Jai Hind! Woodstock celebrates 65 years of Indian independence

Jai Hind! Woodstock celebrates 65 years of Indian independence

Students, staff, alumni and guests of Woodstock School gathered in the Win Mumby gym on Wednesday (August 15) for the annual Indian flag raising ceremony, this year celebrating the 65th anniversary of Indian independence.

The flag was raised by the school’s four longest-serving students who have all been here ten years – Achi Gerutshang, Jyotika Dangwal, Kautiliya Mewalwala and Twewang Sadulshang.

Guest speaker Bhavenesh Kumari Patiala, who graduated from Woodstock in 1950 and went on to be one of the first women to practise in the Indian Supreme Court, urged the Woodstock community to work together to overcome problems and “constantly reach out to people less fortunate than us”.

She read the poem Where the Mind is Without Fear by Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, which extols the idea of global citizenship which Woodstock seeks to promote.

Woodstock School Principal Dr Jonathan Long said “today we see Woodstock for what it is, one of the oldest and renowned schools in the world in the world’s largest democracy”. He said the school offered “remarkable opportunities and responsibilities in this astonishing country in which we’re privileged to live”.

The school also acknowledged South Korean independence day which also took place on Wednesday, while students from the school’s myriad nationalities wore their national dress.

A Hindi choir sang Hum Hindustani during the ceremony which also included several Indian songs and bhajans.

As part of the week of celebrations for Indian independence at Woodstock Kathak dancing maestro Padma Shri Guru Shovana Narayan performed at the school.

Two puppet shows were put on by Padma Shri Dadi Pudumjee, the leading puppeteer in India and founder of the Ishara Puppet Theatre Trust.

These shows were organised in collaboration with SPIC MACAY, the Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture amongst Youth.

Head of Woodstock Junior School Mrs Sanjaya Mark, chairperson of the Woodstock School Festivals Committee, said it was a great joy and privilege to welcome all the esteemed guests to the school as part of the celebrations for the 65th anniversary of Indian independence.

She said the performances left Woodstock students “enthralled and inspired”.

See a selection of photos from the ceremony below, and view more photos on the Woodstock Facebook page. Read a full text of Bhavenesh Kumari Patiala’s Independence Day speech below.


Full text of Bhavenesh Kumari Patiala’s speech entitled Independence and Freedom

The closest I came to motherhood was in 1948 when I was dressed up as Mother India for a pageant and made to stand on a pedestal in Parker Hall, surrounded by Woodstock students dressed up as various leaders of India. Whenever I come to Woodstock I come solely as an old student, and now as an ancient student. I graduated in 1950. So what does Independence and Freedom mean to all of us?

Thucydides- a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century B. C. at the time when Greece was divided into small City States, records that the strongest City State of Athens annexed the small City State of Melos. Melos had pleaded for their Independence, but Athens rejected the plea and said “Independence is only a question among equals. The weak must suffer what they must and the strong do what they must.”

For nearly 700 years India was not an independent country. The Moguls were here for nearly 500 years and the British were here for another 200 years. We were a weak and fragmented nation and hence we suffered like the City State of Melos.    

With regard to the parliamentary debates in the House of Commons, on the question of Indian independence, Churchill the diehard empire man stated. He would not preside the liquidation of the British Empire, because…

“Power will go to the hands of rascals, rogues and freebooters. All Indian leaders will be of low caliber and men of straw. They will have sweet tongues and silly hearts. They will fight amongst themselves for power and India will be lost in political squabbles. A day would come when even air and water….would be taxed in India.”

In the present day scenario in India, his description of what India would be if we were granted Independence are frightngly spot on.

But we won’t let anyone come back, we shall fight and we shall overcome.

Eleanor Roosevelt wife of President Roosevelt of the US, once subjected Winston Chruchill to a diatribe on the subject of British imperialism. “The Indians have suffered for years under British oppression,” she declared. “Are we talking about the brown-skinned Indians in India who have multiplied under benevolent British rule,” Chruchill retorted. “Or are we speaking about the red-skinned Indians in America who, I understand, are now almost extinct?”

So far as our population rise is concerned we have done infinitely better after independence. And who knows how far we can grow without the “benevolent British rule”.

So what does independence really mean? Not just raising and saluting a flag on Independence Day, but consciously reaching out to people who are less fortunate than us and have no idea of how to overcome gross poverty, hunger and illiteracy. What comes to mind is Noble Prize winner, Rabindranath Tagore’s famous description of freedom. Tagore lived from 1861-1941; this poem is the first outreach for global citizenship, which Woodstock School has articulated in its 2020 vision. Tagore’s poem is entitled Where the mind is without fear.

“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.” 

While Tagore pleads for freedom on a global basis, every human being can’t have such a vast outreach but we can a single individuals help each other in one of my favorite poems by Emily Dickinson.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) was an American poet. Though virtually unknown in her lifetime. Dickinson has come to be regarded along with Walt Whitman, as one of the two quintessential American poets of the 19th century.

I Shall Not Live in Vain- Emily Dickinson

If I can stop one Heart from breaking
I shall not live in vain
If I can ease one Life the Aching
Or cool one Pain
Or Help one fainting Robin
Unto his Nest again
I shall not live in Vain.


Woodstock students you can start this outreach right here at the school and you will have all the help from President Eleanor Nicolson whose country (USA) has much in common with India. You will also have the help of our benevolent English Principal, Dr. Jonathan Long.

We are Woodstock Tigers let us be proud of our lineage and do not become predators.

Bhavenesh K. Patiala ‘50
Guest speaker at Independence Day
August 15 2012

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