It was a rather glum, cloudy day today for an event as important as Republic Day. I was woken up at seven in the morning by the sound of drumbeats and trumpets, miserable, cold school kids being made to march, sing and dance on the police parade grounds by stern teachers. I am rather cosy and snug in my quilt, thank you very much, and rather happy that Republic Day falls on a nationwide holiday.
I am soon accused of being unpatriotic and cynical about this great celebration. I say great because it is a uniquely amazing event. The experiment has worked wonderfully in a country like India with its long history of absolutism. Just the fact that I can lie in bed and criticise the state is perhaps India’s biggest strength.
But, I begin to ask myself, does patriotism really mean just saluting the tricolour, standing at attention when the national anthem is played and going around flaunting ‘I love India’ stickers? Not that any of these are unpatriotic in any way. The point is that if you hold a "patriotic" function on the road by blocking traffic for a day, digging holes in the pavement to pitch tents and then leaving garbage lying all around, are you not causing a disservice to your own country? Inconveniencing your fellow citizens and displaying a total lack of civic sense doesn't seem to be the most ideal way to celebrate Republic Day. But tradition is tradition after all. Oh, how I love the irony.
So, if we are willing to dismiss all of this as surface patriotism, what would the real thing be? Well, the answer is obviously a highly complex one with numerous individual answers. My take would be, simply put and to no one's surprise, genuinely feeling for your country. Yet, to put it practically, genuine feeling alone cannot benefit the country unless one knows how to help and goes out of one's way to do whatever one is capable of doing. And I know for a fact, as the hypocrite I am, that this genuine "patriotism" is slowly dying away as the generations pass by.
Just the fact that I can lie in bed and criticise the state is perhaps India’s biggest strength.
The rain seems to have gone and so have the marching schools. Sleep overtakes all thoughts of country and service. I hear the strains of the national anthem and try to stand up almost as a reflex. Sleep wins and I slip into an unpatriotic slumber. Thank God it’s still the holidays.
Happy Republic Day!
Cover Art Credit: Patriotism Redefined by Shwetabh Suman