It’s that time of the year again. When we brush the cobwebs off tricolours and our patriotic spirit. “The national anthem is my favourite song. And I get so upset when people don’t stand when it is played,” a starlet gushes. So, does she stand bolt upright and listen to the national anthem every time she wishes to relax? That’s what the rest of us do, you know, listen to our favourite songs when we want to relax.
How do we celebrate the anniversary of our independence as a nation? With tricolour sweets, sarees, bindis, and any other surface that might lend itself to being coloured into saffron, white and green. What does the tricolour mean, what do these colours mean? Who cares? Have fun, yaar. Say cheers with a tricolour mocktail.
If its not the tricolour, its got to be a thin person (child preferably, oh cho chweet!) dressed in a white dhoti, round spectacles and brandishing a long stick. The Mahatma, you see. We have to remember him, at least what he looked like. No problem that we hardly remember what he stood for. He got us independence, right? With Gandhigiri, right? Say cheers to Munnabhai. There’s no Gandhi like Munnabhai! Hey, was that really a ‘m’ocktail?
This year, the din is particularly loud. It’s been 60 glorious years, you see. And look where we are. The biggest democracy, the fastest growing economy, the loudest cheerer of our cricket team, the most wondrous example of secularism…… Everybody say cheers!
Hey, don’t get me wrong. I am no party pooper. I love to toast everything worth toasting. But I do have a problem. And that is with allowing synthetic, garish, filmy displays of patriotism take over an occasion that must lead to some serious soul-searching. At a time when so many people identify themselves with their caste, religion, region and language identities, where do we place the idea of India? What is the direction we would like to move ahead in — a materialistic soul-killing environment destroying focus on commerce and economy, or some sort of a middle ground that is sensitive, compassionate, just?
I know, I know. It’s old fashioned to talk about social justice and such things. But that is the powerful, radical idea on which this nation was built. Isn’t it time to relook at it 60 years on?
I’ll say cheers to that.