My daughter, a mother of two, who lives in the United States, is here for a visit. This trip is very special to her because she is celebrating not only Pakistan’s 65th independence anniversary, but also Eid with us after six years. This young woman has always been unique in many ways - even as an apparently boisterous teenager, she would walk, no matter what the distance, to toss wrappers in a trash can. She was the one, who would not rest until, we had hoisted the national flag on our balcony, prepared our dusty ‘diyas’ for illuminating the terrace and bought an arm load of firecrackers to be set off at the stroke of midnight. When she got married and moved to a foreign land far away, she carried this unlimited love for the country of her birth with her.

As August approaches, her home becomes a symbol of everything Pakistani. Neighbours passing her house pause to look at the huge rectangle of dark green emblazoned with a white crescent and star, draped over the front of her house. She dresses up her children in green and white and wears these colours herself. Her Independence Day dinner, with Pakistani national songs, is an event looked forward to by all and sundry.

Two weeks ago, I found this daughter of mine upset by the fact that we had not yet displayed the Pakistani flag on our residence. The two days that followed saw her getting progressively more agitated as repeated searches failed to turn up the ‘jhanda’, that my wife had put away somewhere after last year’s celebration. Finally, she scolded me into taking her out shopping - to buy lapel flags, hand-held pennants and a huge billowing national standard to be flown over our home.

This morning as I drove to work, my thoughts strayed to this human dynamo in our family and then unconsciously I began scanning the buildings and houses on both sides of the road. Concern and then anguish welled up inside me, as I passed an unending sequence of brick and mortar structures with nary a flag on them. Fearful thoughts raised their ugly heads, as the car sped on - had we reached a point where even our Independence was losing its place in our struggle to cope with our daily wants?

My mind flashed to a time in my childhood, when my mother would bustle around the house carrying a roll of green and white satin, heralding the beginning of an annual ritual. Soon, the floor would be covered by pieces of the cloth, which gradually transformed themselves into a beautiful flag. This whole operation was supervised by my grandfather, who would sit in his favourite chair and chip in with words of advice. Dawn on the appointed day found the old man enthusiastically hoisting this ‘chand taaray wala parcham’ above our porch.

Our drawing room boasted many photographs, but priceless amongst them was the one showing my grandfather standing shoulder to shoulder with Mohammad Ali Jinnah. As one entered our front door, one was confronted with the portrait of Quaid-i-Azam at the head of the gallery that led to other rooms in the house. And this was not all, a beautifully embroidered flag secured to a brass stand stood in one corner of this gallery. We were not the only ones who were inclined to display such symbols of our national fervour, as I know of many homes that did likewise. Sadly, these have all but disappeared from our daily lives.

This morning, I passed an unending row of green posters hanging from street lights, with pictures of our political leaders and pitifully swamped by the deluge of these pictures, were images of Quaid-i-Azam. I am sure that similar posters must be adorning streets and roads in other cities as well, the only difference being that the pictures may belong to a different set of leaders. As far as I am concerned, our Independence Day belongs exclusively to the Founding Father, his team of tireless men and women who made our homeland possible and thousands of men, women and children, who sacrificed themselves in a bid to reach the land of their dreams. If any face should peer at us from posters, it should be theirs.

Faced with a battle for economic and perhaps physical survival, we have developed the tendency to turn even the smallest of opportunity into a rowdy and raucous display of juvenile temperament. It is madness for any decent family to drive around roads in any of our major cities on Independence Day, without being subjected to what in my dictionary is undesirable behaviour. Major roads leading out from cities become death traps for young men and boys on motorcycles, who appear to be vying with one another to audition for a daredevil circus job and all this happens under the very noses of the police.

Notwithstanding all our drawbacks as a nation, there are things that lift my spirits and give me hope that, perhaps, all is not lost. Take for example, a celebrity figure from Islamabad, who goes around the city roads on August 14, distributing gift packages amongst on duty policemen or the old man, who risked his life amidst peak time traffic, in trying to retrieve a small paper emblem of our sovereignty, callously dropped on the road from a speeding land cruiser, just because the green rectangle with its distinctive crescent and star was his symbol of reverence and not a piece of coloured paper that could be trampled underfoot.

The writer is a freelance columnist.