It's Republic Day today. I woke up to the sound of Mere Desh ki Dharti being played somewhere on a loudspeaker. H picked it up and started singing it with the lyrics all wrong. That always irks me - another one of my pet peeves - this thing about music being just beats and no lyrics.
Anyway, in correcting H I ended up explaining the age old song to the kids. And then since I couldn’t remember the whole thing I googled it. The song is definitely dated but the pride of belonging to a wonderful country shines clearly through.
National Holidays used to be big days when we were kids – they still are back home for my parents, who make it a point to go to their alma-maters for flag hoisting. National pride was a big deal. Independence would still have had a new sheen to it, for our parents at least. And we caught the patriotism bug from them.
Somehow along the way, what with work and life, they became ‘just another holiday’ to me – a day to plan a picnic, or sleep in, or tackle that list of unending chores. Is it just me or does it have something to do with changing times? All of it just became uncool. I didn’t stop feeling patriotic, I always did and will always do, but it definitely became uncool to flaunt it.
Then along came the kids and in trying to teach them about India I am relearning too – their enthusiasm is contagious. When they were younger they wanted tricolour balloons and charkhis and tricolour food and tricolour clothes – the whole deal. And I did it all with them.
They’re growing up. N still childlike, revels in all the festivities. H is already reluctant to wear Indian clothes because ‘they are uncomfortable’ yet I persist. Patriotism is much more than clothes, I know, but this one day let's go all Indian when we sing the National Anthem on Republic Day, I tell him. So then how can I not ditch my trustee jeans and pull out my orange/green/white salwar kurta too?
I do so happily, and I go down for the flag hoisting. I sing the National Anthem aloud, I eat the laddoo with relish and I try to make the day as special as I possibly can. I flaunt my patriotism as much as my self-conscious self will allow. I find I’m getting better at it and I’m liking it too.
I'll always be grateful to the kids for reawakening National Pride in me.
Leaving you now with one of my favourite songs from the film Purab aur Paschim. Manoj Kumar is corny and Saira Banu is downright ludicrous in that blonde wig and with the swirling cigarette smoke, but the song is to die for. It makes me all warm and proud to be an Indian. Do hear out the lyrics.