It was the night of 14 August 1947. Everyone had switched on the radio. Jawaharlal Nehru was to give a speech on the eve of the independence day of India at midnight.
Jacob Chapman seemed eager to listen to it too. He sat on the sofa with a glass of wine. His wife Hazel came and sat beside him. The hall was their favorite place in the magnificent bungalow allotted to them in Delhi. The street outside was very busy-people were gathering to celebrate.
” I am sure dear, the celebration would be wild. I am so proud to be British, to have given the country back to its people”, said Hazel.
“But I am not at all proud”, retorted Jacob angrily. His face turned red. Hazel knew when her husband thinks deeply his face looks red.
Hazel also knew very well that her husband was in favour of India getting independence as soon as possible. He is in love with this country and its people.
Jacob as a prominent student activist at Oxford and later as a civil servant in Westminister, always argued that a democratic country like Britain has no right to rule another country, such as India. It has thousand years of vibrant history, and with distinct culture and people. India deserved a government elected by Indians, not by the British Crown.
Jacob had been appointed to Lord Mountbatten’s elite team to oversee the process of India’s independence.
As a student of history, he was impressed how India used to be the beacon of hope and peace-always opened the doors to people fleeing religious persecution from other parts of the world. It had remained home to people of many faiths and many beliefs-whilst Europe was torn by wars between religions and faiths. India championed love and trust. Both the couple feels it in their stay in Delhi. Even their three children felt the warm welcome too, in the company of Ramlal chacha, the bawarchi and bhaya Hukum Singh, the guard.
Jacob always believed that the greatest legacy of 200 years of British rule would be to leave India unspoiled and with its tolerant spirit intact.
“But alas! What we did! We sowed the seeds of division and separated Hindus and Muslims. We created Hindu -India and Muslim-East and West Pakistan.”
“Calm down dear. Suppressed India is free now. Shouldn’t you be happy?”
“Not this way Hazel. Independence was supposed to bring joy. Not despair. The country is in pain. It is struggling to grapple with the horrors of riots unleashed by the partition.”
Jacob stood up and paced the room.
“We have again betrayed them as we did after the great war. Indian army provided the largest number of soldiers to fight, on the promise of getting self-rule at the end of the war. We gave them nothing of the sort.”
“Pray, tell me how did Indians react to that betrayal Jacob.”
“with peace Hazel. Mohandas Gandhi fought with two weapons-nonviolence and truth. The scantily draped lean chap braved imprisonment torture and humiliation but never strayed away from his path. Millions followed him calling him the Mahatma. The conviction and resolve of Churchill’s “half-naked fakir” shook the foundation of the Empire-finally the sunset in the jewel of the British crown.
“Impressive muttered Hazel.
It is already quite late. Have some sleep. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day for you..”
“I will wait to hear Nehru. Can you please make me a drink?”
“Two drinks dear. I would also hear his address to the Nation.”
Hazel brought the drinks and sat beside Jacob.
“Will Gandhiji speak”, asked Hazel.
“That is the saddest part. The man who made this moment happen is not in Delhi.”
There was a knock on the door and Hukum Singh handed over a paper to the sahib. A message from the viceroy. Jacob’s face frowned and he ground his teeth.
“My greatest blunder was to come and work for him.”
Hazel knew very well Jacob didn’t like his boss. The discussion of Mountbatten several times with Nehru and Zinnah had always irritated him. To distract her husband from that she asked, “Dear, you told Gandhiji is not here now, then where is he?”
“He is at Calcutta, giving solace to the frightened people who will migrate to an unknown place, leaving their own homes and dear ones. The eastern part of Bengal is to go to become East-Pakistan.
“This is the ultimate betrayal, Hazel. Gandhi is sorting out our mess, while we are at Delhi, all set to flee.”
The clock touched midnight. A huge cheer went outside.
“Long years ago, we made a tryst with destiny ************At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake of life and freedom. A moment comes, when an age ends and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed finds utterance.”
“A lovely speech indeed “, said Hazel.
“Ah, yes. He spoke very well. I am glad he spelled out our legacy. We indeed suppressed the soul of the Nation”
The morning of 15 August- the sun rose as usual in Delhi sky, unaware of the fact, the sunny land below was going to be the capital city of independent INDIA.
The rickshaw pullers navigating between the numerous tricolor flags nodded at each other,”achha lag raha hai”.
photo credit -www.webneel.com
Event Sponsored by Kasturi Patra, Published Writer, A Mother’s Goodbye
Can a woman be a mother at the cost of being herself? Can circumstances force a child to be a mother? To know the answers, do read Kasturi Patra’s A Mother’s Goodbye, a poignant tale of a woman, her children, and a mother who said did not say good bye.