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Independence Day Special: I’m Human. You?
Introducing a new columnist whose independent thinking may not quite go with everyone. She chooses to say what she thinks is right ... and on independence Day, she poses a few questions. No easy answers though. | Aarti Panikkar
On Aug 15, 2014

 

Ok, that day is here again. That day when every Tom, Dick, Harry and even William is expected to have a picture of the national flag displayed or have a redundant status message, or even write a nondescript prose on how proud he or she is of the nation - the Independence Day.

In India’s case, 67 years of Independence! Ah! What a feat to be proud of, right? But this day, I sit here and question, what need there is to be proud of. It is certain that almost everyone who reads the previous sentence would be thinking that this is yet another post that is going to dissect the socio-economic challenges India has been facing since independence.
 
Well, not quite. I completely agree that India’s history is truly grand, embellished with epic stories of great souls, art and heritage. But I’m here deliberating just the word ‘proud’ in a slightly linguistic context, as in where and when you can actually use the word precisely. Isn’t juxtaposing the words ‘proud’ and ‘country’ when one has not made any major contribution kind of asinine, though we seldom look at it that way?
 
Talking about patriotism with a negative undertone is considered an anathema, and I’m sure none in their right minds would venture into those dark waters. But I would. Let me ask you how can you say you are proud of the combats your forefathers fought and of their valour in knocking off lions at close quarters? I completely and earnestly agree that they should be remembered and honoured for their achievements; but long afterwards – a tsunami, a gas tragedy, and a war later, how can you say YOU are proud of them? How can someone born decades after all that transpired feel the tingling sensation under your rib cage called pride? After all, none of us lifted even a little finger in their struggles for freedom, if I’m not mistaken!
 
Let alone, patriotism in such a context. How about patriotism as a singled out word? Let us revisit ‘The Pledge’ we were made to drone like robots everyday for 12 to 14 years.

“India is my country. All Indians are my brothers and sisters. I love my country and I am proud of its rich and varied culture....”
 
Come again, so why do we need to be proud of our rich and varied culture? Why should we – born in the 21st century AD of this supposedly 14 billion year old earth – be proud of a culture that evolved and snaked its way through 75,000 years? (I use the word snaked because slowly and slyly ‘our culture’ has insidiously seeped into this century and like a serpent ‘our culture’ has a venomous tongue, and lashes out at anyone and anything for supposed impudence in the name of ‘morality’) So why should we swell our chests in pride for an ‘accident of birth’? Just because we were born here, why on earth should we be smug about things that happened here at some point in time?
 
Is it the sense of belonging, the remote lineage purportedly ‘passed via blood’ that makes us think it is our prerogative to be proud? In that case are we proud of having a genetic predisposition for excessive hair fall, or excessive sweating? Or for inheriting a ‘fat gene’ which makes it compulsory to add on an extra inch of baby fat with every bite of Big Mac? If not, then why this?
 
It so happened that we were born in this part of the world, but why should we be proud of it? I fail to understand. Perhaps to inculcate the concept of patriotism, we have always been asked to BE proud from childhood itself (brainwashed? reminds me of the Nazis!) and hence we are. And we never really gave a second thought to it.
 
 
A few spot on, quirky lines a dear friend with similar thoughts shared about patriotism comes to my mind now –
 
“Did you know you are of a particular nationality because your forefathers ended up in that geographical location and adapted to the place due to lack of birth control measures and other past times they populated the area? In short, you are Indian because your forefathers decided to have some fun and stay here before they started using passports”. Come to think of it, is that reason enough to be proud of something? No personal effort of yours chipped in, and just because your nomadic great great grandfathers grew too cosy in their beanbags and were too lazy to pack up and leave from where they roamed in from!

The fact is if patriotism is kept under a microscope, at a grass-root level it is nothing but the basis of segregation. Demarcating what is ‘mine’ and what is ‘yours’. Bifurcating ‘us’ into ‘you’ and ‘me’. And don’t you think that thought right there is what has caused the whole world to wield weapons against each other. For no apparent reason at all, everyone wants a piece of the earth for themselves, to claim their own – forgetting the fact that the whole earth itself is our own. That feeling has been imbibed to such a deep dark point inside of us, that we don’t mind getting downright bloody and gory to grab it.
 
Is a piece of land which you are definitely not going to spirit away in your backpack when you die, worth dying for? (And who knows in your next life you might even be born on the other side and fight the same war!) So isn’t this feeling of pride and patriotism on some levels selfishness and hence the harbinger of the world’s doom? I bet many would have a million arguments against what I said. Yes, I do agree that patriotism is an admirable thought, when you are pitted against opposing forces that are out to vanquish you.
 
