MYSURU: The passion in Saraswathi Badekkila's voice is unmistakable.
"Did you know that our national anthem has four more stanzas and they are even more beautiful," asks the 88-year-old from Mysuru, who every year on Independence Day gathers all her children, grandchildren and neighbours and sings the entire song.
Speaking to The New Indian Express, she recalls how she was in Class IV when she was given a pamphlet with the original and complete Bengali five-stanza hymn penned by Rabindranath Tagore, a part of which is the current national anthem.
Since then, Saraswathi makes sure that she sings the entire song every Independence Day.
“I thought it’s my duty to learn the whole anthem. It takes us through a journey of our country’s independence struggle, while also showing other very important issues,” explains Saraswathi, further stating that we only sing about 52 seconds from the original song that has five full stanzas.
A native of Dakshina Kannada, a beaming Saraswathi, who lives in Mysuru, says, “I tried to teach a lot of youngsters including my children and grandchildren. They do listen with great interest but don’t want to learn it. If anyone wants to learn, I am ready to teach.”
Reminiscing about her childhood, Saraswathi tells us about her active participation in some of the pre-freedom walks and Prabhat Pheris shouting slogans of “Bharat Mata ki Jai.”
A student of Beasant National Girls’ School set up by Annie Besant in 1918, Saraswathi studied there till 1947 when she completed her SSLC. She says her Kannada teacher PK Narayana wrote many songs not related to freedom and they would learn and sing those songs too.
Her late father who was a Kannada laureate and Pampakavi awardee had met Mahatma Gandhi and stories about the freedom struggle were regularly shared at her home.
Calling herself unfortunate, she says, “I was two-and-a-half years old when Gandhiji visited Mangaluru. I had spilt hot water on me and injured myself which is why my father couldn’t take me to see him or else I would have definitely met him.”
Saraswathi, who has never missed voting in a single election, says true patriotism is to show that you are a responsible citizen.