I belong to the generation born a decade or so after independence that was lucky to have opened its eyes in an India high on the euphoria of newly acquired freedom. It was the time when memories of freedom struggle were still fresh in the minds of our parents and elders. Inspired by the stories of freedom fighters, we grew up steeped in patriotic fervor. As kids we were enthused by the patriotic songs like “Nanha munna rahi hun desh ka sihahi hun…,” ‘“Kar chale hum vida jane tan sathiyoan , ab tumare hawale vatan sathitoan..” Many of us would recall watching patriotic films like ‘Shaheed’ and ‘Haqiqat’ with the school mates as a part of the school outings.
I can’t forget palpable excitement on Republic Day when the entire family would sit close to the radio listening to the running commentary of the parade at Raj Path in Delhi. There was no telecast; no live visual of the grand parade ,but we were spellbound by the commentary on All India Radio, the sound bites of the marching contingents of the armed forces, NCC cadets and the bands playing captivating music. The account of the tableaux showcasing the culture and progress of different states caught our imagination.
Also, nostalgic are the memories of Independence Day and Republic Day celebrations at school when we participated in the march past . Can’t forget how delighted we were to get the laddus, occasionally a samosa, and also a piece of barfi at the end of the function. Things are so different today. Functions are held in the schools to mark the National Festivals but not on the due dates. Days of national importance are just public holidays-extended ones for the schools as the next day is also declared a holiday, supposedly for the benefit of a handful of school children who participated in the functions organized by the government .
While it has always been a practice to celebrate the spirit of patriotism on Independence Day and Republic Day, lately it has become fashionable to profess the love for the nation on social media. Patriotism, nowadays, is social media post evident in deluge patriotic messages on Independence Day and Republic Day. As a matter of fact, the tremendous surge in ‘Jai Hind’ and ‘Vande Matram’ messages is not just confined to the national festivals. Any crisis on the border is sure to erupt in a wave of patriotic messages on social media.
There is emergence of yet another form of firebrand patriotism – jingoism flaunted on many TV channels by the anchors and the studio guests. Blinded with arrogance, they dismiss the loyalty of others towards the nation while airing their own opinion emphatically. For the chest thumping nationalists anyone who questions the state is dubbed as anti- national.
However; nationalism and patriotism are not about chest thumping or symbolism. All of this is empty rhetoric unless love for the nation is translated into action. The best expression of patriotism does not lie in bold nationalistic proclamations but in humbly performing our duties as citizens. Real patriotism is in being responsible citizens – in obeying the rules, keeping our surroundings clean, doing duty sincerely and honestly, treating all the country men with respect and sensitivity irrespective of caste, creed or religion.
Let us play our part to make India great so that we can take genuine pride in our nation.
(Published on 26 January 2020 in HT Chandigarh)