Almost as a ritual, Brigadier Baljit Singh Sahni consumed two glasses of single-malt whisky with water and a cube of ice, every evening at 7. He would sit in his favoured lounge chair, drink and chakhna close at hand, while contemplating the vagaries of life. Come rain, shine, illness or social commitments, this pattern never changed. He believed this solitary time was essential to his well-being.

On this particular Saturday night, the 25th of January 2020, his mind was occupied with the protests that had spread like wildfire across the nation, against a new law proposing to grant citizenship on the basis of religion. India was completing seven decades of being a republic, while embroiled in a massive political controversy.

Lost in thought, he didn’t notice his granddaughter Leena quietly slide into the chair next to him.

“Wassup Dadu?”, she trilled excitedly.

The Brigadier hadn’t been too happy about the onset of his son’s brood into his home in Delhi, for an entire month. His wife had loved spending quality time with their three grandchildren, but his own pleasure had been less pronounced.

He loved them without a doubt, but found it easier to express his love from a distance. All three of his children had made Canada their home over the last twenty years. The Brigadier, loath to leave the nation he had served with such dedication and of which he was so proud, had picked Delhi to spend his retired life.

This meant that the extent of interaction with his family, was limited to weekly video calls at pre-designated times right after the kids woke up, and before he and his wife went to bed; photos of academic and other achievements shared on the family Whatsapp group; and the annual visit to Canada divided equally between three homes. Even these visits were a week-long at most, ending as swiftly as they began.

Hence, his son’s announcement on the Brigadier’s 70th birthday party in Toronto, had come as a surprise to him. He suddenly declared that he would spend the entire month of January in Delhi with his parents, along with his wife and children.

The Brigadier had initially mumbled excuses, such as the lack of space in their army-commissioned Defence Colony home, and the substandard quality of the staff and servants, to discourage his son from coming. However, the happiness in his wife’s eyes at the thought of being surrounded by her family, had taken precedence over his discomforts.

Once it arrived, the month whizzed by in a flurry of local travel, meeting kith and kin, showing Delhi to the children and other endless activities, leaving him completely exhausted and out of sorts. He was glad they would be flying back in three days.

Forcing himself out of his reverie, he turned his attention to the 15-year-old girl eager for his company.

“Nothing is ‘up’, my dear. How was your day? I believe your Dadi took you to the mall?”, he replied.

“Yes, we went but it was no fun. There was so much traffic going there and back and the mall was sooooo crowded! We just went to one store and left. Poor Amaya started crying with so many people pushing and shoving, and mom got upset too.

“Dadi said it was like this because of the Republic Day weekend. Is that right?”, she asked.

“Yes, a holiday weekend encourages people to be out and about. Malls are always a popular choice for family outings.”

“So, what exactly is Republic Day anyway? Is it like Canada Day which marks Canada becoming an independent dominion of the United Kingdom?”, Leena asked curiously. On this trip, the Brigadier had begun to appreciate Leena’s sharp mind, keenness to learn about the country of her origin, as well as her innate ability to question everything.

“Not really, my dear. That would be more like the Indian Independence Day which is celebrated on August 15. The Republic Day marks the adoption of the Constitution of India, on January 26, 1950, which declared our country a republic.

Before you ask what that is- a republic is a nation that is ruled by the public, not by rulers such as monarchs or dictators. After independence, our leaders chose to give power to the people, to decide who will lead them. This power came attached with many conditions, in order to ensure the success of this system”, said the Brigadier, warming up to his favourite subject.

“You know Leena, I was born in December 1949. In fact, my first outing as a baby on the 40th day after my birth, was on India’s first Republic Day. The whole country was celebrating- full of hope for a new dawn of progress and peace. In a manner of speaking, I am as old as the Republic of India. The seven decades of my life have been intertwined with those of my country. But after 70 years, I feel this is the first Republic Day being celebrated amidst negativity and strife.”

“What do you mean, Dadu? What negativity are you talking about?”, asked Leena.

