I am an Indian patriot! Oops!
Patriotism is one of the most fundamental intensive feeling identified with people. The nationality being one of the most, or perhaps THE most important identity a person holds. The piece of cloth with varying colours and patterns flowing in the air on top of the mast, and the national anthem being played. A feeling that gives us goosebumps.
Being an Indian, this is not unfamiliar to me. Rather it’s been very important all my life so far. Always patriotic I am. Even now. But my idea of patriotism has gone through various directions by now. I’ve been thinking about writing about this subject for long. It’s always been a food for thought. A subject that never leaves us.
Honestly, I’m not updated very well with what’s exactly happening around the JNU case, nor I’m well informed about the exact happenings. After all it’s the media who decides what we need to think today. But coincidentally, I guess I’m writing this at a very important time when discussions about nationalism are fired up all over India.
I’ll begin with the identity of ‘being Indian’. We have the slogan here ‘Unity in diversity’. Now that would be another discussion altogether. But just taking this ‘diversity’ part. How does it match with this identity issue? For example, I’m from Punjab. I’m an Indian! So is someone from Gujarat, Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Nagaland, Maharashtra, Kerala, Goa or any other state or region. What I associate with, when I say, ‘I’m an Indian’, could be drastically different for someone else saying the same from another part of India. Yet we’re all equally Indians.
As things turned out in this part of the world, we’re now guided a lot by the British ideologies which act as the base for a lot of our understandings and actions. Our education! And globalization came in at the right time. That’s what was branded as the so called ‘plus point’ of colonization. As some say, they came into civilize us when they couldn’t even hope to match the civilization that existed here ever!
Nevertheless, now I know English better than most of the ‘Indian’ languages, or for that matter, the culture, thoughts, history, values etc. In a way we’re all more British than anything else. Another strong example for how identities are defined by differences and not similarities.
So what am I supposed to be feeling patriotic about? Being a punjabi, I’ve never ate on a banana leaf, or made Pongal, or been part of a typical Marathi Ganesh fest. Being a Keralite, I never knew Lohri and can’t make anything out of the Bengali script. But all these are equally Indian!
The very typical nationalistic images though, cuts across all these, giving a sense of patriotism. The army, the navy, the air force, the jawans in uniform, the missiles of India, the wars we won etc. A collection of typical ways of showing a patriotic feeling. A powerful salute with the boots hitting the floor hard! I have great respect for everyone who’ve sacrificed their lives and are doing right now to keep us safe, freely blogging and reading here. I’m just talking about the image! They’re more British! Western! We’ve not even been able to adopt our exceptional martial art techniques and image into our modern armed forces. So what are we exactly proud of?
Coming now to our feeling towards our mother land. That’s something inevitable. Atleast as a nostalgic feeling we have. A love for the place we were born and where we grew up. But that is at different levels. About the building I call home. Maybe the locality I played, my school, my friends group and the roads and common places I passed everyday. How can I feel the same way for a whole country stretching thousands of kilometers in all directions? I don’t even know most of it!
People were patriotic about their kingdom before India was born. Today about our states and regional cultures. So who brought about the patriotism for ‘India’ into us? I came down to this thinking about it:
The very concept of India is British.
Everytime I say, ‘I love India’, I also mean I love a creation of the British. Definitely one of their most wonderful creations.
What if India was not divided into Pakistan? How far would I have been patriotic?
Today being patriotic about India is closely linked with being anti-Pakistan.
What if Britishers never came here? Where would have been my patriotism and how?
In Kerala, I’m proud to be a Kochite.
In India, I’m proud to be a Keralite.
In the world, I’m proud to be an Indian.
In 1600s, I would have been proud to be a ‘Travancorite’? (for the lack of a proper word)
In 1960s, I would have been proud to be an Indian?
In 2016, I’m proud to ‘go abroad’ for higher studies!
What it’ll be like in 2060?
The very idea of identity is very dynamic. Diversity is an inevitable characteristic of it. Ignoring myself to be a Hindu, a Muslim, a Malayali, a Punjabi, a Bengali, a designer, an engineer will not do the job for ‘Unity in diversity’. We must maintain the diversity as it is and give the space for it to multiply further over time and across all this have the receptiveness to love beyond boundaries everything holding all these identities, be it to people, object or your motherland. India is not wrong, not a chaos, not a confused complexity, it’s a miraculous phenomenon that’s breathing as we speak. We need to start looking at it like that maybe. We must be patriotic for it’s diversity, understand it’s extend and limitations and keep the spirit up together.
Also read a related article written sometime back:
Exposure: A Pressure?
Originally published at gopikrishnanblog.wordpress.com on February 22, 2016.