Tag Archives: colonial india

Independence and A Rose from a dream

A Rose from a dream spans the decade 1942-52, a very special time in India, pre and post independence. I wrote about this particular era because for the present generation growing up in India and the US, freedom is sometimes taken for granted . They cannot even begin to understand the mindset of those who struggled and died so we could be free.

The book gives you a perspective from many angles:

Famous revolutionaries like Vanchinathan and Bharathiyar whose stories are legendary, known and recognized for their patriotic fervor  and the lesser known Swaminathan and Salih, ordinary folk who worked under the British yet longed for freedom.

The freedom movement was quite different in Bengal as compared to the south. In fact, young Kamu had no idea what was happening or that she was privy to a very special moment in time.  What  is refreshing is that for the first time you read about Indian History  from the perspective of the women of that time.

A Rose from a dream carries a piece of my heart: my love of country. Buy the book and walk through history.

Rose on Amazon

 

Here is a small excerpt

The atmosphere in the city was particularly festive. Thousands of people were in the streets, already holding paper tricolor flags and wishing one another Happy Independence Day, although that momentous event wouldn’t take place until midnight. Every government building in the city was lit up, the illumination particularly impressive against the darkening skies. There was a prediction of thundershowers and a collective hope that this wouldn’t dampen the festivity. In preparation for the grand moment, the entire street had been covered in a shamiana decorated with festoons of orange white and green. Tonight no one would sleep. It would be a night of celebration.

Rajam and Kunju had tears in their eyes as they watched the friends greet each other. They knew this day meant something really special to these folk. This was a group of people who had  fought for the freedom of the land with a passion. Perhaps never again would this spirit of patriotism rise in the nation against one common enemy. No one could ever understand the depth of feeling and the deep love for the land shared by this band of revolutionaries. Never again in their lifetimes would the longing for Swaraj (self-rule) inspire poetry that tugged at one’s heart strings making tears stream down one’s cheeks. These were very special people, this a very special time, and they were indeed privileged to live through it.

Cries of Jai Hind and Vande Mataram rang all around them, and then they stood, one nation, one voice. For the first time as free Bharat, they heard and sang Janaganamana, the melodic and evocative song written by Rabindranath Tagore, and adopted as the nation’s National Anthem. It was indeed a very special day, one of hope and of dreams as they stood together singing the national anthem. Every citizen, rich or poor, would have tears in their eyes, a combination of painful remembrance and visionary imaginings.

They were all in the streets greeting each other, laughing and cheering. The temple doors were open and people were pouring in to give thanks to the gracious God that had granted them the honor of this momentous day. Sweets were distributed and firecrackers lit the sky. The family was going to see the city lights, but for others, fatigue crept in and slowly the streets emptied and everyone found their way indoors, exhilarated yet exhausted from the emotional festivity.

As Swami lay down he couldn’t sleep for a long time. He led a sedentary life, and this was too much excitement for him. He thought about all the great martyrs who had died for this cause from Bhagat Singh in the north to Vanchinathan in the south, and he reminisced about his attempt to aid the struggle despite wearing a British uniform. For many, their minds had been kidnapped and brainwashed, leaving them with diminished self-esteem and questionable loyalty. Added to that was so much pain. The searing pain of communal riots and hatred, the partition of the land and the creation of Pakistan.. The nation had suffered, and it would take tremendous effort to begin the healing process. The scars of colonial slavery would take a long time to mend. But people had faith that the leaders were good and were ready to follow the guidance of stalwarts and erudite intellectuals like Nehru, Gandhi and Patel who would lead them from darkness to light. India would awaken to freedom and enterprise, to belief and tolerance, to hope and dignity.

Velandi -The Parayan (Untouchable)

Posted: October 26, 2011

I saw ‘The Help’ last week with my daughter. As I watched the movie unfold, I was amazed at how they focused on the help using an outside bathroom, and how distasteful and demeaning it was to them as human beings. In India, this practice is commonplace. Even today, the servants have a separate toilet if any; the open countryside or side of the road suffices, and they sit on the floor and eat in separate dishes. Even the rice bought for them is of an inferior quality. No servant would dare sit on a chair in the presence of the family. This is something we live with, and though my sensibilities were offended by the ‘bathroom issue’ in The Help, I know that on returning to India I will not bat an eyelid at the treatment of servants in my home. And to be truthful in our home we respect and treat them well. If you look at the lives of the lowest caste in India thesudras, or untouchables, their condition is pathetic, and even hearing about it makes your blood boil. From beatings to burning and ostracism, the list goes on. In many parts of rural India this is still a way of life, where people belonging to this caste simply accept their lot and don’t ask for more. Of course there has been an effort to uplift the classes through reservation and education, but the effort is too small to impact society at the level of the village. This is why I introduced Velandi into my book to demonstrate the contrast between the classes and the sheer injustice of it all. This is an extract from When the Lotus Blooms

She stopped just outside as she heard the noise of water. The parayan had come early to clean the latrine. Nagamma was not going to be too happy about that. No one had used the toilet as yet, and smell would become unbearable by tomorrow when he returned once again to clean. The latrine sat on a raised platform with three steps leading to it. Every morning the parayan crawled through a small side door and scooped away the stinking remains that lay underneath. Rajam watched in silence as he poured water and washed out the filth. As he crept out from the aperture beneath the toilet, he gave her a toothless grin. He wore a dirty undershirt and had his veshti tied almost like a loin cloth. His hands and clothes were covered in the muck that he worked with all day.

Rajam felt repulsed and sorry at the same time. What a job! All day he toiled in the filth and dirt, making the world a cleaner place to live in. She wondered if he realized how important his job was to them. If he missed coming to clean even one day, it became impossible to use the toilet without gagging. Still, she could not bring herself to come anywhere near him and stayed rooted to the same spot till he finished collecting the garbage and exited through the back door into the street that only parayans could use. He, too, sensed how his presence revolted her and left the house as quickly as he could. She was a brahmin woman, and he was a parayan, an untouchable. He knew his place and did not want to transgress the strict rules governing his presence in the brahmin quarter.

He had absolutely no clue that his life or his job was of any value to anyone.

My Debut Novel “When the Lotus Blooms”

Dear Friends.

There has been a lot happening preventing the book release on the scheduled date of October 1, 2011. I have since got a book deal from a publisher in India, and the manuscript now sits on the editor’s desk. I should have the updated manuscript by the end of the month and will inform you about the US book release which should take place by November.  I would also like to share with you the exciting news that Dr. Shashi Tharoor has written the Foreword to my book, a huge feather in my self publishing cap. You can read his entire review on my blog. By November 1,2011 my website should be up and functioning. You can access it at www.kanchibooks,com. Please do check out new updates on my blog and visit my Facebook author page at
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Kanchana Krishnan