January 26, 2009


I sang it three times over the last three days. The first time, in a theatre before watching a film two nights ago. Just before we began, I remember thinking, incongruously, do I really care if there are people here who are not standing? How do I best respect an anthem, by looking around to see who's not standing and then filling myself with anger at them? Or by focusing on what it means to me?

The second time, early this morning January 26th. Not quite the full light of day yet, and I heard the strains, softly through the window. From a nearby park, I think. Standing at the window, two of us sang along softly. It was only when we were done that I realized I had only one slipper on.

The third time, about two hours afterward. Walked into a fishing village nearby. Within 25 yards of each other, with small crowds gathering around their posts, there were two flags waiting to be unfurled. Flowers on the ground, small paper flags stuck in window frames, songs from Rang de Basanti through a large speaker, lots of kids smiling and waving.

Without warning, I found a phalanx of men in pure white striding towards us at the further pole. In the middle was a local politician. Call me cynical, but if this man was going to be unfurling this flag, I wanted nothing to do with it.

I walked back to the first pole, where a small posse of policemen stood in formation, getting ready for the little ceremony. Climbed on a low wall to get some pix. An inspector snapped out a few words, four constables held their rifles to their shoulders, another constable untied the rope that let the flag fly free, and all of us sang the anthem. Nobody noticed the film star standing quietly at the back, singing along.

When we were done, another constable, an older, frailer man, bent low to tie the rope down to the pole. Somehow for me, that moment spoke most clearly of meaning.

From the other pole, the white phalanx, done with their ceremony, set out in our direction. Still wanting nothing to do with it, I leaped off the wall and headed home.


Nilu said...

Sweetheart, it's alright. You don't have to prove your patriotism just because you are some Abrahamic book following person. However traumatic it may be.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Pussycat, this one time only you get a response, never again.

I'm wholly uninterested in proving my patriotism. Not least, because I don't believe you prove patriotism by either singing a song or writing about singing a song. If you cared to look, darling, you'd have found a hint of that in this account. A small hint, but there nevertheless, and that was, sort of, the point.

Pity you missed it, honeybun, but there you are.

Nilu said...

Worry not, my love for you is beyond your attempts -- at humor or otherwise.

Unknown said...

Hi Dilip,

Touching! I too sang the anthem twice in the past few days. It reminds us of the sacrifices that men like Tukaram Ombale and Karkare and Kamte made. At least we shouldn't let them or their memmory down.

Anonymous said...

You say " ... but if this man was going to be unfurling this flag, I wanted nothing to do with it."

Why are you abandoning the flag because of the politician? Or are you abandoning the "ceremony" of unfurling the flag?

Are you being ambiguous on purpose?

Vasavadatta said...

I agree, in a way, to what you say. Independence day and republic day seem to be the only two days we all get so openly "patriotic". Those who slept through the early morning flag hoisting ceremony in my college were instantly labeled "unpatriotic". The cynic in me couldn't help but notice all this.

Waise I commented to tell you I really like the pic on your blog header.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Are you being ambiguous on purpose?

Maybe, maybe not.

More seriously. When someone who fails the citizens who elect him is called on to unfurl the flag, it seems to me something is skewed.

Vasavadatta, I liked that shot too. I had focused on the tomatoes for a long time, hoping the vendor would do something to them to make it more interesting. Just when I was about to give up, someone came along and asked for tomatos, and he reached for them. Just lucky.

Anonymous said...

Dilip: You were easily one of my favourite columnists back in the days of The Sunday Observer and I am so happy to find your blog on the net because you don't seem to be appearing in mainstream publications any longer (or maybe I do not subscribe to the publications you write in). I was much younger then (or maybe as Dylan says: I was so much older then, I am younger than that now....)

I share your absolute revulsion of Modi and the halo that the rather respectable section of our corporate world has for him but I confess I too did not deem it fit to sign the petition. For one, I am a bit tired of well-meaning tokenisms which don't move even a small mound of sand, leave alone heaven and earth. Also, I feel a bit defeated because most people I converse with seem to have bought into the Modification process completely; especially the State I come from - Garvi Gujarat.

Have you read the piece by S Anand in the recent issue of Tehelka critiquing the petition? Not that I entirely agree with it, but it makes for an absorbing conversation. The parts about Gandhi leave me rather cold, but I would love to know your take on it.

Here's the link: http://www.tehelka.com/story_main41.asp?filename=Op310109misleading_gandhigiri.asp

Vistasp Hodiwala

Dilip D'Souza said...

Thank you, Vistasp, for your kind words. the Sunday Observer! Now there's a memory from many years ago. I do write in various places -- HT, travel mags, Asian Age recently, etc -- but I've not done a regular column for a while on purpose, and I've been trying to cut back anyway so I can finish a larger project.

I read Anand's article in Tehelka, and it has created some waves already. Yes, he does make some interesting points. But I think the thing about Gandhi is that we can take and learn what we want from him. For example, I think his advice to the Jews of Nazi Germany was stupid. His attitude towards caste naturally angered Ambedkar, as Anand explains. But does all that mean we cannot learn from his political and moral courage in other directions?

So yes, there's a tokenism to so many of our protest actions. Yes, the cellular silence campaign might have ventured further in various ways. Yet I think there's a value to getting the word out that there are people who are angered by certain events, and they will raise their voice in some form. I think that's one lesson from Gandhi.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dilip.

Yes, I did mean the regular column actually. What I do remember of those days was the space that was provided for every "ism" to flourish even if some of the right wing bile got too much to digest after a point. Case in point: Varsha Bhosle. :-)

I take your point on Gandhi and I think that was clearly where the article lost its relevance for me too. Gandhi can be blamed for being quaint in his views and Ambedkar's stand is perfectly justified too but the attempt to somehow paint him as wily or diabolical, I am not sure I can subscribe to that theory one bit.

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