Independence Day celebrations at Campion Anglo-Indian Higher Secondary School this year included something rare: a first person account of life in colonial India, personal interactions with Mahatma Gandhi and his unrealised dreams for a sovereign India. Presided over by V. Kalyanam, who served as Gandhi’s personal secretary, the celebrations included a tree planting ceremony and a street play on patriotism.
“As the son of a diwan, who can today be equated to a prime minister, Gandhiji could have led a luxurious life. But the world remembers him even today for the sacrifices he made for his country,” said Mr. Kalyanam. The 92 year old Gandhian exhorted the students to enter politics and become leaders who would govern the country in the Gandhian manner. “While the British Raj took pains to equip each of our metropolitan cities with all basic infrastructure it ignored India’s villages,” he said, adding that it was this neglect that prompted Gandhiji to seek independence from the English.
Having observed Gandhi from close quarters, Mr. Kalyanam shared his insights on his assassination, the lives of Gandhi’s four children and his probable reaction to present-day politics. “Were he alive today, I am sure he would have gone on a fast to protest against the way this country is being ruled,” he said.
He also recalled that during the British rule, crime was hardly part of news because, “all laws were so strictly enforced back then.” Mr. Kalyanam also displayed his collection of colonial newspapers at the school.
The celebration, which was organised by the Lions Club of Rock Town, along with Campion Old Boys Association (COBA) and Campion Higher Secondary School, drew to a close with a street play. Staged by members of Leo Club, National Institute of Technology, Tiruchi, the play displayed the change in attitude of a policeman, a business man and a politician, after spirits of freedom fighters took over them.