A vacation for the nation



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It is vacation time. As the mercury shoots up, schools, colleges and even courts across the country are downing their shutters for the well-deserved summer break. Government servants are making plans to avail their annual LTCs and LTAs; tourist operators are offering fabulous offers from God’s Own Country to cruise holidays in Europe, from Lion Safaris in Africa to discounts in Disneyland; hotels, air ticketing firms, airlines (except of course Air India and Kingfisher, whose pilots and staff appear to be perennially holidaying) and even Railways are going the extra mile to woo customers.

That’s not all. From cooking schools to dance and theatre groups and play schools, everyone is planning summer camps and workshops to attract youngsters, students, home-makers and enthusiasts. The spiritual masters too are not behind, offering meditation and healing programmes at mountain resorts and holiday retreats to provide food for the soul. Even the otherwise busy politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen are planning their annual sojourns a la Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Manali retreats.

There are also voices like that of Swadeshi ideologue K N Govindacharya who feel that summer vacations are the legacy of the British, who felt uncomfortable with hot summers and chose cooler climes at hill stations across the country, from Manali to Munnar. According to him, such vacations should be there only during peak agricultural season when school and college going youngsters can lend a helping hand to their farmer parents.

It is also the time of the year when academics are planning to complete their unfinished books, television channels are dishing out special programming for kids and housewives, while students in Xth and XIIth standards are preparing for their career.

However, Aakash Jha is an exception, and a rare one for that. Instead of going for hobby classes or private coaching to prepare for his career, this 14-year-old student of St Thomas School, Indirapuram on the Delhi-UP border, utilized his vacations and holidays to the hilt and made an hour long documentary film - Ek Khoj: Bharat Ki Swatantrata Aandolan 1857-1947 Ke Shahidon Ke Gumnam Jivit Vanshajon Ki Dastan, Ek Jivant Film (A Discovery of India: Stories of the living yet unknown Descendants of the martyrs – a living film) on the disgraceful condition of the descendants of the nation’s martyrs - who made the supreme sacrifice for its freedom - who continue to be neglected and are languishing in misery.

On how he got the idea to film a documentary, Aakash, perhaps the country’s youngest cameraman, says, “I have seen my parents launch a nationwide movement, Aandolan Ek Pustak Se, for the forgotten heroes and freedom fighters. I suggested to my father that converting the book into a documentary would make it easier for school children to understand. He liked my idea and gave me the go-ahead. I took two years to meet the families of the martyrs, gather information and then combined all the facts into a 60-minute documentary.”

Aakash’s parents - Shivnath Jha, a senior journalist and Neena Jha, a teacher in the same school - are the teen’s inspiration. The movement started by the Jhas aims to rehabilitate the descendants of those who fought for the country’s Independence and bring them back in public focus.

“Like every child, I used to go out with my parents. The only difference was I didn’t go for shopping or movies. Rather, I visited the families of Ustad Bismillah Khan, Bahadur Shah Zafar, Tantia Tope, Mangal Pandey, Khudiram Bose, Satyendranath Bose, and others to know their stories. I am thankful to my parents who took me to meet the families,” says Aakash, for whom certainly sky is not the limit, as his name suggests.

Wish we had more such parents and wards. Let us celebrate Aakash’s path breaking initiative by dedicating this vacation to the nation.