Back when we moved into this suburb nearly 17 years ago, I remember clearly how barren the place was. Over time, empty houses started getting occupied, and the whole suburb lit up with life. I made friends with a dozen kids in the neighbourhood. I used to play with them, from anything from cricket to hockey to basketball. During the rain season, armed with toy guns which made funny sounds when fired, we enjoyed playing what we called “Robbers and Police”. An empty underground water tank in the porch of a deserted, dilapidated house formed our headquarters. It was dangerous what we did, but no-one I remember ever gave a thought to it. And I don’t even remember any of our parents admonishing us for jumping into dark, deep tanks, and sitting there, conducting covert meetings. It was all fun. Great fun.
Then there were the preparations for celebrating the Independence Day that each one of us looked forward to eagerly. I remember those vividly, as if it happened only yesterday. We would gather in the lounge of an empty house, buy lots of flags, threads, glue and paper flags, and whatnot. Within few days, the whole street would get adorned in hues of white and green. There would be paper flags, flapping and making the sound stiff paper makes when it strikes against a wall, all over the walls, from house to house. Large, thickly green and white flags would be seen flapping in the wind, wound with rope to the poles on each house. The grills on top of the perimeter walls on the houses would additionally be lit up by small colourful lights. At night, the whole street would look different: It would look colorful, lively, oozing with the spirit of celebrating the Independence Day. I remember all of it like it was just yesterday I walked out of such a breathtaking view.
Today is Pakistan’s 59th Independence Day. As I get out of my house, a strange feeling of sadness grips me. I see no flags. I see no lights. I see nothing that suggests today is a special day. For most people, today is just another holiday: A day to rest and sleep till late afternoon on. I swing my head, taking a deep, thorough look at the street that once used to be adorned as delicately as a bride. It looks so barren. Cars lined on either sides, the street looks deserted. There isn’t a single person in sight. Everyone’s sleeping. There isn’t a single flag flapping in the wind. I am not even sure the wind longs for the by-gone days. I am not even sure people realise the significance of the Independence Day. Granted, none of us is a kid anymore. Each one of us has grown up. Most have moved elsewhere, and those who still live here, are busy in their own schedules. But who said there aren’t any new kids on the street. There are. Many. But, these kids are different. Unlike us when we were their age, they come out only to play and then go back inside. The thrill of celebrating a special day such as today fails to enthuse them. To them, like to their parents, today is another holiday, to sleep, watch
TV, and play on. What a shame!
Happy Independence Day!