I am your traditional commentator. A self-styled patriot who writes her Hindi name in Roman script everywhere, I had the privilege to be born into an upper-middle class family, the class often touted as the harbinger of positive change in the Indian society. Also a student of an institute which is said to have the best brains in the country, I pride on being a person who always has her views taken seriously at a dinner table.
When I sit to write something on the problems India faces; poverty, hunger, inflation, entertainment crisis on television, caste, religion and gender based discrimination, environmental degradation and match fixing by cricketers; I can practically go on and on, attributing everything that’s wrong with my life to the present state-of-affairs in India.
And now that I’ve listed all of the problems there are within the system, I need to think on how to do my bit to improve the system. Very much like a programmer who does not know his stuff well, I get stuck while debugging. My mind draws a blank, when it comes to thinking of what to do after the problems have been marked with a red pen.
A summer morning, a pensive mood and a mind devoid of ideas leads me to introspect. Am I a fake patriot? Are those around me, who pride on being Indians and at the same time leave no chance of criticizing everything Indian, fake patriots too? Are we all hypocrites who have no sense of belonging for the country, and speak well of it only because it is a good thing to do?
A huge chunk of the population does not make a conscious effort to come to the fore and do something for their own people. While many struggle to fulfill basic needs, some are simply oblivious to the world outside their shell of affluence and some don’t do anything meaningful with the sympathy which moves them to tears by India’s predicament.
Back to the point. If my assertion is that Indian patriotism is hypocrisy, then is there a better form of patriotism that exists in the world?
The extreme forms of nationalism do not favour entropy. There are countries which inculcate, albeit forcibly, sentiments that almost mean undermining the cultures and traditions of other countries. There is only one patriotism in extremely nationalist countries; the one which aggressively defend anything ‘of’ the country, anything within the man-made borders, even if it means the loss of basic liberty that allows for various interpretations of nationalism. Is this positive? Is this something which should be ‘desired for’ in a nation?
As a commentator with absolutely no bias in her head, owing to the fact that I’ve almost accepted that I’m not sufficiently patriotic, my basic human instincts say that this is wrong. Instincts compel almost all Indians to avoid wars at all costs, not because we do not care whatever happens to the country but because we have been living in a culture which allows for liberty in thoughts, which allows for the coexistence of completely heterogeneous cultures . We have been learning through the ages that people who speak different languages, with different ethnicities and with an entirely different style of living are as Indian as the classic ‘Aryan/Dravidian’ Indian.
And hence the nationalism bordering on fascism is not natural for us, our patriotism is all-accommodating and flexible.
Perhaps, this is why, the feeling of ‘belonging’ gives us the authority to comment on every aspect of India. The chaos is the India we love, with all its problems, with all its people.
We fight a lot with our parents. And if they are sufficiently liberal, we disagree with them on various accounts. Do we realize how much we love them unless we realize how subtly the ‘family’ becomes a part of us? The little things, like the way your dad wakes you up in the morning, the way your mom used to cook food with the correct proportion of spices, and the way your sibling didn’t allow you to study just before your exam, aren’t you so used to it all? Don’t you miss it when you have to stay away from home with the realization that your life will never be the same again?
Our love for the nation is very much the same. We express affection implicitly when we have a thing or two to express our dissent. We are not perfect people. India is not a perfect nation. The imperfections are the reflection of our own flaws. But I think I can happily proclaim that the Indianism is deep-rooted within us.
Of course, we do not know how much we love our country. We need a thing or two to evoke patriotic sentiments within us.
A song from an Indian movie, the familiar taste of ‘roti sabji’, the vibrant colours of an Indian festival, in a distant land, these things conjure a tempest of unrest when we realize that India , the land with all its imperfections, is the place where this hypocritical imperfect patriot’s heart belongs.
Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay