Sunday, August 14, 2011

My post this August 15th

  Let us celebrate Nationalism, not Independence
For any venture to be a success there has to be a lot of hard work, and in our case it would start with clearing up heaps of dirty linen. The sorry, sordid, sticky and deliberate mess of corruption, over population and slackness that we have placed ourselves in, in the last 60 odd years is akin to the astray behavior that a misguided teenager could end up with when there is too much independence and not much discipline.

Discipline can never purely be an internally driven condition. Even internal discipline needs the fear of an external disciplinarian. There was once God. Then there were many, and now there are none. So Government now is that disciplinarian. Yikes!!!!!!!!!!

August 15th…. Much is said and written on this day. While in the yester years the trend was a highly predictable glorification of the country, the trend today is to question – in a knowledgeable way - the relevance of our “Independence.”

Do I also dare contribute along these lines? Nope! I am a teeny weenie fry in this ocean and much of what I feel has already been explicitly articulated by many. But old habits die hard. For the last 24 years I have been active on this day: debating and speaking out on the celebration and meaning – in retrospect and with introspection - of our independence – mostly within the expected and permissible limits of reverence, pride and cynicism. 

This year I am taking a passive but essential stand. Here goes:

Do I commence with wishing you all a “HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!?” or as a soul [my partner in life and mind] last year mentioned “HAPPY INDIFFERENCE DAY!?” This year, I choose neither. To me INDEPENDENCE is a fact, INDIFFERENCE is a reality and there is nothing happy about the two.

I may be blaspheming in saying that August 15th to me no longer holds the aura, mystique and magic of having won our Independence. History of the persuasive colonizers, the oppressed colonized and the triumphant freedom fighters has long been sliced away from my mind. To me August 15th is an assertion of the existence of a Nation; an event ascertaining the existence of a Nationalism.

NATIONALISM!!! Etymologically nationalism could include three different aspects: Political, Social and Religious.

Nationalism led by a religious fervor: I would presume that one of the most quoted descriptions of our Nation would be:“….India is a melting pot of people and cultures….” But religions?

We might not possibly call it a melting pot of religions but could rather compare it to a Handi of Biryani. Any Biryani connoisseur would know that you don’t mix all the ingredients involved. They come as separate entities; are cooked together; they retain their individual appearance and yet blend in to make the most amazing of dishes- all when brought together in one pot. So is the case with the Indian religions. They have permeated through to the other beyond separation, and yet they retain their individual identity. So a nationalism driven by one religious belief is a misnomer; is nonexistent. 

But on second thoughts, there could be such a Nationalism driven by a religious fervor if we ALL without exception believed [in all honesty] the fable of Religious Harmony – which has again proven to be an unsustainable notion. So, let us just forget this and move on to the next kind of Nationalism. 

Nationalism led by a social urf cultural homogeneity: To all those living within the national boundary, I say we are hardly bothered by the need to assert our social or cultural identity. Though there are as many cultural identities and entities within this boundary as there are hills and valleys here, we have long ceased – in but some stray miniscule numbers – to try and severe our belonging to the larger whole. 

By some strange inexplicable phenomenon, we are all pulled in to belong to the same “handi” – India, despite our cultural divergences. And we are all definitely living our culture; we are the ones who are keeping it alive in the country. So where is the need to over assert it and reassure ourselves on one ordained date or two? And in any case, we celebrate a Rakhi or a Deepavali with the same feverish frenzy as we do a Valentine’s day or a Halloween now.

But to those of you who are outside our borders - let me confess that I had no patience with your nationalist passions. I never knew why you would want to paste the tricolor on your FB walls nor have your children sing the national anthem in a misty eyed fashion or worse still, bother to greet each other a “Happy Independence Day!” 

This was only till recently. I now understand that living in different lands, our interests in the country are now different. While for you August 15th is a day that reminds you of your cultural roots, for us it is a reminder of our political incompetency; while for you it is a celebration of your identity, for us it is a mockery of our inabilities and shortcomings. Today I concede to myself that you too have every right, as do all of us back here who take pride in our cultural heritage to celebrate the Nation that we are. May our Tiranga on your shores soar high.

Nationalism governed by Political Blinds: But when Nationalism is seen as a politically spawned emotion, as is in my opinion the focal feeling, we have hardly a reason to greet each other. The sorry, sordid, sticky and deliberate mess of corruption, over population and slackness that we have engulfed ourselves in, in the last 60 odd years has been acknowledged and now needs to be tackled. What better occasion than a day marked in the name of the Nation itself for us ALL to take stock and launch into corrective actions.

We would do good to address each other today with the task of nation building that looms gargantuan fashion in front of us. And not just today, but on every August 15th, and with some amount of sincerity and with absolute sense of accountability and shame too!

I am so done with the fancy dress competitions in schools that require a child to dress up as his/her favorite national personality and inevitably they all still turn up as a Subhash Chandra Bose, a Bhagat Sing or an Indira Gandhi….or a Manmohan Singh with the only reason being it is easy to dress up as him. I am also fed to my teeth with the sweets and biscuits and tea that are served to celebrate this day. And I am definitely turning a deaf ear to our nationalist songs that are so over drawn in their white lies…”Mere Desh ki Dharti Sona Ugle…………….”

The point here is that we “the young Indians” have realized the need for a change in attitude but have a mountain to crack. And we cannot do it by merely continuing a tradition of harping on the glories of the past and the yester year achievements. It is also on us to educate the younger ones; to create a nationalist feeling not by re enacting an episode, albeit an important one in our national history, but by carving a feeling of belonging and pride that is set in the current time and context.

Like how essential it is to redo ones marriage vows frequently for a marriage to be steadfast, we should today focus on redefining our “Nation”, “Nationalism,” and our “National spirit.”