Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Republic Day musings

Happy 62nd Republic Day, everyone! Another national event. Another holiday. In fact, truth be told, it is likely that the only way the 26th of January affects our life is that we get a holiday! (Although we somehow managed to have a full OT list today!!) For most of us, (including yours truly), there is hardly any 'patriotic feeling' or excitement about this day. We just enjoy the holiday and go back to life as usual. When we were children, there was great excitement about watching the parade on the neighbour's TV. But today, even that is rather passé given the vast variety of more interesting stuff that is available for our viewing pleasure! It is likely that if there were no holiday, Republic Day every year would pass by without anyone even realising it had come and gone. Rather like the birthday of some distant family member that you remember only if someone actually reminds you. Isn't it strange that in a country of a billion people, we can muster up so little patriotic fervor on one of the two days that we celebrate our country's liberation from colonialism. And the little excitement that we somehow force out pales in comparison with the wild jubilation of some friends from other parts of the world on their national holidays. Why is it that Indians seem to remember their nationalism only when watching cricket?!!

It is an anachronism that most Indians find it difficult to be proud of our country except when it comes to sporting achievement. For a nation blessed with so much natural, economic and human resources, it is a mystery that we are still considered among the 'developing nations'. Where for every rich and educated Indian, there are 2-3 others who are at the other end of the spectrum. Where (as a friend quoted on facebook) basic necessities (onions), comfort (petrol) and luxury (beer) sell for the same amount of money (Rs. 65). Where health care that is promised freely to all, is actually sold at astronimical amounts only to those who can afford it. And where, in true capitalistic fashion, the rich become richer and the poor..... well, are forgotten, to say the least.

I am sure that 62 years ago, when our founding fathers celebrated the implementation of our socialistic and poor-friendly Constitution, their dream for our nation 62 years down the line would have been a lot different from the reality today. Yes, I know 'India Shining' is a reality in some parts of our country and there is a lot to be grateful for and even proud of. Driving around our nation's capital, or travelling in it's metro are experiences that certainly make me feel good to be an Indian. But even in our capital, there is a huge dirty underbelly. And once you leave Delhi, the size of that underbelly just gets bigger and bigger. And in some places I have worked in, one can hardly see anything worth being proud of - it is just one big underbelly. And the underbelly is generally pushed under the carpet and forgotten. By the world, by our leaders and most unfortunately, by each of us. We are too busy with our own pursuit of happiness to worry about the sadness and deprivation around us.

It is ironical indeed that the occasion we celebrate today is the implementation of our Constitution. For that is the one institution that is under the greatest threat. Not just by the 543 jokers who have spent the last session of parliament collecting their salaries for doing nothing. But by the stranglehold that the devil of corruption has on the carotids of our nation. Starting from those 543 jokers (give or take a few) and reaching down to the lowest minion on the government payroll (again, give or take a few), making money on the side is considered not just a right, but a duty. And so the well-written government programmes and schemes eventually become a farce. And the proof of the pudding is the fact that even the so-called last bastions in South India have been shown up in their true colours in the last few months. The darkness is deepening and the few beacons of light have been dimmed.

In these circumstances it is sometimes difficult to 'celebrate' Republic Day. Our nation has great things to offer to the world (and not just in the sporting arena), but until we put our house in order our triumphs will all be empty. For if even one person dies because of starvation, or extremes of climate, or treatable disease, it means that however loudly we may shout about our progress, however vociferously we may argue for our acceptance into the Security Council of the UN, however proud we may feel about our diaspora, we have miles to go in our attempt to establish a democratic, secular, socialist state. And though we may hide the truth for a time, it is sure to come back and haunt us.

So as I reflect upon 62 years as a republic, I know that there is so much to be grateful for. But there is so much more to be done. And if my beloved country has to embrace it's true stature and destiny in the world, I have to play my part. For if I look to others to get the job done, I will be failing in my duty for mere laziness or selfishness. And only if I am playing my part fully, in the great script of our country's progress, will I be able to celebrate Republic Day with a clear conscience and a free mind. And that is something I really wish to do. For there is much worth celebrating in this wonderful land. Jai Hind!


  1. Your last sentence made up for some of the pessimism that came across. The underbelly has always been there and looking at it for too long will discourage us. We watched the Republic Day parade and it was stirring made us feel proud to be Indian. There was much jubilation and celebration in Delhi. We need regular doses of the 'joi de vivre' that came across through the celebration to overcome the negtive side which is portrayed so vividly daily on TV.
    Henri Nouwen in his book Clowning in Rome talks of how significant things happen away from the glare of publicity just like Jesus born in a stable. So without feeling discouraged about doing so little or about being only a 'drop in the ocean', let us go about daily trusting God, loving people and doing good.
    In our flag hoisting in PIMS, the speaker spoke of Mahatma Gandhi having only three possessions his spectacles to see the world clearly and to read, a watch so he will respect other people's time and a pair of two-strapped chappals to leave light footprints in the lives of others.
    Your blog is always thought provoking. Thank you.

  2. You're right, there is a lot of pessimism coming across. We need to be doing our thing regardless of the situation and doing it with an optimistic frame of mind. Henri Nouwen is right... And there is obviously so much happening in our country away from the glare of publicity which focuses on the scams! Thanks for this reminder.

  3. Your article is an honest expression of a feeling that is beginning to take root in every mind in India today. The India of the patriotic era is a far cry from the country we see today. Now, it is more a conglomeration of islands of independent thought and selfish motives. Very few care about the larger good of the nation. Sad, but true.

  4. Wonderfully written , how true ......