in a different place and in different times now. In US, 4th of July is celebrated in form of sales and deals. Yes, there are fireworks all over the place and probably other ceremonies which I am not aware of yet but there are also cheap things to be bought. Not as many as on Labor Day or on Thanks Giving or on New Year but still some. Thankfully, Indian community probably has not been identified as a targeted consumer group yet and so no special discounts on 15th Aug yet.

CMU Indian community, however, has a nice way of celebrating it. There is an old tradition of fence painting here. There is a fence in the middle of the campus and whatever is painted on it previous night, stays for all of next day. So every year on 14th Aug night, it is painted with tri colors which stay on for all of 15th Aug. Looking at it next day feels nice and a little warm in this distant land.

Incidentally, 14th Aug is also the day every year when orientation for new International students starts in CMU. Many of the new Indian students, feeling more patriotic than ever before come to the function and excited talk about the first day of orientation. I find it a little ironic as I mentioned on this blog last year. I heard that this year somebody described the pride she felt when in the morning she saw so many Indians among the new students.

That set me thinking. What is it that she felt proud of? No doubt, coming to CMU is a personal achievement for many, a moment of pride. I would be lying if I deny that I felt the same when I got admitted. This is one of the best places to get educated in certain fields and to do world class research. I am glad I am here. But then I wonder, why did I have to come here to do research and get good education? I will not speak on behalf of anyone but I personally would have preferred to stay back and do my PhD in India. I am here because there were no decent places for doing that. My dreams and aspirations have my country built into them but to fulfill them, I have to spend these 4-5-6 years in this foreign land. When I think like that, I feel my being here, of all those new students being here is not a moment of pride for my country, it is rather a moment of introspection.

Happy Independence Day !


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