I stepped out of my house to office and saw expected scenes outside. Autos and buses had the Indian flag adorning them. I could see poor women and children selling flags of all sizes, badges, stickers etc. Every year around India’s Independence Day, suddenly a nation wakes up from a deep slumber and expresses nationalist sentiments. TV channels come alive with shows that showcase India’s past, its rise in the global economy, sung & unsung heroes and how we could shape our future. Clippings of Jawaharlal Nehru’s first speech (in English – at that time very few Indians were comfortable with English language) on the eve of Indian independence are shown with considerable regularity. Talk shows focus on the big occasion and suddenly, all “small” issues slip into oblivion.
What I fail to understand is where does this nationalist feeling go for the rest of the year? All year long, we live with corruption, do everything to make our cities dirty, drive rash, pee on the walls, spit everywhere (dharti ke laal), dig holes on the road and so on. If someone were to ask me – Do Indians care for their country, I do not know how to respond. There are times we go overboard on nationalism like cricket, Indo-US nuke deal, a movie that gets recognized by Hollywood etc. We celebrate like no other nation. But on the other hand, we do not seem to be involved in community-building and hence, nation-building activities on a regular basis in our daily lives. All the zeal suddenly drops dead. On one hand, we do everything possible to pollute the environment around the Taj Mahal and contribute to its deterioration. On the other, we do a big song & dance for it being selected as one of the 7 wonders of the world. This is quite ironical – as ironical as it gets and it confuses me about how we think of our nation and nationalism.