For Past 9 Years, Speech-Impaired Kolkata Man Picks Up Discarded National Flags After Independence Day

Image & Story Credits: Arighna Mitra/Newzpole

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His speech difficulties have always been a hindrance for him to lead a ‘normal’ lifestyle. The insensitive mockery of neighbours or schoolmates haunted him throughout his childhood and youth, but he sailed through it all silence. And now at 32, Priyaranjan Sarkar from Bali, West Bengal is ridiculed for his strange hobby – collecting national flags which are dumped here and there post Independence and Republic Day celebrations. 

Love for his country runs in his very veins. It pained him deeply to see the flag being hailed one day and carelessly dumped or trampled upon the next. So, for the past nine years, Priyaranjan has been spotted roaming the streets after Independence Day or Republic Day, collecting flags from sidewalks, main roads, dump yards and even from the gutters, reported Bengali magazine Newzpole

People Called Him A Madman

Priyaranjan Sarkar shared how people called him a ‘madman’ and ‘ragpicker’ when he would go out to collect the discarded flags. There had been instances where he was even harassed in the suspicion of being a thief. Despite his speech problems, he had made sure every time to make people understand the importance of what he is doing and urged them to show proper respect to the national flag.

In his opinion, the real ‘madmen’ are the hypocrites who salute the national flag one day and do not mind throwing it in the trash the next day. 

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

A Childhood Full Of Hardships

He credits his mother for his intense love for the nation. He lost his father as a little three-year-old child. His mother underwent a lot of hardships to provide for her four sons. Getting Priyaranjan admitted to school was quite a hassle, as no school was willing to admit a student with speech difficulties. Surgery could have cured his condition, but his mother failed to afford the expense despite relentless hard work.

At his school, he was a regular victim of taunts and teases from his classmates for his speech impairment. Battling through the bullying, Priyaranjan established himself as a professional football player with his local athletic club.

National Flag Is The ‘Saree’ Of Mother India

As a child, one day he found his mother picking up a discarded flag from the roadside with great care. When he inquired, she beautifully explained to him the significance of the national flag. She described the flag as the ‘saree’ worn by Mother India and advised him to pick up the flag if he ever finds it lying carelessly on the street.

Later in his youth, he was deeply inspired by the Indian Army’s devotion towards the national flag. He felt that if our soldiers can make the ultimate sacrifice of their lives to preserve the respect of our flag, then why the common citizens cannot do even the slightest bit of that.

He Now Has A Team Of Volunteers

Throughout his growing years, Priyaranjan has always collected flags, whenever he found one lying in dust and dirt. Exasperated by the apathy of the citizens, he has taken up the onus to keep the streets and dumpsters of Bali free from the disrespectfully discarded flags. He maintains a huge trunk at his house where he keeps all the flags he has collected till date.

He started alone but now he has gained a dedicated team of volunteers who assist him in his flag collection drives on the days following January 26 or August 15 every year. They do not mind picking up flags stained with pan spit or shoe prints.

Do Not Disrespect The Flag 

Priyaranjan’s true nationalism and immaculate ideologies prevent him from aligning with any political party. He also despises religious discrimination in the name of ultra-nationalism. In an appeal to the masses, he keenly insists everyone to immediately stop disrespecting the national flag in the pretext of celebrating our independence.

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Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote

From Calcutta To Madras, How Pre-Independence Theatre Brought Forth India’s Freedom In 1947

Image & Story Credits: Arighna Mitra/Newzpole

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The mention of theatre, perhaps the pioneer among performance arts, rarely pops up in the context of the Indian Independence movement. However, history reveals that regional theatre played a significant role in mobilising mass awareness against the autocratic British regime. So much so, that in 1876, the British Government enacted the Dramatic Performances Act, aiming to curb the creative freedom of Indian theatre. It is often said that this Act, which is still prevalent in its amended forms in a number of Indian states, laid the basis of censorship in Indian cinema much later.

On World Theatre Day, Efforts For Good revisits the glorious days of pre-Independence Indian theatre and its unsung contribution to India’s freedom.

Calcutta – the epicentre of nationalist theatre

At the forefront of pre-independence theatre in India, Calcutta was perhaps the hotspot of a budding nationalistic sentiment. The growing anti-British mindset was evident in contemporary literature. Authors penned plays depicting the real picture of British atrocities in rural India, among which Dinabandhu Mitra’s Nil Darpan deserve special mention.

The heart-wrenching play was based on the British oppression of the impoverished indigo farmers of Bengal. The staging of the play on December 8, 1872, remains a landmark event in history, as it successfully stirred the whos who of Bengal nationalist politics as well as the common urban masses.

