Happy Republic Day!

India celebrates its 6oth Republic Day! All day long there will be ceremonies and parades in different parts of the country. In a remote corner of its capital, on top of a reclaimed garbage dump a bunch of children celebrated Republic Day a day earlier. Two tiny flags on top of a battered speaker marked the occasion. If the props were few the spirit was high. Every child has prepared an item for the occasion.

Little Mithi danced with gay abandon. Her little feet tapping to the beat of the music, a huge smile on her face. There were songs, poems and skits all performed with utmost seriousness and concentration. Yes the little Okhla children celebrated republic day with aplomb! The same happened in other pwhy centres too! I could not be present at all centres and as is often the case lived the moments by proxy courtesy the innumerable photographs taken on the occasion. What was touching is that in each and everyone of them the children were beaming and happy.

These were children of India, protected by the very Constitution that was being commemorated today, the one that was meant to guarantee them a string of rights: justice, liberty, equality words that had scant meaning for these little children. Most of them belonged to extremely poor families, their parents having often fled a flood or a drought or some other calamity to seek greener pastures but sadly found themselves in situations often worse then the one they had left. The pot of gold that they sought remained a chimera.

The children sang and danced oblivious of what awaited them. They were still protected by the innocence of childhood when everything is possible. Tomorrow little Mithi will come to the centre her school bag in tow and will follow her lessons and painstakingly complete all tasks assigned to her. What no one knows is how long it will last: the arrival of a sibling may just put and end to her childhood and her school days. Is this not the plight of many a girl child?

Mithi's rights are not protected by any Constitution. They simply depend on the vagaries of the reality of her life.

As we celebrate our Republic, my thoughts goes to the millions whose lives hang by a tenuous string in this country that is getting polarised by the minute. As one part of it grows by leaps and bounds to meet a glitzy destiny, the other seems to be sinking with the same rapidity to darker abysses. And yet this is the very one that infuses energy in our lives, the one when hope still lives in the tiny feet of a child dancing, the one where values still rule the day. The one that the world toasts today in a celebrated movie.

If one India is busy debating whether schools should be allowed to increase their already high fees, the other is wondering whether their overcrowded and only school will be sold to build a mall. That is the sad reality of how things as we celebrate yet another Republic Day. I wonder how many more will come and go before all the children in India will the rights enshrined in the very body being honoured today.

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