At the stroke of 9.25pm on Tuesday July 4th, the sky over New York will erupt in pyrotechnics for Macy’s famous fireworks show. The display will be set off from barges located across the East river between 24th and 41st streets. Residents of Jersey City will get a waterfront view from Liberty State Park.
City folks are scrambling to get the best seats to enjoy the show. People with suitably located apartments are suddenly becoming the most popular hosts in town.
Macys promises to make the show even more spectacular with 60,000 shells to ring in their 41st annual firework display.
A rough guess estimates approximately 3 million viewers for this extravaganza.
I enjoyed the burst of rainbow colours lighting up the sky last year but unfortunately, this year I will be many miles away in Trudeau land. Fireworks is one of the many ways American’s celebrate their independence day. Funnily enough, the day held special significance for me for many years, as the day I gave up my independence! But 4th of July is all about celebrating freedom.
During this period, the stars and stripes flutter from shops, restaurants, cars and carts. Shops groan with red, blue and white merchandise. But it is also a time for people to take off on long weekends, a time for celebrations, to forget whether you supported Trump or Clinton. It is a purely non-partisan holiday celebrating 241 years of the declaration of Independence.
The most popular activity is hosting barbecues, a summertime favourite activity of Americans from the east coast to the West from Florida to Illinois.
People come decked out in their red, white and blues guzzling beers and quaffing all American staples like burgers, hot dogs, potato salad and corn.
On August 15th, India will celebrate her 70th year of independence; a spring chicken in contrast. That’s probably why the day is taken so seriously. In fact, it has only been a few years since people earned the right to fly the Indian flag, leave alone sport it on clothes, shoes, bags and other frivolous modes of expression. Offices, schools, universities, large and small organizations, building societies and other communities hoist flags at unearthly hours of the morning. Many who can, insist on the need for mandatory participation. Patriotism enforced.
I wonder if there will ever come a day when India will wear the mantle of independence lightly and instead celebrate progress; no corruption, proliferation of hygiene, seamless traffic movement and freedom from poverty and hunger.
Those will be the milestones to highlight. Such a time will come, I have faith.
Rest assured, I am cognizant of the millions who laid down their lives for this freedom I treat so casually. But I was born in an independent India. I did not live through the traumatic years before and after independence. While I do tear up when I read and see documentaries of that period and can empathize with people who suffered through it, I was always a free Indian. So I desire an India celebrating another type of freedom. Hoisting flags, singing the national anthem in movie theatres and regressing to a period where nationalism is dictated by your religion, is not the freedom I grew up taking for granted.
I enjoy the kind of freedom celebrated in the US.
The feasting, the dressing up in national colours and the total lack of censorship. Though with Trump in power, free press is now a debatable issue in America too. I think India should begin public fireworks displays, either during Diwali or on Independence day. Granted we grew up with fireworks during Diwali, but these orchestrated displays are dazzling. They will become a source of national pride with the added benefit of dropping pollution levels; both air and noise.
Independence implies autonomy, liberty and freedom. These words are in jeopardy the world over. As the oldest and largest democracies in the world, I hope the US and India will don the mantle of leadership and show the way ahead. Sadly, from my ringside seat, I do not see this happening. The keywords for so many governments today seem to revolve around subordination, subservience and subjugation.
Jai Hind. Jai America. Jai ho.