Another interesting trend noticed in contemporary theatre performances was the regular stage adaptation of notable incidents involving British authorities. Satire dominated in some of the plays, which slyly called out the Indian aristocracy, infamous as sycophants of the British. While other stage performances unabashedly painted the true picture of poverty, tyranny and stalled progress under the colonial rule.

National Theatre, the forum of nationalist playwrights and theatricians of Bengal set up during this time must be mentioned. Shortage of funds and lack of experience in the evolved genre of modern theatre failed to mellow the patriotic spirit of the people involved. Before its emergence, the urban audience found folk theatre as their only form of entertainment, which was often accused of being vulgar and scurrilous.

However, National Theatre did away with the controversial ill-fame of theatre art and gave birth to a new form of polished amusement, which also served as an eye-opener to the commoners. It was at this juncture that theatre was commercialised, where a nominal fee was charged from the spectators, as opposed to the earlier forms of folk theatre which were free, random and informal.

Charges of sedition against the group were recurrent, but could not subdue their enthusiasm.

News dailies continually urged the group to take their art into the interiors of India, to spread awareness among the rural masses. Accordingly, a fresh aspect appeared in the backdrop of Bengali theatre, which now penetrated the nooks and corners of the province. Taking help of the folk theatre like Jaatra, the seed of nationalism was being sown. In a July 1904 speech, Nobel Laureate author Rabindranath Tagore emphasised on using the medium of Jaatra to awaken and unite the rural indigenous population.

Madras and the legacy of Tamil ‘Protest’ Theatre

Aside from Bengal, Tamil Nadu also played a crucial role in nationalistic theatre. Contrary to the gradually brewing patriotism in Bengal theatre over the span of almost half a century, a similar narrative arrived prominently in Tamil theatre mainly after the gruesome Jallianwalabagh massacre of 1919. Before this, between 1905 and 1915, Annie Besant’s Home Rule Movement triggered a lot of theatrical productions delineating the importance and need for the same.

Centred around Madras, the group of Tamil ‘Protest’ Playwrights gave rise to a brand new form of theatre, deviating from the traditional dance-drama-music pattern. In these plays, contemporary Tamil literature, existing folk culture and modern English stagecraft were amalgamated together. The depiction of political and social themes, mostly allegorical but often direct, defined this new era of Tamil theatre. Metaphoric and indirect expression of anti-colonial sentiments was adopted to avoid the axe of censorship. Even in melodramatic plays, the essence of patriotism was camouflaged perhaps in the dialogues, characterisation or backdrop of the story. Khaddar, charka and Gandhiji’s ideology were found as essential symbolism in these plays. Dramatists Subramaniya Bharathi and T.P. Krishnaswamy Pavalar deserve special mention in this context. Interestingly, the Dramatic Performances Act of 1876 did not have that severe an impact on Tamil theatre, since it was more stringently imposed to curtail the rising anti-colonial narrative in North India.

In the countryside, folk theatre at this time had an interesting additional feature of catchy patriotic songs, which were easy to memorise by the masses. Later, the culture of these songs became a part of mainstream urban theatre as well.

Contribution of other states

Apart from Bengal and Tamil Nadu, other states also contributed a pivotal amount to the nationalist theatre. For instance, in Maharashtra, P.L.Deshpande, Shahir Sable attempted to create a sense of unity among the people through their patriotic literary works and consequent stage adaptations. Among folk theatres, Burrakatha of Andhra Pradesh, Bhavai of Gujrat and Tamasha of Maharashtra also spread social awareness, often condemning social ills and colonial despotism.

IPTA – the final push

The next chapter of importance in the history of pre-Independence Indian theatre comes in 1941 with the foundation of Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA). Involving eminent playwrights from all over India, this association was more inclined towards the slowly growing communist philosophy, which blatantly called out the capitalistic exploitation by the British, which was the sole cause of recurring famines and persisting poverty in India. The graphic portrayal of the dire scenario definitely hit the masses hard, pushing them a notch ahead to bring forth the Indian Independence.


Reference:

https://www.pmindia.gov.in/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Extracts-of-the-Committee-of-the-Report-Vol.I-.pdf

AESTHETICS AS RESISTANCE: RASA, DHVANI, AND EMPIRE IN TAMIL “PROTEST” THEATER – DHEEPA SUNDARAM

Indian Folk Theatre Instrumental in Independent India’s Socio-Political Transformation By Sayali Indulkar

THEATRE FOR DEVELOPMENT IN INDIAN CONTEXT: AN INTROSPECTION – Priyam Basu Thakur

FOLK THEATRE-ITS RELEVANCE IN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNICATION IN INDIA – Sheelita Das

Also Read: Even After 163 Years, An Indian Woman’s French & English Poetry Is Celebrated Worldwide

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Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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