Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.-Adlai StevensonI remember cribbing about the way we celebrate Independence Day on this very same page, last year. Like I had mentioned before I always fail to see any merit in holding a flag-hoisting ceremony followed by eardrum-splitting patriotic music(which includes songs from Bollywood movies) being played for the rest of the day. Add to that the innumerable sms forwards stating 'Feel proud to be an Indian. Happy Independence Day' (Happy Independance Day/Happy Independenz Day) that you start receiving as soon as the clock strikes midnight on the 14th of August. Clearly reluctant to shoulder the guilt of not responding to the text messages and thereby openly disregarding the significance of the most important day in your country's history, you hit the reply button and type in a 'Happy Independence Day to you too.' Sometimes without realizing what independence actually means.
How our opinions modify with the passage of time! Right at this moment I feel a little bit ashamed to think of how blissfully ignorant I had been in the past.
For those of us born in a country free from the shackles of a colonial rule, it will always be a near-impossible task to fully understand the meaning of the word 'independence'. What our history books or random news paper articles have taught us over the years can never compare to the experience of coming face to face with a sign saying 'Dogs and Indians not allowed'.(Pahartali European Club had such a signboard and was targeted by Surya Sen and his associates in 1932 for this reason)
Sitting inside an air-conditioned room fully equipped with the amenities of a modern-day 21st century lifestyle, it is an all too easy task to complain about the government's irresponsible handling of the CWG funds or laugh at the Independence Day celebrations all over the country.
But do we ever pause to think about the brighter side? A constitution that had awarded all the men and women, rich and poor, of all religions the right to vote from the beginning- how many times have we actually felt a surge of gratefulness towards the architects of such a constitution?
Even in France, the women had earned the right to vote only in 1944 and the liberal U.S. was characterized by legally mandated discrimination against African-Americans for centuries.
We have our fair share of corrupt, power-crazed politicians and bureaucrats, scandals breaking out over misappropriation of government funds, internal troubles and security threats, places like Kashmir and the north-eastern regions in a state of perpetual political unrest. We have more problems than we can afford to deal with. But then which country doesn't?
An Independence Day celebration is a way of looking back and remembering our glorious past. Even if we do not buy ourselves a flag of the nation(to dispose of it the very next day), even if we do not sing along when the national anthem is being performed or help circulate sms forwards, we can celebrate just by recalling the fact that our country remains one of the few to have earned its independence through non-violent means. Remembering the ideals of those great men and women who had sacrificed their all for the greater good, keeping in mind our rich cultural heritage and principles of secularism and equality we need to draw strength for the future.
For the future will be what we make of it. And harsh criticism, an attitude full of scorn and sarcasm will never help in shaping a better tomorrow.