Its The Indian Independence day. Today I witnessed the usual. A lot of Indian flags fluttering around, the chanting of the National Anthem (not always as it is supposed to be, but as was taught in school), distribution of sweets and inspired patriotic speeches amid local politicians. During the flag hoisting ceremony I asked a little girl, probably in her second or third grade, what language is our national anthem written and she promptly answered "Hindi". Now I can start judging things about her and her school, but I tried not to, because I am sure I wouldn't have known the answer to that myself at that tender age. And the schools (accepting the fact that they are business houses and are getting more professional about it with every passing day) would care more about her academic scores and extra-curricular activities than clarifying this particular detail.
But then I suppose we should know certain basics about our own national anthem. Like what language it is written in, and its meaning. The first one seemed easy. Written by Tagore, it has to be Bengali. But why guess, when we have Wikipedia! I looked up and it was indeed Sanskrit, but heavily sanskritized. As of the meaning, I must admit, this is the first time I cared to look it up despite conspiracy theories that the National Anthem praised King George V instead of God. Neverthless, here is what I found in Wikipedia
Thou art the ruler of the minds of all people,
Dispenser of India's destiny.
Thy name rouses the hearts of Punjab, Sindhu,
Gujarat and Maratha,
Of the Dravida and Orissa and Bengal;
It echoes in the hills of the Vindhyas and Himalayas,
mingles in the music of Jamuna and Ganges and is
chanted by the waves of the Indian Sea.
They pray for thy blessings and sing thy praise.
The saving of all people waits in thy hand,
Thou dispenser of India's destiny.
Victory, victory, victory to thee.
But there is one question in my mind. Does the fact that a lot of us don't know about our own National Anthem or the details around it make us unpatriotic? I will struggle to answer this question all my life. I suppose we think about patriotism very less on a daily basis. But Independence Day is a good opportunity to think about it. The way I see it, National Anthem is an important tool to instill a sense of patriotism and however, wrongly we pronounce the words or how many ever times we sing the anthem without stopping to think about the language the Anthem originates from, the fact that we stand up, stay still, look at the flag and salute it should be testimony enough for the fact that we have some sense patriotism to the idea of India. But getting it right and knowing about the National Anthem better definitely shows that one is at least curious to be more educated and rational about her or her patriotism, which otherwise merely be an unexplainable psychological feeling.
Any piece of writing on India and patriotism wouldn't be complete without thinking of Mahatma Gandhi. But I don't want to use this space to praise him. But instead remember a piece of dialogue that Ben Kingsley delivers as he played Gandhi. The piece struck me because of its contemporary relevance.
Nehru: "But I thought you were against fighting"
Gandhi: "Where there is injustice, I always believed in fighting. The question is, do you fight to change things or do you fight to punish? I've found that we are all such sinners, we should leave punishment to God. And if we really want to change things, there are better ways than derailing trains and slashing someone with a sword"