Mindful of her impressionable age, the Brigadier weighed his words carefully. “The government in power is about to implement a law that would unalterably change some of the basic principles enshrined in our Constitution. India chose to be a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. Hence, making religion a deciding factor for citizenship goes against the essence of what our leaders had envisioned for us.

I don’t mean to confuse or worry you, my child, but I feel it is important for the younger generation to be aware of what is at stake.”

“This is all quite interesting, Dadu. Why should the religious factor of selection be a problem, though? It’s not like they’re kicking people out of the country on the basis of their religion, right?”, Leena asked.

“No, my dear, but as a secular nation, it is our government’s responsibility to give equal importance and rights to all religions, and that is the principle at stake here. The government cannot favour or disfavour any religion when it comes to matters of state. Citizenship is a political concern and religion should not be a criterion for it.

India has a history of harbouring different religions from all over the world, whether it is the Zoroastrians from Persia or the Jews from Armenia. In fact, India’s progressive and inclusive nature made it ideal for many religions to originate and thrive here. Take our own religion, Sikhism, as an example- it found its place in this great country because of India’s unique nature of being diverse yet united.

“For my first posting as a young Lieutenant in the Indian Army, I fought the Pakistani troops at the Western Front in 1971. Do you know why we fought Pakistan back then?”, he asked.

“Was it a religious war? Like the jihad of the Islamic terrorists these days?”, Leena replied earnestly.

“No, my dear, it was not a religious war. We fought for the freedom of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, to rule itself without facing the oppression and neglect from the government of West Pakistan. There was an incontrollable influx of refugees in to our country, as people tried to escape their horrid plight in East Pakistan. These refugees were facing gross political persecution and mass genocide- they were denied basic rights and were being looted and murdered. In order to stop this illegal immigration, we put our own lives at stake and went to war.

Now, when the government seeks to promote the welfare of persecuted religious minorities, it forgets that historically, political persecution has not been solely on religious lines. Religion is often the cause for persecution against minorities, but there are many non-religious reasons as well, including difference in language, gender, race, and economic status.”

The Brigadier ended emphatically, “one cannot change history simply by re-writing it.”

After a moment of thoughtful silence, Leena asked her grandfather, “what will happen now, Dadu?”

“I am impressed that the entire nation has raised its voice against this political move. It’s unclear what the outcome will be, but I feel the younger generation will spearhead this movement in a positive direction.

You don’t live in India, Leena, but you are a citizen of the world. Always remember to fight injustice and be aware of what is at stake. We need people like you to question everything- to become thought leaders”, said the Brigadier, finishing the last sip of his drink.

“I hope I didn’t bore you my dear. I’m an old man and I can get carried away with my stories.”

“Not at all Dadu. I want to know all your stories! I want to know about the battles you fought! Did you ever get hurt? Was it difficult for you to stay away from your family?”, Leena excitedly burst forth with multiple questions.

“Hahaha! One story at a time, Leena. We have seven decades of my life to cover- let’s take it one story at a time.” Hugging his eldest grandchild, the Brigadier held back a sudden onset of tears, as he realised she would be flying back in three days.

7DEC

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Hi everyone, this post is dedicated to the lofty document that is meant to guide us as citizens, and guide the people in power to be upright leaders- the Constitution of India. As we complete seven decades of being a republic, let’s hope the basic tenets of this manuscript remain untainted in the days to come. I understand that everyone has different political views. You do not have to agree with me, but I request you to be respectful of my views, as I am of your political views. If you do agree with me however, I urge you to share this story ahead, especially with children and young adults.

Brigadier and Mrs. Sahni will appear in more works of fiction penned by me. Click here to read the next short story, “The Turmoil Within“.

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This post is a part of the ‘DECADE Blog Hop’ #DecadeHop organised by #RRxMM Rashi Roy and Manas Mukul. The Event is sponsored by Glo and co-sponsored by Beyond The BoxWedding ClapThe Colaba Store and Sanity Daily in association with authors Piyusha Vir and Richa S Mukherjee.

