Today would most likely start with a live relay of a septuagenarian deliver a speech from confines of a bullet proof cabinet, that would make a 4th Grade student’s essay on “Dream Nation” look more plausible. Next we excavate those translucent white kurtas (subtle metaphor for patriotism it seems) from beneath the debris of Van Heusens & Peter Englands in our cupboard, only to flaunt in the Flag hoisting ceremony at our alma mater. The journey to our alma mater is often tiptoed by banters of desperate RJs hurling patriotic trivia & songs at us from every radio station.
Then the flag hoisting happens to a spirited rendition of the National anthem that mostly ends on a sweet note, courtesy the distributed Caramilk(a provision store relic). Then we have over enthusiastic alumni deliver articulated lectures about why culture & folklore are more important than android phones & GDPs. Thus goes our patriotic rigmarole on the august day.
HOW FREE ARE WE?
Lets start with freedom in movies for a start, If the movie’s font is in arabic or the protagonist has a beard without a moustache….the movie’s anti-islam-ban it!.If the protagonist utters any word which bears remote similarity to a political figure’s moniker or is shown contesting election(even if in college)-the movie’s politically incorrect-ban it! When our political mechanism has broken down huge stars with the ease of a fragile twig, what chance do we lesser mortals even stand in our Constitution backed freedom of expression!
Art isn’t far from the long arm of our Political guardian angels either- If a famous painter depicts a Goddess in a semi nude state, we ensure he is rusticated from the land. Ironically though, ancient architecture in most of the temples continue to depict Gods & Goddesses in similar sacrilegious fashion.If an author dares to take on a religious issue in his fictional book , he instantly is made an apostle of Satan in public domain & his citizenship is severed like bad friendship.
The average man is content about being able to grab the low hanging fruits of social media freedom, where he gets to tuck in his accountability under the umbrella of a trending hashtag with misplaced self righteousness. A dangerous space where commotion gets mistaken for solidarity and groupism masquerades as collective conscience.
HOW INDEPENDENT ARE WE?
Lets talk about how independent we are at a grass root level.We Indians are genetically programmed to look up to people with good spoken English abilities with scant regard to their intelligence. We look down upon someone mispronouncing an English name like a dung beetle, only to enjoy Geoff Boycott’s carnage of Indian names like connoisseurs.
More often than not when we talk about movies in public space, we flaunt names of unheard of Egyptian/Spanish/Korean/Russian movies with the pride of a newly married woman gloating about her loan funded honeymoon. Notwithstanding this we celebrate 100 Years of Indian Cinema, where we make a tribute movie helmed by reputed auteurs, only to be diagnosed a rip-off!
Despite being in a tropical country, we dress up like Louis Philippe mannequins to make our sweat glands work overtime. And if the wardrobe buffoonery wasn’t sufficient, we assign anglicized alter egos to burn midnight oil for our living, so that westerners learn to use their home appliances well.
HOW UNITED ARE WE?
The only time we are genuinely united together as a nation is when Kohli’s batting or India is in a good position in the second innings of a match. Another occasion we display unity in diversity is when the news about a politician’s scam hogs the limelight or a public figure makes a politically incorrect statement. Barring this flickering display of patriotism on stray occasions, every state seems to be a mini nation with its own agenda. While public holidays & inanity seem to be a common thread linking the entire nation, the legality of prostitution continues to change one from state to another.
Our pan Indian feeling seems to be a shallow concept that is characterized by either pilgrimages to places ripe with religious heritage or sin-dissolving dips in holy waters that transport corpses or art of living workshops where saffron clad urban babas teach us life altering things like importance of eating bananas . Not to forget our blanket liking to ayurvedic massages or failed attempts at smuggling pickles past terminals in foreign soil .
Patriotism isn’t about re-runs of Kingsley’s Gandhi on TV or standing when the anthem’s playing, it’s a mental state of ownership to a concept called India. Till such time the 15th of August would continue to be a gratuitous public holiday, when pizza joints tempt us to celebrate independence with their buy one get one offers.