Independence Day

February fourth, for quite a few of us, is just another day. It’s a day to stay at home and enjoy the deafening noise of the air crafts that fly above us. The national flag may be hoisted, almost as if it is enough to prove our patriotism. Yet, in general, it isn’t a day we make too big a deal of.
The fight for independence is something we learn from textbooks. We learn about individuals like Ponnambalam Ramanadan and S Mahinda Thero just because its part of our history syllabus. British colonization and the release from its claws are part of our story. However, it is a chapter we never lived through. For many of us, it’s a time that belongs with the stories about kings, invasions and battles. The years seem so far away, even though we weren’t completely free from the British until 1972, a few decades ago.
Looking at the song Master Sir, it isn’t a song many of us relate to. We never had to bow down to the white-skinned, nor do we have to fear or respect them. While it may not seem so, gone are the days when they were the masters and we were the slaves. And did the British themselves realize it was time to leave and sail back to their lands happily? Did they hand over the nation to its occupants without putting up a fight?
People of all religions, castes and ethnicity stood together and fought for their rights. There was bloodshed, there were heated arguments and wasted words. After years of no complaints, Sri Lankans started rising against the British forces. They said, ‘enough is enough’ and didn’t stop until the British were driven away from the island.
After all this, what do they get? A few faded flags that are hoisted just because we are expected to? People meaninglessly wishing each other through text messages?
We worship our motherland. We respect her. We love her and swear to die for her. Yet, how many fought for her?
Look at the Civil War that is still fresh in our minds. We saw the number of death increase by the hour. We can now visit places where once, thousands were killed, where blood was shed. All the fear, hate, anger we felt just a few years ago, was felt decades ago too. Today, we walk around freely thanks to the soldiers who fought for peace. Decades ago, our parents and grandparents walked around freely thanks to the freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives for the nation.
One may argue that February 4 wasn’t the day we were able to cut all strings that tied us to the British. However, it isn’t about what day it is, or what month it is. Independence Day is just like Mothers Day or Teachers Day; you can’t limit pride of your nation or how thankful you are for the freedom fighters to just one day. Thus it is not the significance of the day that matters the most, but the significance of what the day stands for.
Finally, Independence Day is a reminder. It reminds us of the history we keep forgetting. Every year, we are told of the fights, the individuals and their dedication. We are reminded that freedom isn’t a gift. It’s not offered for free. We didn’t have to pay the price decades ago. But someone had to. Their names are slowly being forgotten. There are more recent and maybe more important events to remember. However, they deserve to be remembered. We owe it to them.
Thus Independence Day might be insulted or ignored by certain people. However, it will also continue to be a day when we all hold hands and remember that not that long ago, we were ruled by a foreign people. And that if not for those freedom fighters, we wouldn’t be as independent as we are today.

4 thoughts on “Independence Day”

  1. Well firstly, by studying history, one can say that Sri Lanka has been subject to just so many invasions by so many foreign powers. Yet no matter how long they were here, we managed to shake them off with a certain amount of fierceness. We've been targeted for thousands of years.
    If there's any reason for pride, it's that we must be proud of our resilience.

  2. I agree that the Independence Day reminds us of all these important facts, especially how the segregated communities of Sri Lanka came forward to work for the same goal. There were Sinhalese leaders such as D.S.Senanayake and Anagarika Dharmapala, Tamil leaders such as Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan and Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam and Muslim leaders such as M.C.Siddhi Lebbe and T.B. Jaya.
    Indeed, we should be thankful to our national heroes for the sacrifices they made for the greater good. Just a thought that crossed my mind after reading the second paragraph- pretty soon the civil war too would be another incident in the history curriculum- but would our future generations learn the true lesson in it? History has given us so many lessons (just imagine how many wars have bloodied the story of human civilization!), but do we really learn from them or do we move from one conflict to the next carrying our bigoted attitudes?

  3. I think we are more willing to believe the worst of people. Its funny, but we hate more willingly than we love. And since ethnic differences cannot be erased over night, the conflicts will be passed from one generation to another. And so the stories will be read looking for the good guys and bad guys, and without learning from the past, will will carry all that hate and anger into the future.

    But someday someone will say history is to be learnt from, and slowly, people will change their attitudes and beliefs. And then, the wars of ancient times, and wars of recent times will be used to learn from, and they will not haunt us anymore

  4. Well said Shailee! Yes, it's all a matter of attitude. The stories in history are not only meant to be READ, but they are meant to be LEARNED from. And learning, according to one definition, is “an active, interactive, self-aware process that results in meaningful, long lasting changes in knowledge, skills, behaviours, beliefs, attitudes, etc… Yes, it may be a slow process, but it will happen.

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