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The theme for this blog hop is “decade”, and this work of fiction is my creative attempt at writing on the given theme, along with paying ode to seven decades of India being a republic. Do follow my blog if you enjoyed this work, and leave your comments below!

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*This is not a sponsored post.

**Copyright in pictures and content belongs to nooranandchawla.com and cannot be republished or repurposed without express permission of the author. As I am a copyright lawyer by profession, infringement of any kind will invite strict legal action.

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173 Comments

  1. Hey Noor.. its lovely to read all the political views woven in a story.. the story that had the right balance of emotions. will look forward to other stories of this 7 decades too. 🙂

  2. I love your writing style even though I might not agree on your certain views. However every citizen is entitled to hold his own opinion and I am happy that you held yours in a very well written fiction story which hammers your point but does not create a negative impression in the readers mind.

    1. Superb loved the story you touched the untouched and it touched my heart and your views are totally agreeable in my opinion and I very much loved the dadu character and the opinions about the current issue a much needed write up😊👍😍

  3. Frankly speaking, I don’t agree with the views, but your views are your own and I respect them. Theme aside, the story is well written, dealing with NRI children and aged parents. The undercurrent clashes between mother and father, the changing priorities when the grownup children come home with their kids, and the sense of restless have been portrayed nicely. Best wishes for the decade. 🙂 

  4. It’s great to involve kids in countries political activities at a right age. Great way through story telling. And yer as your last paragraph days political opinions may vary between individuals and everyone should have freedom to express it.

  5. Noor, I loved that you could bring such a complicated subject into a story, one that we can tell our kids so they understand what lies ahead. I’m really impressed. Please write more like this, if you could. Thanks. And I seriously mean it!!

    Janaki(@beyond the familiar)

  6. Hi Noor! I am hearing the political views very first time from your side through this story. I loved the conversation between Dadu and granddaughter. I agree a democratic country holds its beauty by giving freedom to the people of each religion where they can speak their words without any fear. I will wait for the next story like Leena.

    Deepika Mishra

  7. Loved it, Noor. The way you penned it, it easy for even a child to understand. Kids need to be made aware of the current scenario. I also liked the way you brought an army man’s perspective to it. They are not fighting machines. They too question.

    1. Thank you Ritu for your lovely words! So glad you liked it. I wrote it specifically for children. It’s so important to impart a political understanding from a young age. Children should learn to question for themselves and form their own conclusions.

  8. Your story strikes a chord with me. Like the grandfather, I’ve been thinking about the country’s scenario, the political polarisation and the extreme negativity. History cannot change by trying to rewrite it. I agree with that.
    Loved the way you incorporated the ideology in fiction

  9. Lovely post. It is need of the hour that our future generation should know more about our history as well as political scenario. Kudos for writing this.
    Best Wishes.

  10. Hello Noor, I liked the conversational style of the fictional story between the granddad and granddaughter. I hope they will be able to bond better from now on.

      1. This was an interesting read. Yes, divergent views and a respectful discussion on them without media commentary is a need of the hour. Good job Noor.

  11. Hi Noor! First of all, i want to say that while reading the story I was just awe stricken to your imagination power. An incredible fiction woven with so much integrity. All the scenarios you have woven into a visionary tale of grandpa’s tale. Loved it. Best wishes 🙂

  12. Lovely narration. Clear style. Unique handling – A dialogue between grandpa and grand daughter!
    Loved the 1st candid part too where grandpa is not too happy with his privacy invaded!! 😄

  13. I read your fiction earlier too Noor, but this piece of fiction something of different level of conversation between grandfather and grandchild left me amazed, how you wove story so logically and positively without leaving any negative impression on readers including kids, putting your political views so gracefully either by writing or discussing, itself a challenge for me, though I share a different view at some points, but can’t differ with your rationale, now even I am waiting for the next story of rest 6 decades from Dadu😊

  14. Stirring a conversion between two generations and expressing a point of view on current political chaos in an engaging fiction is commendable Noor. I like how you choose to express your thoughts.

