Ae mere watan ke logon, zara aankh mein bhar lo pani;
Jo shaheed hue hain unki, zara yaad karo qurbani.
Oh my countrymen and -women, please fill your eyes with tears;
Please remember the sacrifices of those who became martyrs [to win
It's one of those classic patriotic songs. You hear it played everywhere around August 15 (India's Independence day), and we're regularly reminded how Jawaharlal Nehru had tears in his eyes as he heard our best known singer, Lata Mangeshkar, sing it. And for sure, it is a soul-stirring song.
Yet every August 15th, I'm struck by how solemn our commemorative ceremonies are. And every August 15th, when I hear this song over and over, I wonder: why the tears? Of course some great Indians gave their lives to the cause of Indian freedom, and they are an inspiration to us all. But ask anyone who remembers August 15 1947 -- even though they knew well what it took to get to that day, nobody remembers being sad and weepy then. People speak of the exalted hopes they had for free India, the great euphoria they felt. The streets were full of ecstatic Indians celebrating being free.
Is it sacrilege to think of it that way? Should we commemorate Independence only by being solemn and sorrowful? After all, the men and women who fought for freedom did it to give all of us a new lease on life. Winning freedom was a thing of joy. We knew it then. Why not remember it that way now? That's the spirit I think we should now apply to Independence day. Certainly, let's never forget great Indians of the past; but let's celebrate the precious gift they delivered to us. Let's celebrate freedom with passion and joy.
My feeling also is this: if we celebrate, we'll nurture.
Postscript: Continuing what my good friend Inder Koul described to me as the "obligatory 4 year Indian lament (i.e. Olympics)" ... want one more possible reason for woebegone Indian Olympic performances?
During the Athens games, Sports Minister Sunil Dutt announced that with "retrospective effect, the daily allowance for our players and coaches participating in the Olympics is now $50 instead of the $20 given earlier." (Reported variously, for example here).
Front page in today's Times of India is this: some of our MPs are off to Canada "to attend a meeting of the Commonwealth parliamentary association. In the process, they'll visit Quebec and Toronto. They might also have to put up with sight-seeing." These MPs get free business-class air tickets, five-star accommodation ... and a daily allowance of $75. (This report.)
In that report about the allowances for the Olympics, Dutt says: "There are limited facilities for sportspersons."
Clearly, there aren't limited facilities for MPpersons.
All of which, come to think of it, may be reason to fill my eyes with tears.