Saturday, July 4, 2015

Loudly Celebrated

It is the 4th of July again, and again, it is cloudy, hot, and smokey. I do not look forward to this day. Yes, the day off is definitely welcome, but other than that, there are few things that redeem this holiday.

We finish groceries and chores early in the week to avoid leaving the house on this day. The beach is overly over-crowded, as are the few stores that are open. People descend on the beaches and parks armed with chairs and gigantic coolers with lots of beer. Things get really loud after that, and this is just late morning. By the time the 4th dawns, even, the air crackles with extra static and fumes; people have been fire cracking away for days. The little showers that are so much a part of this land and this season, do little but add steam and damp.

One of the extraordinary things about this part of the world, unlike India, is that festivals are all the business of individuals, not the entire community; these are controlled events, contained within designated areas and there is no joy or celebration that spills over to the streets. If one were to find oneself driving around town on festival days, there is little evidence of anything being celebrated.

In India, I remember pandals, exhibits at every street corner, music, people in festive garb, extra hawkers, extra beggars, colored lights and flags stringed all over streets, and no one would be confused about what victory, god, beginning or end is being celebrated. Fresh flowers and colored sand would be in great demand for days before the day, as people plan decorations for their businesses, streets, houses, temples,even public buildings in their neighborhood. There was a particular smell of festivals: the air smelled of marigolds, incense,and laddoos. Freshly cleaned and decorated houses stood invitingly open, the family in newly stitched clothes milling around with neighbors and visitors, sharing sweetmeats with all, acquaintances and strangers alike. Even if one did not share the ideals or the faith being celebrated, one didn't have a choice but to get swept in the celebrations. I loved it all except the firecrackers during Diwali.

Here, I do not have much family in town. So today is truly a day off. No music blares so I cannot work; no fragrances distract; indeed, this could be any Saturday, a sunny morning with rain later on silent streets and quiet houses.

This post may sound unpatriotic or snooty. However, as we move towards a more globalized entity, I wonder how many Independence Days one should celebrate, and what exactly we celebrate. These days celebrate our victories over each other and often, become the flint that spark riots in some parts of the world. I shudder and fear that instead of celebrating end of atrocities, these days open up scabs and force old wounds to bleed and weep anew. They remind us, most of all, of our differences, our separations.

For these reasons, I AM glad that the 4th of July is quieter here than the 15th of August is, in India. After all, freedom-day is a serious thought, a quiet contemplation about the price it demands, an examination of its various hues, a continuous re-adjustment of its definition, and it is a sad day that forces survivors to reflect on the heavy losses incurred.

I wish we had an anthem for the planet, a day that marks end of global atrocities, a song that arouses an upsurge of patriotic feeling for the land, the oceans, and the air above, without imaginary, artificial boundaries that apply only to human beings.

On such a day, perhaps, I will not mind the fire works.


  1. Great post! You put many of my thoughts into words--much more eloquently strung together words than any I have put together.

  2. You know that is not true, but you are ever so kind to say so! Thank you!


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