Ok, it is that time of the year again. The time when every Tom, Dick, Harry and even William has a picture of the national flag displayed, has a redundant status message, or even writes a nondescript prose on how proud he is of the nation – The Independence Day week.
In India’s case, 67 years of Independence! Ah! What a feat to be proud of, right? But amidst all this I sit here and question what need there is to be ‘proud’ of. It is certain that almost everyone who reads the previous sentence would be thinking that this is yet another post that is going to vomit the socio-economic challenges India has been facing since independence.
Well, not quite. I completely agree that India’s history is truly grand, embellished with epic stories of great souls, art and heritage. But I’m here deliberating just the word ‘proud’ in a slightly linguistic context, as in where and when you can actually use the word precisely. Isn’t juxtaposing the words ‘proud’ and ‘country’ when one has not made any major contribution kind of asinine, though we seldom look at it that way?
Talking about patriotism with a negative undertone is considered an anathema, and I’m sure none in their right minds would venture into those dark waters. But I guess I would. Let me ask you how can you say you are proud of the combats your forefathers fought and of their valour in knocking off lions at close quarters? I’m completely and earnestly in consensus with the fact that they should be remembered and honoured for their achievements; but long afterwards – a tsunami, a gas tragedy, and a war later, how can you say YOU are proud of them? How can someone born decades after all that transpired feel the tingling sensation under your rib cage called pride? After all, none of us lifted even a little finger in their struggles for freedom, if I’m not mistaken!
Let alone, patriotism in such a context. How about patriotism as a singled out word? Let us revisit ‘The Pledge’ we were made to drone like robots everyday for 12 to 14 years.
“India is my country. All Indians are my brothers and sisters. I love my country and I am proud of its rich and varied culture….”
Come again, so why do we need to be proud of our rich and varied culture? Why should we – born in the 21st century AD of this supposedly 14 billion year old earth – be proud of a culture that evolved and snaked its way through 75,000 years? (I use the word snaked because slowly and slyly ‘our culture’ has insidiously seeped into this century and like a serpent ‘our culture’ has a venomous tongue, and lashes out at anyone and anything for supposed impudence in the name of ‘morality’) So why should we swell our chests in pride for an ‘accident of birth’? Just because we were born here, why on earth should we be smug about things that happened here at some point in time?
Is it the sense of belonging, the remote lineage purportedly ‘passed via blood’ that makes us think it is our prerogative to be proud? In that case are we proud of having a genetic predisposition for excessive hair fall, or excessive sweating? Or for inheriting a ‘fat gene’ which makes it compulsory to add on an extra inch of baby fat with every bite of Big Mac? If not, then why this?
It so happened that we were born in this part of the world, but why should we be proud of it? I fail to understand. Perhaps to inculcate the concept of patriotism, we have always been asked to BE proud from childhood itself (brainwashed? reminds me of the Nazis!) and hence we are. And we never really gave a second thought to it.
A few spot on, quirky lines a dear friend with similar thoughts shared about patriotism comes to my mind now –
“Did you know you are of a particular nationality because your forefathers ended up in that geographical location and adapted to the place due to lack of birth control measures and other past times they populated the area? In short, you are Indian because your forefathers decided to have some fun and stay here before they started using passports”. Come to think of it, is that reason enough to be proud of something? No personal effort of yours chipped in, and just because your nomadic great great grandfathers grew too cosy in their beanbags and were too lazy to pack up and leave from where they roamed in from!
The fact is if patriotism is kept under a microscope, at a grass-root level it is nothing but the basis of segregation. Demarcating what is ‘mine’ and what is ‘yours’. Bifurcating ‘us’ into ‘you’ and ‘me’. And don’t you think that thought right there is what has caused the whole world to wield weapons against each other. For no apparent reason at all, everyone wants a piece of the earth for themselves, to claim their own – forgetting the fact that the whole earth itself is our own. That feeling has been imbibed to such a deep dark point inside of us, that we don’t mind getting downright bloody and gory to grab it.
Is a piece of land which you are definitely not going to spirit away in your backpack when you die, worth dying for? (And who knows in your next life you might even be born on the other side and fight the same war! – From another school of thought) So isn’t this feeling of pride and patriotism on some levels selfishness and hence the harbinger of the world’s doom? I bet many would have a million arguments against what I said. Yes, I do agree that patriotism is an admirable thought, when you are pitted against opposing forces that are out to vanquish you.
But I keep thinking of a different realm, a different possibility – what if no child was foddered with the idea of patriotism and pride, what if no factions sprouted up because of that, what if everyone desired the good fortune of the other as much as they wish for themselves, what if you were able to transcend from the feelings of possession, what if every living being was your compatriot, what if you were a human first rather than an Indian, a German or a Palestinian… – may be the world would have been a brighter place and a safer haven to dwell in.
On this Independence Day, I’m not going to say “Jai Hind”… Instead, I’m going with “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”!