An endless chase for freedom

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freedomBangalore, Aug 15, 2013: From riding an auctioned ‘Indian’ (a US bike) powered by rationed petrol under the British rule in post World War-II era to riding to hoist the Indian National Flag on his  cult ‘Yamaha RD350’ today, R Chakravarthy has come a full circle.

With a colonial hangover in the head and a breath of freedom in his lungs, the 82-year-old took to the road on a chilly Thursday morning, marking India’s 67th Independence Day.

One among a large platoon of bikers from various clubs, Chakravarthy was part of the fifth annual Independence Day ride organised by Bangalore RD350 Club and Bikers of India.

That the damaged road outside his house forced him to seek help to “airlift” his bike (people had to carry it for about 100 metres) did not deter him.

Ashith Tiwari, a young rider, says it is sheer pleasure.

“Chakravarthy (sir) is just a pleasure to ride with. Teary eyes or not, he never backs out.”
From stories about Sir M Visvesvaraya’s integrity to complaints about present-day corruption, from aircraft technology to ruggedness of mechanical bikes, he is a wealth of knowledge.

On Thursday, he only shared a part of it with the young bikers: “Safety comes at a premium.” As tens of bikers, mostly well-to-do, peaked Nandi Hills and hoisted the national flag along with Chakravarthy, Roopesh, 9, was burdened by the same (flags) – that he was selling.

India’s dreams of nurturing its youth and Roopesh’s reality are not treading a common path. But he is not even ‘free’ to keep his earnings, unlike larger beneficiaries of our independence.

Roopesh was not alone. There were at least nine other children, a few little older than him at various traffic junctions  around the Manekshaw Parade Grounds, where Karnataka was officially celebrating India’s sovereignty.

Several of them have come here from Kadapa, while some others from Bangarpet and Kolar Gold Fields. The majority of this vendor contingent stays in KR Puram here.

They know of schools. They have even seen some of their neighbours (only geographically) dress in whites for the flag hoisting celebrations in their schools. “I have told my uncle. He said he will send me to school from next year,” an innocent Devi, 8, said. But it is most likely not to be.

There are many more spread across the City, made to hawk indiscriminately by a well-oiled network that almost functions like a mafia.

The flag they sell is not giving them wings like many leaders foresaw. In fact, the symbol of India’s sovereignty – the Tricolour – is not even being manufactured using khadi derived from desi cotton.

“India is losing seed sovereignty, and sadly, it has begun with cotton, which was used as a symbol of indigenisation by Mahatma Gandhi,” Rajesh Krishnan, one of the activists protesting against this, said.

Kilometres away, unfurling of the flags at government and private spaces notwithstanding, Freedom Park played home to a host of protesters, whose freedom has been compromised in one sense or the other. Away from all this, the chic crowds working with big companies were unwinding on what was for many of them, a ‘holiday’.

Put all these images from Bangalore in juxtaposition and one will find more people lurking in the shadows of darkness than those basking under the colours of freedom.

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