Hearing Tryst With Destiny Live On Radio & Other Memories
We have all read about Jawaharlal Nehru’s famous speech Tryst with Destiny in History books. But hearing it live on radio would’ve been a completely enthralling experience altogether. As would have been walking through the decorated and festooned streets at midnight on August 15, 1947, as India kept its date with freedom. In this lovingly penned account by Kala Sunder, senior citizens recall what it was like being part of the very first day of Independence.
“I will never forget 15th August 1947,” began a then 65-year-old. “For a long time, we had been pestering my father to buy a radio but he maintained it was an untried contraption and the waves it emitted might be bad for health. It would distract us from our studies, expose us to God knows what evil and immoral influences, and above all, it was beyond our means. But when he learned that Nehru’s midnight speech would be broadcast live, all these
objections were forgotten and he ran out and bought home a radio! This big,” he spread his hands wide, then high, “like a microwave.” All heads nodded. “So it was a double celebration in our house, for Independence and Radio.”
Everyone remembered tuning in to the Independence broadcast, static and all. One member even intoned the ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech in Nehru’s very tones, to thundering applause.Seventy and eighty year olds recalled with delight how they were allowed to stay up late! Men, and even few women, spoke of how they walked through the brightly illuminated streets with the tricolour formed in coloured lights. Some got separated from their families in the crush but so great was the camaraderie that they were safely restored to their parents.
There were grand celebrations in schools and special meals at home. “People distributed sweets at 12 o’ clock, like we do now for New Year,” said a retired teacher. “A house with a flag outside meant there would be sweets inside. We would run in and get a handful. We can only dream of such things now.” “Don’t even dream of sweets, your sugar level will shoot up,” warned a diabetic. “I was in Pune on 15th August 1947,” he continued. “The whole city was decorated like a wedding house.”
“In Trichy, we sang Subramanya Bharathi’s songs fearlessly. We were Indians now, not Britishers,” said a retired civil servant. “Aha!” exclaimed the oldest in the group, nicknamed ‘golden oldie’ because he had worked in the Kolar Gold Fields. “The Britishers got fidgety that year and started treating Indians better. I remember…,” he began, waving his walking stick in front of him.
An old Bangalorean quickly butted in before he could into one of his ‘long-playing’ stories. “I remember, the traders on Avenue Road, of all communities distributed flags and laddus to passers-by. But the Cantonment was dark, deserted, and plunged in gloom.”
(The chat session in Nightingales Elder’s Enrichment Centre, Bangalore which inspired Kala Sunder’s account took place in 2000. The topic was ‘15th August 1947: As I Remember It.’ It’s been many years since then but memories don’t really need a time stamp, do they? Being part of history and having experienced the original Independence Day 1947 is worth documenting, anytime, anywhere. We thank Kala Sunder for taking the trouble to look through her notes and dig up such fascinating nuggets of information. She was guided by the late Wg. Cdr (retd.) GR Mulky, who foresaw that the notes she took of that chat would yield really captivating information someday.)