But I keep thinking of a different realm, a different possibility – what if no child was foddered with the idea of patriotism and pride, what if no factions sprouted up because of that, what if everyone desired the good fortune of the other as much as they wish for themselves, what if you were able to transcend from the feelings of possession, what if every living being was your compatriot, what if you were a human first rather than an Indian, a German or a Palestinian... – may be the world would have been a brighter place and a safer haven to dwell in.

On this Independence Day, I’m not going to say “Jai Hind”... Instead, I’m going with “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”!




Aarti Panikkar

Business Analyst by day, entrepreneur by evening, aspiring writer. Car crazy, adventure chasing, animal-adoring lass; She has pledged her eternal love for books and books alone.
Aarti blogs at
http://snippetsofmydelirium.wordpress.com/

 
 
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This is cooool
Manju, on Aug 16, 2014 12:44:32 AM
 
 
Thanks Manju :)
Aarti, on Aug 16, 2014 06:27:32 PM
 
 
Dear columnist Let me make it clear to u. The general public lik me is proud because we cherish the fact that we are born in this great country. It's not because our forefathers were lazy to pack their bags and move or had settled here. It is because of the greatness our nation has and for everything our country has given us. Some ppl may say that even after 68 yrs of independence we have not achieved much and so on. But don't compare us with the developed nation compare us with the politically unstable nations and with war torn nations. Compared to them we hav lot more and we shld be happy abt that. Our country has given us lot of opportunities, to grow, to learn and to have a decent life. And it is our responsibility towards our country to make it a better place and to make India achieve the heights it shld belong to. Just to clear a fact, you don't have to look at things thro a microscope, cos if u look at urself you are just a collection of cells lik every1 else, but it's your soul and your character that distinguish you. Likewise patriotism is in every Indian's mind and it will be there till we die. It is true that we are Indians by birth. And I thank my forefathers for settling in this great nation. But the patriotism and proud of being an Indian is not because of birth it's because of our nation's greatness. Just wanted to say that I agree with you being a humane but I prefer to be a proud and patriotic Indian human being. Cos in this chaotic world there is no use in being just humane and wave white flag to the infiltrators and other entities who want to capture and destroy India. So I would rather be a proud and patriotic Indian Human Being.
Ullas Sugunan, on Aug 17, 2014 08:44:31 AM
 
 
Dear Ullas Sugunan/Rohini Ullas : I plead you to read the article again if you haven't been able to comprehend what it was talking about. (A feat the 250 odd ppl who read it and liked it did not accomplish. Bravo!) U are totally missing the point here. Why the hell are you talked abt comparing to other nations?? I said about NOT comparing! Not differentiating! About being one! And about pride, what I talked abt is, if you haven't particularly contributed anything yourself for a cause, then why the hell should you be proud?? I'll break it down to you since you seem to have difficulty grasping language. For example, just because someone became a father, and he was never there to support his son's dreams or take care of him, do you think he can be worthy of saying i'm proud of my son's achievements? Same way, if you have contributed something substantial for the upliftment of this nation, be proud! If you atleast do regular social service (which I know you don't) pls feel proud of yourself. Else what right do u have?!? It is easy to make tall statements about unity in diversity, and compare India with other under-developed nations and feel fortunate, or cry over india’s loss in cricket and or win in Olympics and feel patriotic. You can even be under the illusion that sitting at home day in and day out posting on FB some cultural BS abt India or even inanities of your own life is a significant contribution that you make to the nation, and feel proud of that! But i beg to differ. I don't think any of the above are reason enough to feel proud of the nation. Same with freedom fighters.. They fought long and hard for the country. Honour them, remember them, respect them. But how can YOU be proud? That's all I said. And again, to understand the microscopic dissection and the underlying meaning of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, u need to read more than just Sidney Sheldon. Ciao!
Aarti Panikkar, on Aug 17, 2014 11:55:08 AM
 
