Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

17 Aug 2008, 22:34 p.m.

Commemorating The Memorable

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2008 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

I wish a happy birthday weekend to my sister, who has been having multiple melas to celebrate. Nandini's birthday and that of India itself nearly coincide. Coincidence? Semantically, sorta!

Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, but probably not Nandini because she will be out with friends, Nandini will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the friendship of Nandini and her people and to the still larger cause of Nandinanity.

I saw an Indian Independence Day parade today on Madison Avenue. It was so Indian that the NYPD opening of the parade (guys on horses, South Asian contingent of NYPD walking & waving) preceded the community-run floats and processions by a full ten minutes. It was so Indian that the Federation of Indian Associations of NJ and NY marchers were sort of milling around at an average speed of one foot per second, "Guest of Honor" sashes barely visible, families and Important Community Leaders blocking the visibility of the banner or keeping lagging marchers stationary in the intersection for one more photo. The one-off PVC cordon, held by leaders on either side of the FIA procession, was supposed to keep the rear at the same pace as the head. It broke.

I love my countries.

A New York City parade has marchers and floats who are in some way relevant to the day being celebrated, as well as hangers-on who get in on that parade action. Marching bands? Break dancers? Sure, why not. We cheered for politicians, Western Union, banks, temples, airlines, calling card sellers, aid organizations, satellite TV networks, and the feminist, casteless, antipoverty legacy of B.R. Ambedkar, India's Madison. The banner read "ARCHITECT OF THE CONSTITUTION OF INDIA" and listed his many degrees between two portraits of him, in a move sure to please his mother. A fellow Columbia grad!

I got a little Indian flag and waved the heck out of it. Yay for the best of India! Democracy, Gandhi, hiphop mashups, rice with buttermilk and pickled lemon, yoga, Ganesha, Buddha, Birbal, Amar Chitra Katha, the Mahabharata, Chamundi Hill in Mysore, an energetic press, infinite diversity in infinite combinations. And my family, of course.

Maybe the Pakistan Independence Day parade was in Brooklyn.


18 Aug 2008, 7:48 a.m.

don't forget henna!

19 Aug 2008, 22:19 p.m.

By pure coincidence, I've been jonesing to reread Midnight's Children for ages now, and stumbled across it in an English-language used-and-new bookstore in Berlin called "St George's" (seriously). I read it almost exactly a week early. Ah well. (Curious realization: the novel makes perfect sense, but only if you assume gur aneengbe vf gbgnyyl znxvat vg hc.)