My generation is a product of the 1971 India-Pakistan War. Two countries fought over the liberation of a third; one on the west, one on the east, and my town in the middle. I remember the sirens propelling us to switch from electricity to candles. I remember window panes painted black to make the candles invisible during air raids. I remember trains full of troops stopping in our town and people lining up on the platforms to hand the brave soldiers homemade food. I remember proudly singing the National Anthem at school and in movie theatres.
There was no doubt that the colors of the Indian flag - saffron, white, and green - coarsed through our veins.
There have been many wars since but none that has directly impacted me. The Rwandan genocide, the Yugoslav wars, and the endless troubles in the Middle East have caused dread but not reverted me to the little girl holding on to her father as enemy aircrafts buzzed overhead.
India moved on from 1971 to become a nuclear and economic powerhouse. Generations grew up without a full-blown war and learned to focus on societal change. They waged a different kind of war - against dowry, the cast system, and many other inequities that cause the average Indian to hold their breath. Patriotism has made a shift from the anthem and flag to a pride in the good ways of the country and altering the cultural status quo.
If you don't think the youngsters bleed saffron, white, and green, just watch them on the cricket ground.
The adult me came alive in the US during a time of peace and prosperity. The heat of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War had cooled and despite economic trouble here and there, it was a time of innovation and growth. I was introduced to the American flag as a symbol of all things good about the country and I have no point of reference for attaching it to conflict that impacts me.
There are those who see the flag as a symbol of the war fought 244 years ago against an enemy that is now our strongest ally, as a symbol of courage and strength. Many see it as a representation of the undesired, of things that must change. Yet others see Independence Day as an opportunity for backyard barbecues.
The flag makes me oscillate between honoring the brave ones who put themselves in harm's way to protect the likes of me, celebrating what is good about this nation, its people, its culture, its norms, and determined rejection of racism. A complex set of emotions representing the diversity and challenges of our time.
The colors of the Indian flag represent courage and sacrifice (saffron), peace and truth (white), and faith and chivalry (green). Old Glory represents hardiness and valour (red), purity and innocence (white), vigilance, perseverance and justice (blue).
Let it rain peace, truth, courage, perseverance, and justice. Add to that faith in science to let us beat back the invisible enemy that has brought us to our knees.
This 4th, I am awash in saffron, red, white, blue, and green - a vibrant tapestry that defines this immigrant's context.