Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Republic Day

26 Jan - The Republic Day of India . Across the nation the Indian flag would have been hoisted in schools , colleges , organizations , residential buildings...

Went for the flag hoisting ceremony in my building . White seemed to be the dress code . Most members were in white . I must have stood out conspicuously in my jeans and printed top . In the past few years I had not attended the ceremony . Hence the ignorance perhaps .

Jana Gana Mana had to be played . Someone had the smart idea to drive a car with a powerful music system to the place near the flag pole . And we stood silently while Jana Gana Mana was played and the flag hoisted . After that there was some competition of sorts for children in the building followed by snacks . The general discussion was one of catching up with neighbors , about the children . Can't recollect any conversation that featured the Republic of India .

Across the nation(s) it's possible that days like today are about some rituals like the flag hoisting (looks terrible if a building does not have a flag hoisting ceremony). What is the connection that the ritual builds with the idea of a nation ? of the idea of being Indian ? Especially in urban areas . To folks in the armed forces days like today possibly have a deeper , emotional significance. As also to the families of those who lost their loved ones defending India . 

20-30 years ago across India there would have been families there were directly or indirectly involved in the struggle for freedom . Men and women who knew what it was to live in a country that was not free . And therefore possibly cherished the Independence Day and Republic Day more than festivals .

What is the significance of Republic Day in present day urban India ? For the generations that have been born and raised in an independent India ? Newspapers filled with pictures of celebrities wearing clothes that have shades of the tri-color , saying what it means to be Indian. Sample this : the view of actress Asin on Rahul Gandhi - ' he has inherited his father's charismatic persona and intelligence  which could take the country places ' . I'm not sure I want me or India to go that that 'place' . 

Other than helping many publications take a break from the effort to write articles it possibly helps a lot of Chinese companies who supply the cloth for the flag .
( for anyone who plans to write in saying that most publications don't anyway print quality content on a daily basis - I totally agree . Most of the articles are not worth felling trees to produce the paper it is printed on ).

We can create new , meaningful rituals for Republic Day - as individuals and as groups :
- Give time , attention , money to those less fortunate
- help educate a child 
- enable vocational training for an adult
- take initiative to get an area cleaned and to keep it clean
- plant trees
- campaign to save mangroves
- the list can be meaningfully expanded 

We need to rise above the idea of nations and see the human species as one . Until that can happen we can attempt an expansive and inclusive definition of what it means to be Indian . And be cognizant of our responsibilities and rights the other 364 days of the year .

Happy Republic Day to all citizens of this magnificent piece of the pale blue dot .

1 comment:

Arvind said...

My dear Savitha,

My daughter had come home for the weekend from her hostel in Delhi. She was, infact, talking about similar initiatives that "we" can take in place of incurring the heavy expense on the Republic Day celebrations by the country. This was her opinion at breakfast. During dinner I tried to raise the same topic again reminding her about what she had said about the Republic day celebrations and further adding that I would like to share one of life's lessons that I seem to have learnt. Before I could go any further, she stated that she realises that even if she were the PM, she would not be able to make that happen. I tried to intervene by saying that this was not the lesson. Life's lesson to me is "nothing will happen by wanting others to do what one thinks ought to be done. The only way to see it happen, (though it will be in a small measure) is to do what one can at one's level by oneself. If and when, others find value, they will follow of their own accord".


Arvind Kaul