India’s Independence Day is celebrated on August 15th which is approximately one month after America’s July 4th celebration. This presents a unique opportunity to teach Indian-American children about the ways in which independence from Britain meant justice and freedom for both countries; yet, freedom was interpreted in different ways, based on the cultural ideals of each country.
For many children, freedom is an elusive concept. What does it mean to have freedom? Well, that depends on who is given the freedom, why they wanted freedom, when they received freedom, and the ways in which they interpreted freedom once they received it.
One way to teach Indian-American children is to draw out the connections that are inherently a part of their lives as Indian-Americans. What did America and India do after they received freedom from Britain? Children can be introduced to the different interpretations of freedom by exploring the flags that each country created. Through this activity, parents can help children develop a better understanding of the cultural ideals that were emphasized by the people that lived there.
In 1776, Betsy Ross created the first American flag. The stars represent the 50 states and the stripes represent the 13 colonies. The colors of the flag speak to what freedom means to Americans. The red represents the hardiness and valor; the white represents purity and innocence; and the blue represents perseverance and justice.
In 1947, Pingala Venkayya introduced the Indian flag. The flag needed to be made on khadi, a special type of cloth that was made popular by Mahatma Gandhi. The flag had three, equal horizontal stripes. The saffron represents courage and sacrifice; white represents peace and truth; and green represents prosperity and fertility. The blue chakra in the middle represents the law of dharma or righteousness.
In this way, once the countries received freedom, they each emphasized different values and beliefs in order to create an autonomous identity. From this perspective, we should also encourage children to think about what freedom means to them as Indian-Americans. By connecting the hyphen for Indian-American children, they, in turn, will be able to develop a confident, autonomous sense of self.
This year, create a picture collage entitled Picturing Freedom with your children. This idea is adopted from the Picturing Peace program that was started by Dr. Robert J. Beck at Lawrence University. Have children take digital pictures of what freedom means to them. Some examples could be: people voting, diverse groups of children playing, participating in Indian and American cultural activities, social media outlets such as Facebook, occupations that they want to pursue and/or other dreams or achievements they have in mind.
By developing an understanding of how their vision of freedom is different from what someone else might perceive of as freedom, they will begin to appreciate and understand how freedom encourages diverse thoughts, beliefs, and perspectives.