Sadanand Nayak, a retired colonel of the Indian army and my friend from Infy, sent me a message early in the morning today wishing me for India's 62nd Independence Anniversary.
I know it's early but we had been part of a very moving Independence Day celebration a couple of years ago. Since then and owing to subsequent interactions he's been convinced that I have a lot of patriotic fervour.
I think I do.
At least I love Bangalore and I hate it when people say horrible things about India and/or compare it unfavourably with the glorious West where the roads are clean and animal-free and dung-free and everyone including dogs walk in a straight line and well, always toe the line.
So this morning when I received his message, I was very pleased. I immediately typed out a response and my instinct was to sit straight in the cab (I was on my way to work when I got the message) and sort of salute and say Jai Hind. But it felt fake and frankly ridiculous.
Well, I have a history with the word. One of the most embarrassing moments in my life is of me saying Jai Hind after a remarkably terrible elocution speech (I suck at elocution; I can never remember the bloody buggering lines) and jumping off the stage (Yes, Anu, you can say that's typical Bhumika behaviour) in an all-boys school when I was a plump 14 with braces on during an inter-school competition. That sort of memory stays.
But even without this painful association, I realised saying Jai Hind and not feeling ridiculous is impossible. And that got me thinking about what Independence Day and the freedom movement means to us now. Has the notion of patriotism changed over the years?
Thankfully, these are questions Indians across the world will answer on the Yahoo! India Answers blog or the site because I've asked them to.
But in my own boudoir, I wonder if it's only me who feels that way. I cannot imagine any of my friends saying Jai Hind loudly and with feeling, without looking a little sheepish and embarrassed even if they are highly patriotic. But that's sad, why on earth should we feel that way? (And to do them justice, I'm well aware that it's only the ooper bharaths who are not conscious of themselves particularly in situations like this.)
I know I cringe when I hear people screaming Jai Ho, Jai Ho to indicate any sort of victory as most people have taken to doing after the whole Oscars Slumdog excitement. And I do know that I'd never blink if someone says, "Yes! Take that, sucker!" in a similar exultation.
So that makes me wonder about how patriotic I really am and it also makes me wonder how free I am.
The patriotic is fine. I deduce very wisely that it's also a matter of being comfortable. I think in English so naturally I'm more comfortable with English expressions.
But if we are truly free, we ought to be able to make perfect asses of ourselves around others any way we want even if it is out of our comfort zones, and still feel dignified and not be judged, no?
Otherwise, where is the truth in Me & Bobby McGee? :)
Happy Independence Day!