 
And the bit about perpetrators that u said .. I've mentioned that in the 2nd last para. This is why I said, u are jumping the gun without reading or understanding what the article is about. Considering the current state of affairs we need patriotism, but isn't that very feeling, pariotism, the core reason for this state of affairs? It is a thought i've been fancying. That's all. Patriotism and pride in oneself means u r boosting your ego, thinking u r better than another, and patriotism advocates sense of belonging resulting into a need for possession. All these ultimately result in border issues and finally into war between nations. It is not just among countries. It happens even regions inside countries. (So many examples in India itself) The message is, trying to feel proud for a specific sect is in a way dangerous. Instead consider the whole world as ur own. Thats all i meant to say. If everyone did that, none of the wars would have ever occurred. Anyway now that the world is at this juncture, there is no turning back I guess. And noone asked to wave white flags when guns are charged at them. Strap an AK-47 and fight all the wars you want!
Aarti Panikkar, on Aug 17, 2014 12:18:26 PM
 
 
Patriotism or nationalistic feeling is essential for politicians to push their agenda, which in itself needn't be particularly patriotic or nationalistic. None of the leaders of opposing political outfits in our nation are enemies like their minions. The bigwigs all share the pie(our pie) together at skyfall. Such feelings are there for the 'aam aadmi' to come in terms with their miserable lives over which they have no control over, when they live someone else's dreams. Patriotism,consumerism, television and mainstream media is all there to distract you from the real deal. But, let them be. Things like this make life bearable for so many. Let them have their peace like you have yours.
D@rky, on Aug 21, 2014 01:26:26 PM
 
 
Aarti, I applaud the initiative you’ve taken and the effort you’ve put in to think a little deeper than the general public on a topic like this. Kudos. Though I’d agree to most of what you say, there are many things I’d disagree with- * First and foremost, the pledge should have been “…and I’m proud of its rich and varied heritage” not culture. * Secondly your attribution of patriotism to lead to wars in the world; That could be a myopic view as it is just one among a lot of factors ranging from Religion to even – gullibility. It’d be a rather idealistic scenario to think subtracting patriotism would lead to any considerable change in wars being waged. If not this, some other base instinct would be exploited and wars would still be fought. * Thirdly you portrayed your opinion that to feel proud for my country, I’d had to achieve something, make my mark. Instead of making it a ‘post’ condition, I consider it quite the opposite. To me it is this pride that is pushing me to achieve greater things. It is that pride that tells me I come from such a rich lineage, I should do my best to show that I deserve to be where I am now; it drives me to do more. * Lastly and most importantly - People have opinions of their own and different people interpret what they sense differently. Just because a person does not accept/understand your ideas exactly as how it is in your head does not mean the person cannot grasp the language or he’s dumb. Unlike posting it in a personal blog, if you are going to have an article published in a site like this, do understand that there will be people who’d disagree with your views. So why not make your point with dignity than trying to put down the other person questioning his grasp on the language? That being said, I’d still want to see more articles from you and I wish you all the best. Happy writing :).
ASB, on Sep 08, 2014 06:19:53 PM
 
 
Dear ASB, Thanks for your valuable feedback. First of all, let me extend my apologies at having quoted the pledge wrong. However, I guess it makes it even more clear as to how less I care about it anyway. And your second point, I think you have interpreted it wrongly. I did not say we need to subtract patriotism now. I meant the concept of patriotism means segragation deep down and that concept might have brought us to this state of affairs. N I've clearly mentioned that nothing can be done now anyway. It is just my train of thoughts that I'm voicing out loud. Thirdly, good to know that your feeling of pride in your country makes you push yourself to achieve further. However, my point is that you don't need to be proud of anything at all to want to push yourself for better things. You just need to be a humanist to want to do good things and great things for humanity itself, not just for urself or ur country as such. U serving the ppl of your country in even the smallest possible way means u r serving humanity itself. U don't have to think it is bcos you are accidentally born into a geographical location which has rich and flambouyant history. And lastly, I wrote that reply exactly like that bcos it is meant for a person whom I know closely and who wrote that comment just to spite me and nothing else. Also, every single person who read the comment said the same thing, that it looks as if this person has written the whole response out of context, without reading or understanding a word of what I've written. Also, instead of commenting on my personal blog/fb page where I have put the same post, that person chose to come and write it here to demoralize me. And obviously I had to retaliate. And hence I wrote back in the same style deliberately after discussing with few other ppl involved in that personal feud. Anyways thanks again for your comments. :)
Aarti, on Sep 17, 2014 10:34:17 AM
 
 
Cool thoughts..
Tintu, on Sep 17, 2014 11:52:33 AM
 
 
'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam' ! Ironical that it should come from someone who still carries the caste name along with her name! Always easy to preach. Difficult to practice.
Fly On The Wall, on Mar 16, 2016 06:15:25 PM
 
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