Friday, 26 January 2018 | Gunmeet Bindra –
There are moments in the lives of some human beings that are a watershed of sorts when their own DNA talks to them. These are not conversations of the mind, but rather reflections that stir the soul; reflections that invariably leave us with one overwhelming emotion…A Buddha moment.
On a short visit to the Andaman Islands earlier this month, like so many before me, I visited the Cellular Jail in Port Blair. Until then, along with my son and daughter, I had been reveling in the beauty of the tropical islands created by the hand of God amidst the spectacular waters of the Indian Ocean. Nature was resplendent in its magnificence here, and these vistas were amongst the most stunning on the planet. Yet, memories from my childhood gnawed at my heart as I remembered that these waters were known as ‘Kaala Paani’ and that hundreds, if not a few thousand, of our people had been tortured and killed here.
The three-prongs of the jail, the cells, the gallows, though now silent, were screaming at my sub- consciousness… and what was stored away in some forgotten corner of my brain started to emerge. At one level I wanted to run away from this relic of our past, but was instead being drawn deeper into it.
I desperately needed to know more; more than the Gadar movement, and the next chapter of the story now lay in the fading pages of history pertaining to World War 1. These young men, by then fairly well established in the US, had given up everything and returned to Singapore to fight the British in the hope of liberating India… a precursor of what would happen with the INA three decades later under Subhash Chandra Bose. Unfortunately, these men were betrayed… as so often in our case, by many of our own… and they were mercilessly hunted down. Those who were not killed outright, were transported to the Cellular Jail where they were broken in body but not in spirit… and as the number of freedom fighters in subsequent years was to swell, those who had not succumbed to disease, were hung in the wooden contraption that greets visitors as they trudge into the grey walls of Cellular Jail.
A Sound and Light show chronicles the horrors of ‘Kaala Paani’ and each spoken word felt like the lash of a whip across one’s body, for the past, engulfed as it was by 200 years of slavery under a brutal colonial system, is often a stark reminder of what mankind can do to each other.
I sat there with my family, numb, horrified, tormented and yet there was a feeling of pride for these men, knowing what would happen to them, had chosen to fight for freedom rather than accept the yoke of slavery.
The Sound and Light Show… both at the Cellular Jail and on Ross Island had been put together superbly… and cast a spell on my senses, a spell that was rudely broken. As I tried to control the overwhelming sense of sadness buried in the walls of the place, I was suddenly distracted by the sound of laughter, a sound so incongruous to the atmosphere, that I found myself turning around in disbelief to find the source of this irreverent banter.
It broke my heart to see a group of youngsters laughing and making fun of the proceedings. How myopic has our vision become that we are unable to appreciate anything but the obvious? How fleeting has our memory become, that we are unable to respect anything more than a couple of years old? How self- centred has our collective soul turned?
My mind now started questioning the teacher in me: Are we doing enough to sensitise our children to not just appreciate, but to salute those who endure the pain and sacrifice to give us the freedom that we flaunt around so frivolously? Should not celebrations like Republic Day and Independence Day be more than unfurling the flag on these days …do we as educators have a much larger role and are we doing justice to it?
My mind now wandered back to Welham Boys’ where I am now even more proud to say, that envisioned by our chairman, Darshan Singh, we have taken the first steps towards introducing Military History to our students.
To study and understand what happened, not just yesterday but in the years before that, we then equip ourselves with knowledge that gives us the best chance to stop history from repeating itself.
I left the place with an even further strengthened resolve to not let the stories of our martyrs be wiped off so easily. It is our responsibility, as educators to ensure that our children and the generations after them are sensitized to these stories and that they in turn always remember the famous words inscribed in yet another cemetery in Kohima…
‘When you go home…
Tell them about us. For their Tomorrow… We Gave our Today!’
You might also like
- IPL 2020: Super Victory September 20, 2020
- Amend farm Bills, BKS asks Centre September 20, 2020
- LoP Hridayesh, BJP’s Shams hospitalised after testing positive September 20, 2020
- Covid-19: Record breaking spree of contagion continues in U’khand September 20, 2020
- Prepare for increased movement in coming days: CS September 20, 2020