Keeping with our theme of covering events of earth-shattering significance, Happy Independence Day is upon us. Keep those little painted-tiranga images superimposed with appropriately vacuous quotes ready for easy sharing with your friends.
I’m not just being cynical here (though I am), and I’m not going down the smelly path of “What Independence Day means to you.” There is no way to answer that. It’s a silly question. First, you have to know what the country means to you. For that, you have to think about a lot of things which, I get the feeling, is too much to ask for on a national holiday.
I, on the other hand, am bored. And insomniac. And in a soapboxy kind of mood. So allow me to indulge myself.
Our country was drawn up – broadly speaking – by 2 bureaucrats, a delusional politician, and a bit-of-a-cunt-ish viceroy, and rubber-stamped by a faraway parliament eager to get rid of it. Large parts of it were then ‘acquired’, almost exactly the way they had been by the East India Company not long ago. The idea of an eternal, undivided India has been drilled into us by school textbooks, citing Iron Age kingdoms and the irrefutable Vedas. But it’s largely a delusion. That’s why we need an absurd number of guns and laws like the AFSPA to keep that idea intact.
But anyway, nobody wants to hear about all that boring stuff.
Even if I were to believe the story, I’d still find it hard to proclaim much pride and joy.
I’m a good citizen, I think. I do nothing to avoid paying taxes – something universally labelled foolish even by the most ardent patriots adorned with ‘I am Anna’ hats. I vote, despite realizing the utter pointlessness of it. And despite an aversion to sports, I do feel happy seeing an Indian athlete (if that isn’t an oxymoron) win a medal at the ‘lympics. (Although I was disappointed by both boxing and wrestling. I kept waiting for the referee to drop to floor and do the countdown. I think I had ‘WrestleMania’ in mind.)
But am I patriotic? To me, patriotism* seems to be in the same league as religion – blind devotion to a loosely-defined idea and complete intolerance for anything or anyone that ‘offends’ it. So, no, to put it gently, I’m not a fan.
*Patriotism, in our country, seems to be becoming synonymous with nationalism. The difference is complex, but in the words of George Orwell, “Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power.”
What I find amusing is the mindless torrent of Facebook updates from people ‘proud to be Indians’. What does that mean? I thought you could be proud of things you have achieved or created or, I dunno, done? But you’re proud that you were born in a certain geographical location purely by coincidence? Way to go.
It’s even more absurd when you think about the real reasons why somebody would be chuffed to identify with our country. Because you have a #ThatAwkwardMoment when you struggle to go beyond platitudes like ‘diversity’ and ‘culture’. But if you’re asked to name one fucked up thing about us, I bet you could come up with a very specific and recent example.
You’ve thought of a couple already, haven’t you?
Which is why it’s strange to see India tirelessly ranking at the top of global patriotism charts, and which is why I think it’s more about nationalism.
Orwell again: “The nationalist does not go on the principle of simply ganging up with the strongest side. On the contrary, having picked his side, he persuades himself that it is the strongest, and is able to stick to his belief even when the facts are overwhelmingly against him.”
The fact that ‘facts are overwhelmingly against us’, is probably why we feel this need to constantly (and tastelessly) shout about the greatness of our country. The reality is just not so … cool.
But anyway, don’t let wannabe intellectuals, ignorant cynics, spoil the party. Be proud. Watch Border or something.
Or, if you really want to do something patriotic, you could donate some money to a charity. Almost the entire country has less than you do, and what better day to help the unfortunate, right? Oh, and under section 80G, it’s 100% tax free too. Win-win.