‘Standing Up’

national-anthem.jpgI remember myself sitting and waiting for people to stand up, I remember myself wondering why no one stood up, and I remember myself for not standing up. For not standing up to pay my respects to the strains of Jana Gana Mana, as it played as a part of a movie about Indian expatriates to England. In the movie, they showed a little, Indian boy who grew up in London, who sang his National Anthem with pride, without feeling any sense of embarrassment. Although I was not confident enough to stand up and everyone else in the hall too, kept sitting, that incident stayed with me for years to come. I often wondered, what was it with us Indians, were we simply ignorant, indifferent or just blatantly disrespectful. A few years later, on a visit to Mumbai, I went for a movie. Before the movie started, the National Anthem was played. Everyone promptly stood up and later I was told that it had been a practice there for quite a few years. I was pleasantly surprised and appreciated how this small, but significant gesture made sure that we took our National Anthem seriously. What I did not realize then, was whether ‘making people stand for the National Anthem was actually achieving the purpose it was meant to achieve. Would they have done it on their own if it was not a rule? Why were all of them standing and only a few of them singing along with some sort of enthusiasm? Did they really mean what they were singing, or was it part of the drill which they were just meant to perform to get on with their movie. Maybe I was a better person, for actually, I felt like standing up, rather than standing up only because the rest of the crowd did so. For the 12-13 years of school life, every year on 15th August and 26th January, we were made to salute the flag, sing the National Anthem and act out scenes of bravery from the past. And most of us did so, without complaining. We went back home and probably watched a movie on Bhagat Singh or Mahatma Gandhi and felt we had done enough. We had felt our Indianess enough for one whole day and the next day life went on. Again, there are enough examples to the contrary. In this context, it is worth mentioning steel baron Naveen Jindal, who waged a legal battle to make sure every common man in our country had the right to display the National Flag on all days and not just on Independence Day or Republic Day. To quote him, “Right from my childhood, I felt a deep patriotism at seeing the national flag flying atop government buildings. I couldn’t comprehend why I could not fly one atop my house and office. That’s what motivated me to fight for my right” I would like to stress on two issues here. Firstly, is being respectful a part of convention, for those who don’t feel it from within? And the second being, why is there a lack of spirited love for our Motherland, among so many of us? It also brings me to an extremely important question, what exactly is the need for patriotism? Patriotism is the belief in the potential goodness of a nation’s future and the actions to make ‘that’ good a reality. It is important because it symbolizes full confidence in citizens and instills confidence in the positive force that they can have together. Vatsala Tibrewala

[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hyougushi/27746646/]