  15. A very sensitive issue explained with a lot of nuance without sounding offending. People are bound to have different political opinions and the true gist of democracy lies in these difference of opinions. A very important topic discussed through an equally heart warming story. Nice work Noor!

  16. A harsh reality explained through a neatly spun story.
    The issue with our country is most of the times, even so-called ‘educated adults’ (leave alone children) are disinterested in knowing the truth behind what is happening. Biased media reports, circulating fake Whatsapp messages, and hear-say are conveniently passed on. Then again, there are those with blinkers on, who despite coming face to face with the truth, still refuse to acknowledge it,

    We can only hope posts like these are not taken as mere fiction and manage to serve as eye openers to the times we are living in…

    It is only when we act united, think united, and are united that we will see a better India!

    1. Thank you for so beautifully penning a word of support. The truth is, I’m not merely expressing my views here- I’m explaining a legal and constitutional reality in the simplest manner, which people refuse to see or acknowledge. Thank you for understanding this post in its truest sense.

  17. Hi Noor. This is the first time I’m reading fiction by you. And what a wonderful job you’ve done, my dear. I love the calm tone of the Brig as he touches upon such a sensitive issue with his grand daughter. That certainly stands out. And even though internally he faces many trepidations. Also I liked that whole piece where we get an insight into his life, the children having moved out and his discomfort with them coming over, the wife with her own desires and the daily ritual of his single malt whiskey. It’s so real. All in all, a wonderful read, apt for the times we live in!

  18. Hey Noor, I liked how you have woven the current political strife along with a fictional tale. Though I may not agree with the political views in it, I found the story engaging and the characters were well chosen.

  19. I might not agree with the political views but all of us are entitled to their opinions. What I liked about the story is the bond between two opposite generations and them trying find a common bridge to connect. Beautifully woven emotions!

  20. You are such a talented writer…kudos for weaving a difficult topic into the story…and I can almost remember another person like “Dadu”… 😉 he only likes those Whatsapp family updates and arrival and departure on time by the family… 🙂

  21. As always another brilliant piece of fiction and that too based on politics.. I completely agree with your views and that is a nice way to explain to the younger generation. I absolutely loved it

  22. Can I just say how impressed I am? This was a well crafted story with a succint narrative and real, believable characters. There was a clear beginning, middle and an end, which left me wanting so much more. I love your style of writing and how you take a topical issue and offer your perspective without a trace of self righteousness or know-it-all-ery.

    Talent and grace, thy name is Noor Anand Chawla!

  23. I find myself incapable of discussing political ideologies, but I loved the way you have shown the interaction between an innocent and elderly person. Lovely post. 🙂

  24. I always admire your fictional tale Noor and this one is again an awesome one..I really love the way you had shared the whole story in a conversational manner. I really liked the conversation between dadu and his granddaughter. I completely agree with you that each one has a right to express their political view and others should respect it.

  25. I’ve sat by quietly on many such days, watching my father hand down his wisdom broken down into tiny tales for my daughter. An important residue from your story being freedom of expression. The mere fact that dissent, Whether or not I agree with you, is the hallmark of a thinking mind.

  26. OMG I can’t believe as I had met a similar Brig M. sandhu long long back who also stays on and off with his kids in ontario. Your post constantly reminded me of him and I actually called him to wish and chit chat as its been days and your post refreshed me. When I started and read of the single malt I first traveled my visuals to khushwant sing and then to this respectable Brig whom I know.
    Loved the weave around current political state, and also how a senior generation is passing his views to next future generation is what I loved in your post.

  27. Fiction is a good way to showcase your views about a particular topic. I liked how two generations politely discussed about it. Grandparents pass on their opinion to the generation and thereafter the new generation make their own opi ions as they grow.

  28. Beautifully penned story by interspersing fiction with reality. I loved the way you carved out the characters of the stern and serious grandfather who later softens up. The grand daughter in spite of staying away from india is keen to know about history of india. Th tone and words used by the grandfather to explain the girl in her understandable language is really commendable. Overall a well woven story with an inspiring message for the youth!

