Although I can see the Burj Khalifa from our building, it is not close enough for me to see the tricolor lights on it. Moreover, the lights are on the other side, and a busy evening yesterday prevented me from driving up to a vantage point to view it. A night eluded by sleep later, I wake up late but in time to catch the national carnival at Rajpath. No matter how ritualistic and routine the parade might have become after 68 years, it evokes a distinct sense of nationalism that warms even the white, wintry capital air.
That’s what a national day does. It makes the country a veritable entity to whom we pledge our uncompromising love and loyalty, irrespective of our disagreements with the bigger realities. It puts us in a brief moment of suspended reality and converts each of us into a microcosm of a territory that we closely and passionately identify with. We become citizens and nothing else. Suddenly, we imagine ourselves to be in a faraway fairy tale space from where we will probably never return.
I opened the TV today to a tableau from Haryana depicting the girl child, highlighting the Beti Bachao campaign. To watch the display only after a day I watched ‘Parched’, a gut wrenching movie on the plight of Indian women in its hinterlands, a movie that used every bit of coarseness in its command to tear into my core sensibilities, was strange and ironic.
As the spectacle now unfolds and I watch a nation substantiate its constitution only two days after I watched Aligarh (a movie that didn’t release here and I had to wait for long to watch it online), I wonder about our rights to lead our private lives the way we want it, without bringing harm to others. I wonder about our misplaced sense of morality and righteousness. I am disturbed by the fact that beneath the surface of all the nationalism that I am witnessing before me, there is a different story.
It was hard to come to terms with the travesty of it all. We are free, yet not fully so. We have our rights, yet are hounded and persecuted at every corner. We aren’t what we proudly purport ourselves to be on this day. It’s a false sense of unity that is displayed, a fake feeling of pride that we flaunt. The basic tenets of humanity and liberty have got squished between the rational and the ridiculous. The hypocrisy hurts.
(I must pause here and stand..the national anthem is playing…)
It is sloppy to confess it, but as the national anthem played, stinging tears welled up and I felt a tightness in my chest. Partly inspired by the innate sense of patriotism one can never shrug off, and partly with sadness.
With the most beautiful piece of music I have ever heard in my life playing in the background, I wept for a nation that has yet to emerge from regressive attitudes and moral double standards, from the deep rooted prejudices and parochial mindsets.
I wept for a Republic.
I wept for us.