15 August 2006

My first brush with patriotism

Happy Independence Day! The Republic of India is 59 today. An amazing experiment to see if a nation could be created from a people who speak 800 languages and dialects, have at least 5 different religions, and every 250 or so kilometres, the clothing, language, diet and customs are unrecognizable. Think of Europe and North and South America as one country and imagine the mind-boggling implications of that.

I went to school in Delhi, which did not encourage patriotism at all. Everyone always talked about what all the problems were without seeming to involve any solutions to it. We let these problems cover us like a blanket without once lifting it up to see the light. Once I left to go to Zambia, again, India was not really on the radar any more, it was mainly what was going on in African football and in the European leagues and so on.

In 1999 I happened to be in Delhi again, at the height of the Kargil war. While I was having dinner at a nice restaurant with a live band, boys my age were storming peaks and engaging in hand-to-hand combat and losing their lives for a few centimetres of land and the nation's pride. Nobody in the restaurant paid attention to the songs being played by the band until they started a particular song. Then everyone's eyes filled with tears... the song goes...

ए मेरे वतन के लोगों, ज़रा आँख मे भर लो पानी,
जो शहीद हुए हैं उनकी ज़रा याद करो क़ुर्बानी।

O the people of my country, just fill your eyes with water,
those who have martyred themselves for the country, just remember their sacrifice.


That was when it clicked in my head that 1 billion people who had banded together to form a country had done so because they could choose their representatives themselves and boot them out if they didn't perform. And this was what guys my age were trying to protect with their lives up on those mountains. So since then, Independence Day has had some meaning other than oh cool we kicked out the British empire without firing a single bullet. Everyone in the restaurant clapped after the song ended and the feelings that we had that evening were equivalent to a 1000 2-minute silences. India represents a microcosm of the world, having 1/6th of the world population and a lot of diversity, a land where buddhists, christians, hindus, jains, jews, muslims, sikhs, zoroastrians and a lot of as-yet-unnamed belief systems try to live with each other in harmony under one banner. Once this experiment succeeds (which I would define as ensuring that all citizens have food, clothing, shelter and access to education), it will be a great system for the rest of the world to emulate. India 2020 anyone?

So that's my little independence day speech, Jai Jawan, Jai Kisaan, Jai Hind.
(Victory to soldiers, Victory to farmers, Victory to India)

18 comments:

The Inquisitive Akka said...

Well said!!happy independence day!

Crizzie Criz! said...

well said too!

lova said...

happy independence day Mos ! I was glad to learn that in the aftermath of the Kargil conflict, India stock market went up tremendously while Pakistan's economy dipped. It is a great story when patriotism is translated into economic success and when patriotism is justified as it obviously was in this case.

lova said...

sorry a bit OT, did you know that today was also left-hander's day ?
Should be a good day for Ramesh Krishan ;)

Mosilager said...

@akka and criz - thanks, was a heartfelt / serious post after a long time.
@lova - thanks for the wishes. as usual it was a good move for the pakistani army and a bad move for pakistan as it allowed the Pakistani army to assume control of the country again, and musharraf shows no inclination to revert the country back to civilian control.
Happy left-hander's day to you.

video said...

Well, for the sake of honouring the Independence struggle from the British, Pakistan too gained independence from them. It's hard not take the constant infiltrations personally, but perhaps maybe today can be considered an exception? Every year India and Pakistan exchange flags on August 14. Of-course today, it seems the independence struggle has yet another chapter to it: Kashmir. Let's just hope for the best, whatever happens...

Rajesh Warrier said...

Good one. All I have been doing the past couple of days is debate over this topic.

No offense meant though, let me know what you think about this

Anali said...

Happy Independence Day! It's wonderful when you have that sudden moment of realization and things feel differently forever after.

Crizzie Criz! said...

hi man,
thanks for the visit to my blog. i am a lil apprehensive that you may have made a mistake in your comment. The post was about my dad and you have posted telling me that teaching MY SON would be a tough job.

:P

nyways, thanks for visitng. Just wanted to put it across that i aint married and i aint got no son. hehe

Mosilager said...

sorry about not being clear criz, i meant that once I started teaching people I realised how hard it was because you're always worried about the accident potential. I can only imagine if it is your own son how much that worry would be. I wasn't implying that you have a son, was just amazed that your dad could teach with so much patience.

Crizzie Criz! said...

no harm done mate. What counts more is that you commented. Not that you werent clear while commenting.

Sreekumar said...

A Happy Independence Day to you, Mosilager!
Was pleasantly surprised to see your blog post featured in the graduate blog carnival here

http://insidehighered.com/around_the_web

Mosilager said...

thanks sree... i had actually sent him the links but never expected to get on it :) pretty cool... now i guess it's your time to write something for the next carnival of gradual progress.

Amrita said...

Very well written. Happy Independence Day Mosilager...albeit late...but the spirit's always there. :)

The Visitor said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Visitor said...

Hi Ranjit,
First visit to your kraal! We've met under different circumstances in different roles. Thank God we can be ourselves here. LOL

Yet to go through your entire blog. Just the posts on the home page and a couple of other posts.

Independance Day post was touching - maybe the feeling is accentuated in those living away from home. A couple of other related posts:
Independence Day
What is Patriotism

Mosilager said...

amrita - thanks, well that's the good bit about a blog, can update it all the time with comments.

the_visitor - dammnit you mean it wasn't little princess who was talking to ginga and booboo? you just shattered my wonderful fantasy... LOL

thanks, just wrote what I feel about independence day. Your links were good posts too, my definition of patriotism is here in the comments section.

Mosilager said...

actually yes, I think that people living outside do have a greater fondness for what they left behind. Also with Indians, being outside reinforces your Indianness - because saying that I'm from Bengal or Tamil Nadu or whatever means nothing over here... have to say that you are Indian and that's about it. So it gets reinforced over a period of time. In my case 2/3 of my life has been outside India so it's gotten reinforced quite a bit ;)