This article marks the debut of a series of documentations about the festivals and holidays experienced during my first extended trip here in India. The first is a single day which celebrates something considered both international and personal on many levels: independence.
India and Switzerland’s Independence Days are incidentally both in August, on the first and fifteenth of the month respectively. This is one of quite a few similarities tying my two homes on completely different continents together. India’s struggle for independence as a nation was of course much more brutal and nation-wide. Switzerland has a long history of neutrality when the rest of the world insisted on war, so their territorial squabbles remained local for the most part. India’s Independence Day is cause for much greater celebration, because so many people had to lose their lives for us to have freedom of expression, on the 15th of August and indeed always.
Democracy is something all countries strive for these days, which is what makes Independence Day so widely celebrated. It ensures freedom of speech and open expression of personal views. This freedom is important to entire nations but also on a much more personal level. Life is a story of growing independence for every single human being. As babies we are completely dependent on our parents for everything from food to shelter and most importantly love and protection. Everyone eventually gets the urge for their own personal independence day. Change can be a scary thing for a lot of people; others embrace and long for it. The attitude to independence is in that way a very individual thing, despite its value to the whole world in different ways.
I am definitely in the first category, terrified and intimidated by any major changes in my life. That’s why my time at Happy Days is a true blessing, a kind of safe haven allowing me to build my confidence and make experiences in teaching without straying from a home environment. Incidentally my first test of improved confidence came during the Independence Day celebrations at the school here, this past August 15th. I would not call myself a good public speaker by any stretch of imagination, simple fact. But somehow watching my Nani pull out an inspirational quotation on the spot gave me a burst of courage I still don’t fully understand. She might not be Umi Ma’am on a daily basis anymore but the nerve to get up and tell all those kids assembled from the hostel how their school is still helping me grow came from watching her.
I feel like living proof that self-confidence, however unfortunate the fact may be, must come from within. It can be boosted by others of course but ultimately the only way to be independent is to believe that it’s possible. My impromptu speech in front of the hostel assembly said simply “Happy Days has given me happy days”, cringe-worthy to me in hindsight but it also happens to be the truth. As a nation India has earned the right to freedom of speech after much difficulty and massive casualties. We as individuals can only truly pay respect to the sacrifices made by our people if we speak up with honesty and heart.
Independence is not easy to come by, for entire nations or any of us as individuals. Let it remain one of those things we appreciate all the more when at long last it is attained. And until then, here’s to 25 more years of Happy Days School, my safe haven and life-changing experience all in one.