  29. Leaving aside political and religious concerns , a nice conversation between dadu and granddaughter…dadus wisdom and child’s curiosity….it was interesting to read

  30. Loved how you have woven a story out of such a complicated subject with so much ease, Noor. I absolutely agree with the last line that everyone has a right to express their views and respect others, no matter we agree or not. I would love to share the story to my kids too, once they are old enough to understand. Keep writing more fiction.

  31. This post has explained the ongoing unrest, the reason behind it and the feelings of the people who ha e worked to get this country where it is, better than any journalistic article I have read so far.
    They say fiction is inspired by fact and this beautifully written story is proof of that.
    I have always appreciated your writing, Noor but you have hit it out of the park with this one! Kudos!

      1. Your article was informative for me too. It’s sad to know this RDay was celebrated in the midst of negativity but hopefully God shows us the right way forward!

  32. I believe that stories are the essence of humanity. Listening to stories of elders is a central figure in most of the ancient cultures. I think the imbibed knowledge just by listening to an elder is great. And what better way to learn about the central tenets of Indian Constitution than by being told about it in the form of a story! Regards Rohit Verma

  33. Your way of expressing the protests across the nation was very unique and I wish for it to reach more and more people. Also, Being a very sensitive topic at the moment, you have written it well.
    — Rightpurchasing

  34. I like the way you have narrated the current on-goings through this post. People have will always have different opinions however I wish that our country with its rich heritage goes in the right direction and the next decade we stand out in the world in many ways.

  35. Absolutely loved reading this although I am not fully agree with your thoughts but story was really good 💜 will wait for more such stories!!

  36. Great post Noor! I have been meaning to ask a few questions about CAA to someone who understands law. There has been so much misinformation that I don’t want to form an opinion till my doubts are clarified. I hope you can clarify it.

    1. Does the amendment mean that there is no other way of obtaining citizenship in India apart from this? Like will citizenship henceforth be granted based only on religious grounds?

    2. Do we have a system in place to regularly identify illegal immigrants?

    3. What happens to those who are deemed illegal citizens and those who do get citizenship. Where will both these categories settle?

    1. Hi Neha, thanks for reading the post and for asking such intelligent questions- that’s the need of the hour!
      I will answer you to the best of my ability.
      1. No, it doesn’t mean that there is no other way of seeking citizenship. The regular route is still available for expats. This is aimed only at illegal immigrants from 6 religiously persecuted communities in 3 identified countries. Earlier, the proposed bill included all persecuted communities, and was not limited to 3 countries.
      The new bill gives these identified communities a huge relaxation in the citizenship process. Earlier all persecuted communities would be considered for citizenship after 12 years, now these 6 specific communities will be considered for citizenship only after 5 years. And all other communities have to apply via the normal route, which takes much longer owing to bureaucracy and red tapism.
      2. The NCC/NRC is the government’s answer to identifying illegal immigrants. The NCC forces people to show that at least one or two generations of their ancestors have been living in India.
      This is very troublesome because in many parts of India, especially poor people don’t have access to proper documentation and cannot prove this fact, even though their families may have moved to India as far back as the partition.
      3. Their fate will be the same of illegal immigrants anywhere in the world. They will have to leave the country, and those that are granted citizenship will have to make their life here, just as anyone else would.

      I hope these answer your questions. Thanks once again for reading and appreciating the post.

  37. I loved the story and how you connected a piece of fiction to India s current political scenario. Even though I may of the belief that no one should get citizenship I agree that this move is changing the basic constitution of being secular.

  38. Loved your short story, Noor. beautifully expressed. If one doesn’t take a stand now, one will be left standing alone eventually. True, one hasn’t felt so despondent at least in recent memory.

    This law isn’t new; it has been in existence for a while now but the new provisions in it (it is, after all, an ‘amendment’ bill that was passed) have caused all right thinking citizens to stop and think. While distress in the economy remains unaddressed or under-addressed at best, controversial laws are taking up time and energy.

    Beautifully told and yes, you must write for you write so well. Do not deprive readers the pleasure of reading poignant, thoughtful, and instructive stories. Write on!

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