Aggressive Patriotism: From National Flag to… National Microbe !
Columns, In Black & White

Aggressive Patriotism: From National Flag to… National Microbe !

July 29, 2017

We have become aggressive about the symbolisms of our Nation rather than the Nation itself. We are more worried about how we wave our Flag and how often we sing our Anthem than worry about how to build a better Nation and be better citizens.

This comes to mind because of two incidents that happened recently. One, where a young man said he always goes 10 minutes late for a movie to avoid the advertisements and the National Anthem! And second because of Akshay Kumar, the actor.

To begin with, standing up for National Anthem in a movie theatre feels mechanical, doesn’t feel patriotic. It doesn’t give one goosebumps and make you love your nation; the reason is because as you watch the Flag on the screen flutter the thought of what politicians, our bureaucrats and we have done to this Nation does not reflect patriotism.

Also it’s forced and what is forced lacks sincerity.  And randomly standing for an Anthem feels like propaganda efforts. After all, the first time people were forced to stand for the National Anthem in cinemas was during Indo-China War in 1962.

Now, let’s count our blessings that our National Anthem is melodious and short. Imagine if ours was like the Greek National Anthem which has 158 stanzas, and we had to not only memorise it but stand and sing it for that long?! Or like the South African Anthem which has five languages in it — Xhosa, Zulu, Sethotho, Afrikaans and English — Imagine us having 22 officially recognised languages in our Anthem. Worse, it would then turn our Anthem into a political tool for appeasement as we have another 1,500 dialects vying to find a place in the Anthem…Phew!

So let’s all be thankful we have a nice and short Anthem and even though it may not necessarily make us better citizens just because we stand up in a theatre, hopefully it will at least remind us to be grateful to live in a free Nation.

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More importantly, you will not forget the words — after all, we never sing the Anthem once we finish schooling. So sing it, who knows you may feel truly patriotic and one day become a better citizen.

Now, the Flag issue. Akshay Kumar, in his enthusiasm to cheer the Indian women’s cricket team at the Lord’s waved the Indian Flag but for his bad luck he was holding the green side up, which is the wrong side…and that was enough for ‘Desh Bhakts’ to abuse him.

The same happened to Shah Rukh Khan when he waved the Flag holding it upside down. One Ravi Brahme, the National Secretary of a Party called Lok Janshakti Party, filed a complaint. Yes, we have a Flag code that states: “The Flag shall not be intentionally displayed with the ‘saffron’ down.” But the key word here is “intentionally.”

We have to ask such die-hard patriots, while they take to task Indians who have “insulted” the Indian Flag unintentionally, what have they done about people who have abused Mother India intentionally and continue to do so?

Now, how many of us know what the Flag stands for? Well, our President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan said this about what our Flag symbolises and stands for:

“Bhagwa or the saffron colour denotes renunciation or disinterestedness. Our leaders must be indifferent to material gains and dedicate themselves to their work.

The white in the centre is light, the path of truth to guide our conduct.

The green shows our relation to (the) soil, our relation to the plant life here, on which all other life depends.

The Ashoka Chakra in the centre of the white is the wheel of the law of dharma. Satya, truth and dharma, virtue ought to be the controlling principles of those who work under this Flag”

So we ask these aggressive patriots,  have the keepers of democracy — politicians, bureaucrats and the law-enforcement authorities — respected what our Flag stands for? While they salute the Flag ever so often, have they been “indifferent to material gains and dedicate themselves to their work?”

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While they stare up at the Flag, do they feel that they have “taken the path of truth to guide their conduct?” While they penetrate our motherland for coal and iron ore, do they “think of our relation to the environment as all other life depends on it?” While they gave land of war widows to private limited companies, did they follow the “Ashoka Chakra: the wheel of the law of dharma and satya, which ought to be the controlling principle of those who work under this flag?” NO.

So why are these aggressive patriots not taking on these violators who are doing everything against what the National Flag stands for? After all, the Flag is a piece of cloth, but what makes it special is what it stands for.

Yes, our Flag must be protected against both kind of abusers — the ones who burn it and the ones who harass fellow citizens for publicity in the name of protecting the Flag.

This obsession of the Flag reminds me of a saying by a Pulitzer-winning American poet: “Not for the Flag of any land, because myself was born there will I give up my life.

But I will love that land where man is free, and that land I will defend.”

While we love the Flag, we must make India the land the Flag symbolises. What’s the point of protecting Mother India’s handkerchief while she is being dis-robed and abused? Save her first, her hanky can wait.

PS: While we have various National symbols from National Flag to National Animal, it is interesting to know that India named a National Microbe in 2012 ! It’s name is Lactobacillus delbrueckii. It is one of several bacteria used to make curd.

Let’s hope we are not forced to salute dahi puri or curd rice before consuming it !

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