‘No freedom to do what I want’: What I-day means for children selling flags on the street

12-year-old Suja, who’s come from Rajasthan to Bengaluru with her family to sell flags, says Independence Day is just another day for work.
‘No freedom to do what I want’: What I-day means for children selling flags on the street
‘No freedom to do what I want’: What I-day means for children selling flags on the street
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Come August 15, and the words ‘freedom’ and ‘independence’ are everywhere, as is the Tricolour in all its avatars.

Amidst all the patriotic fervour, however, the hundreds of men, women and children who sell us the flags and let us wear our enthusiasm on our sleeves, are never noticed.

Standing on Bengaluru’s MG Road – burdened with small plastic and large cloth flags, tricolour stickers, badges and stuffed toys – is Suja*, a 12-year-old girl from Nohar village in Rajasthan. Every year, Suja and her family of five travel to Bengaluru in the month of August to sell flags for Independence Day.

“We came to Bengaluru on August 9. Every year, during Independence Day, we come to sell the flags near the parade ground (Manekshaw Parade Ground). It helps us earn a good deal of money,” she says.

Suja’s family isn’t alone in this, with many residents of remote villages in Rajasthan travelling all the way to Bengaluru to sell flags at various traffic signals in the city.

“This time, around 40 to 50 of us came together. We make the big cloth flags and also assemble the small plastic ones, which can be kept in cars and stuck to the bikes. The badges are painted well in advance before we come to the city,” narrates Suja’s mother Anumeha.

For Suja’s family, Independence Day brings in such a large bounty, compared to their meagre earnings back home, that it makes the long journey from Rajasthan to Bengaluru worth it.

“We easily make Rs 5,000 in just one day. We usually start selling flags and badges two or three days before. Along with my family, my brother and his family have also come down. So have a few of my husband’s siblings’ families,” says Anumeha.

That Ganesh Chaturthi will soon be coming up is an added bonus for these families, she adds. “We try to make some more money by selling small Ganesha idols that can be kept in cars. With this money, we can sustain ourselves till Christmas, and we come back for New Year again.”

Forced to do their part to supplement their family’s earnings, Suja and her brother Vikram* do not attend school. “We can’t go to school because our mother forbids us to. We have to work. She said that people will buy more flags from children, as they find it difficult to turn us down. She said it is a duty to my family. I can’t go to school even if I want to,” Suja says.

It comes as no surprise that, for Suja, Independence Day is like any other day where she has to work to support her family.

“Freedom is being able to do what you want, right? I don’t have freedom,” Suja says matter-of-factly.

*Name changed on request.

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