Chauburji A few days ago, rummaging through an old box, I found myself holding a relic from the past - blobs of melted wax from spent candles carefully preserved in a brown paper bag by tiny hands. And as I stood there, the scene around me dissolved into a warm August evening and a spacious yellow house surrounded by green lawns and lush trees. I saw a dignified and caring old man, handing out packets of coloured candles to his grand children and urging them to be careful while climbing the rickety bamboo ladder to the roof. Now I was on a roof top as the youngest of three children happily fixing rows of candles on the balustrades and lighting them. The scene changed again and I was standing in the front lawn staring up in wonder at the myriad of twinkling lights and gleefully shouting Pakistan Zindabad. In another part of the house, a woman brimming with maternal love and kindness was putting the finishing touches to trays heaped with sweet coloured confection called boondi that she would soon be doling out to the children of the hutments behind the house. Very early in the day, this same woman had sat on her praying mat, hands lifted in gratitude and supplication, tears streaking her face, thanking the Almighty for the gift of Independence. That same morning, we had awakened to the distant thunder of a 'gun salute fired to honour this day of days. There was great excitement in the house as everyone got ready to take the short 15 minutes walk to the Shahdin Building on the Mall. There, comfortably seated in chairs on the first floor verandah of a family friends spacious colonial type apartment, we waited. Soon both sides of the Mall filled up with rows of people carrying small paper Pakistani flags. There was no disorder, no shouting, no pushing as the citizens of Lahore craned their necks in anticipation of a great spectacle. First came the distant sound of military music which drew nearer with each passing minute. From the Regal Cinema end of the Mall, one could see flashes of polished brass and steel amidst a rhythmically moving mass. Soon, one could discern rank after rank of neatly starched khaki uniforms with rifles in the 'slope position on their shoulders, led by their regimental bands, marching in beautiful cadence. We would watch in awe as the regiments passed below us, making our hearts swell with pride. Soon one could make out another sound, like that of many engines running in unison and our excitement would mount beyond description. We did not have long to wait as rows of drab green Bren Gun carriers and lorries towing artillery guns appeared and passed below us moving towards the cantonment. And throughout this grand parade, there would be rising and falling waves of thunderous clapping and full blooded shouts of Pakistan Zindabad and Allah O Akbar from a million throats. The ringing of my cell phone brought me rudely and unwillingly back to the present and the August 14 of the present. I looked for candles or diyas placed on balconies of houses by small beaming faces; I searched for old ladies, who would share their joy with others bestowed with lesser means and privileges. I longed to see a nation celebrating its Independence Day with dignity and maturity - I just looked and looked and looked. I found myself surrounded by young delinquents and hooligans on motorcycles throwing crackers at cars and creating a traffic mess on Jinnah Avenue, I saw 'parodies of Pakistani flags adorning cars and buildings and regretfully I found the national emblem being trodden under foot and tire in a manner unworthy of a nation. I returned to my home and locking myself in my study, looked long and hard at the portrait of the Founding Father adorning one wall. I found his eyes accusing me and my generation; for had we not failed to protect and cherish the great gift that he had given us. Had we not raised a generation that knew more about Metallica and hard rock music rather than Sir Syed Ahmed or the Pakistan Movement? The writer is a freelance columnist.