I've spent the last two hours thinking of something I could post up here, but can't come up with anything new (my introduction to bloggers' block, I suppose). This is something I wrote on our 57th Independence Day. It was first posted as an exercise on Caferati's message board.
Patriotism, to me, has always been associated with music. And I'm not talking about the kind of music that comes from a traditional raga or an uplifting symphony. The concept of India – as mother, as an ideal worth dying for, as home – was taught to me by Hindi filmi songs.
The 15th of August is that time of the year when I allow myself to wallow in a soggy kind of jingoism, as crooned out by Bollywood’s best playback singers.
I mean, we can’t seriously be expected to believe that Hindustan Hamara was really the best place in the whole wide world, and that we are all bulbuls in a fragrant garden. But come Independence Day, and it seems alright to feel like a ‘bulbul’ in some sort of contemporary Eden, even if it is a wee bit overcrowded.
My earliest memories of Independence Day are redolent with warm, boondi-laddoo in brown paper-bags, and a lot of songs from Hindi films (the only pan-national obsession, rivalling cricket in its ability to cut across all boundaries of state, caste and community).
Independence Day was about waking up to the sound of drumbeats, watching the Tiranga unfurl and a loudspeaker croaking out Mere Desh Ki Dharteeeeeeee.
‘Mere desh ki dharti’ was ubiquitous. It was inescapable, on the 15th of August. I knew it by heart.
I also knew all the others – ‘Ye Desh Hai Veer Jawaano Ka’ and ‘Kar Chale Hum Fida’ and ‘Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon’, which always brought a jagged-edged lump to my throat. I continue to bawl, discreetly, when I hear ‘Aye Mere Pyaare Watan’ (though I've never understood why it should affect me so much - the song is supposed to be about a Kabuli-wala, singing about Afghanistan, not India).
When our teachers ran out of classic, black-and-white era songs with which to stir our patriotic little souls, they brought in colour-celluloid ones like ‘Aapas mein prem karo, desh premiyon’ and ‘Bharat ka rehne wala hoon’. After those were exhausted, we would sing poems written by the progressive writers during the freedom movement, such as Saare Jahan se Achha, and even Ye Mera Chaman.
Thus, patriotism became inextricably linked with film songs.
However, Bollywood disappointed my generation in the desh-bhakti department. Too many repetitive images of war-torn borders, bleeding soldiers and not a single definitive patriotic song.
Independence Day itself seemed to turn into an old woman, going senile, repeating tales of past glory and lost love, which she’s told everyone several times over. I wasn’t listening anymore.
Until I heard the title song from Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani. (The film was badly made, but all is forgiven, on account of this one song.)
This song tells me who we are, and refuses to be apologetic about it. It neither gloats, nor escapes into historical half-truths of being the Golden Bird of the East. It neither asks me to die, nor to return to a fading culture of khaddar dhotis and blood-red sindoor.
Like it says... Thodi humme sachaai hai, thodi hai baimaani
It admits that we lie. But we also tell the truth....
We sell people old goods in new packages. But sometimes, we will also offer an umbrella to a stranger, on a rainy day.... We want love, but we also want money.... A little innocence; a little fraud.... Some tears; a few dreams.... Some helplessness, some carelessness and lot of madness.
If that isn’t the India I know, what is?
And like the song rightly points out, for all our hurts and disappointments, we’ve still got hope on our side.
Happy 57th Independence Day!