Senior citizens in Chennai share memories about Independence struggle

Shankar

Chennai: With Independence Day being celebrated tomorrow, News Today had an interesting conversation with senior citizens – Shankar (95) and Hatheem (82) – to learn about their patriotic views. They recalled their childhood memories of our country’s freedom struggle.

Shankar, born in 1924, is a cartoon artist and has worked with the popular Chandamama group. “When I was in school, I have seen men protesting on the roads. They used to wear Gandhi kulla (Gandhi cap) or khaddar cap and held Congress flags, and they shouted slogans like ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Vellaiyane Veliyeru’. Their voices were strong and commanding,” remembers Shankar.

“Our school, despite the compulsion to not sing Tamil songs, taught us and made us sing freedom songs. I can remember singing songs, such as ‘Achhamillai Achhamillai’, ‘Viduthalai Viduthalai’ and ‘Aaduvomey Pallu Paaduvomey’, during our school assembly gathering. These memories are still fresh in my mind, and I still cherish those patriotic voices,” says the artist.

When Harijan’s Welfare Conference took place in Hindi Prachar Sabha at T Nagar, Shankar had participated in it along with other top cartoon artists. He actively took part in the conference and also got the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet Gandhiji.

The board members of the conference laid a condition stating that only those who could contribute Rs 5 can get Gandhiji’s autograph. Shankar, who was a student at that time, was not able to make it and lost the opportunity of getting Mahatma’s autograph. However, he says that he is happy to have met Gandhi and still cherishes the memory.

The 82-year-old Hatheem, shares an interesting incident that happened during his school days. “Once our headmaster wanted our beloved freedom fighter and late Chief Minister Kamarajar, to give a speech at our school. On that day, we were singing patriotic songs, and as soon as Kamarajar arrived, everyone but my friend stopped singing. When some people tried to stop him, Kamarajar asked them not to do so and let my friend finish singing the entire song and stood by us the whole time. Finally, after the speech, he called my friend and gifted him a book and praised him for his patriotism,” reminisces Hatheem.

“As I was a small boy, I fell asleep on the night we got independence. The next morning, everyone in our street was so enthusiastic and happy. Chocolates and sweets were distributed, and I joined a group of people and shouted ‘Bharat Matha Ki Jai,’ ‘Nehru Ji Ki Jai,’ ‘Gandhiji Ki Jai,’ ‘Viduthalai Viduthalai… Although I didn’t know the reason for all of it then, I am very proud that I was there to see our country get its independence and to have had the opportunity to live at a time when great people had lived,” says Hatheem.

P T Usha