Fast forward a few years and I remember how every year we used to have a celebration in school. Abandoning uniforms, we wore white shalwar kameez with green dupattas. There was a special flag hoisting, and we sang the national anthem. From year to year the schedule changed a little, but the ceremony with a little parade, and national songs was a solemn affirmation of our association with the motherland. After that, we went out for nashta (usually halwa-puri), then maybe to seaview, before going home and catching up on much needed sleep.
Today, I look back and I wonder how it's all changed so drastically. S and I went out for dinner last night. On our way we encountered many boys-on-bikes out for a lark a'la independence, but we chose to go far away from the boisterous crowd to a relatively isolated Tiramisu, where we ate and spoke about how different it all used to be. He was - rather sheepishly - wearing an independence-day badge on his T-shirt, I had a small flag I bought-on-impulse from a roadside vendor still sitting in my purse. Those were perhaps the only tokens we had to celebrate a day that seemed to have lost its importance. This morning, we took advantage of our holiday and went grocery shopping. No flag hoisting for us, no national anthem, no processions, no reaffirmation of our identity as a Pakistani. The day seems oddly meaningless somehow.
How can we celebrate independence, I wonder, when we've done nothing to deserve it? How can we rejoice in the motherland when she lies before us ravaged and broken? How can we pat ourselves on the back when we're anything but proud Pakistanis? How can we go watch the lights when all around us there seems to be nothing but darkness? How can we sing songs and be merry, when we live every moment in fear of the next disaster?