It is one of India’s three major national holidays and has much resonance.
It marks the passing into law on 26th January 1950 of India’s constitution, and marks the date when India became a proper sovereign state. It is effectively modern India’s birthday. The date itself was chosen in honour of the generation who fought for freedom – ever since 1930 the Indian National Congress had celebrated 26th January, often in secrecy and always at great risk to themselves, as the date of Swaraj (our word for self-rule and independence). It’s a date that has a huge resonance.
It affirms the dream of independence, celebrates the diversity and vibrancy of India; and offers an opportunity for all Indians and for the world to get a glimpse of the real India. Its importance lies in its recognition that the great experiment, the great gamble of trying to stitch together a functioning, if messy and chaotic, democracy out of a multitude of contradictions requires dedication to an idea of India that is proud, secular and rooted in the values of Gandhi, Nehru, and Ambedkar, who drafted the constitution. Indians celebrate it and are humbled by the memory of those who fought for our freedom and who continue to sacrifice themselves in that hard won freedom’s defence.
Indians outside India, particularly those who may be a couple of generations removed, have an interesting relationship with India. India can be about sentiments and emotions, affirmed and celebrated through the heritage of religion and culture. It is mostly religious festivals that are celebrated, rather than the achievements of India as a nation-state. These achievements – among them, the very survival of India – are massive and important.
In a way, Dishoom is an exercise in going beyond just the religious and cultural rituals, the stereotypical images of India that we all may be familiar with. We’re celebrating the vibrancy and richness of everyday India, an urban India, that may be crazy and chaotic and for some a fight for survival, but is ultimately a celebration of the vivaciousness of India – its enormous irrepressible spirit.
Republic Day is a great day – and it should not be just about the flag raising ceremonies that take place in the Indian High Commissions and embassies around the world. It should be an inspiring day, a day to reflect on India’s achievement over the last half-century. Long may it continue.
With February comes a gladdening of spirits, lighter morning skies and discernibly louder birdsong. It is also the month to bid farewell to our winter cocoons (at least partially) and tune back into the world beyond our blankets. Allow us to ease the de-hibernation process, by sharing some of the things piquing our interest this month.
“Who wants to see some magic?” Chef Arun calls out. He flings the rolled out dough into the air, sending it soaring above the counter. It spins and twists, a graceful dancer in the air. The children watch its arc, their eyes wide with wonder, until it lands gently back in the chef's hands. The children shriek in delight.
January is a most divisive month. For some it heralds the hopeful turning over of new leaves; for others it is a month to trudge begrudgingly through towards the promise of spring. Whichever camp you find yourself in, we have plentiful diversions to share. See them as the cherry atop your already gleeful January cake, or a welcome distraction while you await winter’s end.
I AM HERE, dear reader, slovenly and slouched, staring into my drink at the end of the bar in our new restaurant in Battersea. My mind is still down and out, sifting around in the dregs of ’23 but of course it knows that I should really straighten my back, raise my chin and look squarely up into the cold new light of ’24. My drink – Choti’s Punch – clear and strong, sweet with a little salt, may help.