[dropcap]I[/dropcap]T is not easy to write about a day that I have never really celebrated. Until now, January 26 was usually spent in cold classrooms far away. Whilst away from India, Republic Day was something recognised only after the fact, an addendum to the next day’s newspapers. Yet, for my grandparents, it was an event around which the year turned. It represented the formal completion of decolonisation. This day was their achievement, the conclusion of their mission against Empire and the end of their being subjugated. But slowly, meaning drains away from these commemorative events as we grow more comfortable. Thus, for my mother’s generation it meant a bit less; a chance to go out of town and picnic with the family in Sohra. And from there, any residual zeal slipped through my fingers without my noticing.
It is often levelled against people of my age that we don’t know what it is to fight for something truly significant, something that isn’t avocado toast or clout or PUBG. This accusation is often made by belligerent men who grasp history only very tenuously. War fetishists in the UK regularly cite the spirit of sacrifice developed whilst being bombed by fascists as an example to follow. In my opinion, this accusation is unfairly made, but in this case, there is perhaps a grain of truth. I don’t know how it felt for my family to live under Empire, to be unfree. These are experiences that I cannot approximate. This is one potential explanation of why Republic Day has meant so little until now.
I realise that something has changed recently. Over the past year, I’ve studied and tried to understand the Constitution. I’ve seen how it can be used as a force for social justice to address a society riven with inequity and, in recognising this transformative potential, I feel an attachment that previously wasn’t there. The flowering of this relationship has thus given this day an unexpected, although still imperfectly articulated, meaning.
The Constitution is not just interesting to study. Understanding how litigants, lawyers, and judges have tried to frame its elusive goals is in itself rewarding, but it seems to me that there is beauty also in seeing judges conversing with the text, trying to balance contemporary demands with what is written and what has come before. It is by now commonly understood that this conversation between text and society plays a significant role in defining what our Constitutional identity is. One need only look to last year’s Sabarimala judgment, where Article 17 was interpreted to recognise menstrual discrimination as a form of untouchability, for an example of the Constitution’s progressive power when placed in skilled hands. This process is profoundly inspiring and Republic Day ought to be a celebration of that.
My friend’s mother once rebuked me when I told her that I was planning to get my mother something special for Mother’s Day. “Every single day”, she told me, “is Mother’s Day”. This same principle applies to the Constitution. Recognising its genesis is worthwhile only if the values of universal dignity, equality, and freedom that it enshrines are genuinely recognised as guiding forces. Republic Day is therefore an occasion to a recognise the long struggle to articulate our vision of the country and a reiteration of our collective commitment to that. In 2019, at least, I think this is what celebrating Republic Day means.