Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A patriot (the search continues)

It is a sleepy railway station in a nameless and dusty little town somewhere in Northern India. The smoke that the train emits as it grinds to a moaning halt is only overpowered by the chaos that engulfs the air inside the station. The mood is sober and smeared with the rays of the sun giving up on this part of the earth. A young boy not more than 12 years old runs to each of the open windows trying to a sell cup of water for 25 paisa. Most of them reject his offer despite the heat wave that sweeps across the platforms. He looks around for a while, all the time yelling at the top of his innocent voice, “1 glass for 25 paisa! 1 glass for 25 paisa!” and stops at a particular window. "1 glass for 25 paisa! Please take some water, sa'ab." he says to the man sitting by that window. The man nods and buys the water and drinks it from the clay pot it is in. For the first time in India after 12 long years away from his motherland, the man drinks unbottled water. For the first time in his life as an aeronautics engineer working for the top brass in the United States, Mohan Bhargava has found grief. Feeling helpess, he weeps not for himself but for the state of his land…his home.

The tired old father says “Speak to me in Kannada, my son. It has been so long since I have heard the language.” to his Hindi born and bred young son for the first time in his life. The shock the son receives when he realizes he is a Kannadiga sends a stream of energy down our throat and into the pit of our belly. Shankar gives up a potentially sparkling career and brilliant prospects to return to his roots. A root he had never known of his whole life is now the only reason he exists. He gears up to face all odds to get back his land…his home.

The sands of the desert wave past the humble and innocent villagers. The arrogant British officer smirks at these uneducated folk with a challenge they had never heard of. He is convinced they know nothing beyond what they see and are nothing more than animals. His pride is in keeping these illiterates at the nose of his foot. Bhuvan stands watching the pride from the office’s face transform into a rage that has kept him quiet all these years of slavery. The rage enters Bhuvan’s body and illuminates his heart and mind thus igniting the beginning of the end for the British Raj. He accepts the impossible seeming and potentially lethal challenge without a blink. He has found himself in that moment of naked truth. A truth which will either destroy him or save him. But he is going to go with it anyway for the sake of his land…his home.

In the face of injustice and vain, these people found their truth. The truth that lies in their compact soul and has transformed them into unforgettable individuals. These are the images that stir us in the moment and leave an impact so long lasting that we think of them every day. We can pretend not to be moved by these scenes; we can go on and declare how it was nothing more than a passing cloud. But the truth remains that we all think about them in our subconscious self. We appreciate what they did for our country even if they were fictitious. We celebrate their onscreen accomplishments by appreciating them off screen. We acknowledge the truth they brought in front of us even if it was just for three minutes of our life. Three magical minutes that can make or break a nation’s future. No matter where we are in the world, no matter what we do for a living and no matter how we see our mother nation. We all need to keep reminding ourselves of those three minutes of truth that once sparkled on a screen somewhere and left images in our hearts forever. Sharing the feel of a patriot is what today world lacks is. Being patriotic is no longer considered trendy.

Two of my close friends and I stood at the musical fountain in the Krishna Raja Sagar water parks in Mysore City recently. We were applauding ‘Saare jahaan se achcha…” till our hands went red and our throats were dry. We were proud of our nation and we were proud to be Indians. But as we looked around us we had a realization. Not one other person in that 500 something crowd was following suit. We could not help but look at each other in shame since we had realized what the word ‘patriotic’ has translated in today’s India. We might not be as great as Mohan, Shankar and Bhuvan but we are no less than them either. We have not let the exposure to a foreign lifestyle affect what our hearts yearn for. We are not the ones standing quiet when we should be celebrating a song that celebrates India herself.

I stood up in front of my laptop one day in my empty apartment when I saw a rendition of the ‘Jana Gana Mana…”. My eyes welled up towards the end as Pandit Bhimsen Joshi brought the memories of my country back to me again. My voice choked as Lata Mangeshkarji and Asha Bhonsleji paid tribute to her soul. Was anyone watching? Yes…the truth that resides in me. The truth I like to call India…my mother.

My wondering in this whole scene is the following. Do we need an inspiration to applaud our own country? Or are we so used to being ‘silently patriotic’ that any public display of our undying love for the nation suddenly seems too tacky? Celebrate India my friends. Celebrate her for what she is. Celebrate her for what she was. Celebrate her for everything she stands for. Do not be afraid or shy away from her presence. It does not matter where you live, it does not matter what you do, carry her with you everywhere you go. Tell everyone you know about her. Show everyone her faces. Find that truth that lies inside you. Find that light that will always burn in the chambers of your heart. The light that brought peace to Mohan, Shankar and Bhuvan will one day help you find your land...your home.

Jai Hind!


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