We Indians are very patriotic. And we are very determined to express our patriotism to all those who’ll hear. We swear by the Indian culture, proudly spit at everything “phoren”, especially if American, keep proclaiming heartily, if somewhat irrelevantly, how great a country we live in and sternly frown at modernity since it is completely against the morals of the sacrosanct Indian values.
But lately I noticed that this obsession has reached ridiculous levels. For example, at the end of a hectic week I went to the local multiplex with my family to catch the latest Hollywood blockbuster. With the delicious smell of butter cheese popcorn teasing my nostrils and icy cool soda set to refresh me on a hot summer’s day I had just comfortably settled my butt on a soft cushioned seat and let out a sigh of contentment. Suddenly the huge screen commanded me to stand respectfully while the national anthem is being sung. Unsteadily balancing my food I kept standing while Bollywood’s biggest singing legends tirelessly enunciated each and every syllable of the Indian national anthem. Now, every time before I watch a movie I have to prove my undying devotion for my country. Once I thought of sitting out the entire song. My neighbor, a man in his mid-forties, glared so hard that all my courage fled. I stood so stiff after that, Bhagat Singh would have been proud.
Recently we went to visit my father’s elderly aunt who lives in Bangalore. She had enjoyed a successful career as a doctor and had raised two kids who were settled in London and doing very well. She was excitedly gushing about the recent trip to Britain that her son had taken her to. My father politely inquired whether she had enjoyed herself. Indignantly she said that there is no country like India. British customs baffled her and made her feel so proud that her country had such wide and varied customs that would put any country other country to shame. It’s funny because I remember as a kid that she drove her children very hard when it came to studies and her one ambition where they were concerned was that they should settle abroad with large paychecks.
A friend of mine had been asked out by her long time crush. Her mother absolutely forbade her to go. When she whined that teenagers dated all the time, the pious woman glared at her and said, “All that happens in those countries. We are pure people. We don’t do dirty stuff.
Everything the younger generation does is laced with antipathy towards our country. Preferring to watch Friends instead of Saas Bahu Aur Sautan, living in nuclear families instead of joint ones, supporting and sometimes, god forbid, even adopting homosexuality, girls wearing jeans, choosing their own grooms, everyone openly having relationships before marriage… Shame! What has the country come to?
But there is hope yet. When a popular actress advocates safe sex for young women, she has 22 court cases filed against her. Working girls enjoying a drink at a local pub get assaulted by a popular political party for threatening the sanctity of Indian culture. Colleges instruct girls to dress demurely. If they don’t, then eve teasing and rapes are punishment they justly deserve. A Muslim boy marries a Hindu girl and a week later his body is found on a rail track, strongly warning future elopers of a similar fate. A pregnant journalist adamant to marry her lower caste boyfriend is found smothered to death. The organizers of the Bombay Slutwalk movement were arrested on the day of the march, just before it was due to start, without any apparent reason. They have been denied any future permission to peacefully protest against eve teasing.
But you don’t need to be in the army or a martyr to claim the status of a freedom fighter. Loudly sing the national anthem whenever you can, wherever you are and criticize anything that is not tabulated in the Vedas and sometimes even when they are and you’ll be no less of a celebrity than Gandhi.