With August 15 around the corner, there is an air of excitement in the country. Rightly so, for we are going to celebrate the day when we, as a nation, got our independence after a long struggle of which we often read in our books, text books and newspapers.
We are reminded about the great leaders as well as common people who sacrificed the prime of their youth to help attain independence from the clutches from the cruel, exploitative colonial power. A few decades have passed and India has made giant strides in many fields. The country has prospered and so have its people. Yes, there are pockets of poverty and deprivation but efforts are going on to eradicate these.
Nationalism runs deep among the people, but especially the children of this great nation. It is a pleasure to see and hear children sing the national anthem with their little chests puffed with pride. They sing with gusto and an enthusiasm that, unfortunately, diminishes as we grow. That enthusiasm turns into respect and a strange sense of devotion.
As we step into adulthood, some of us become cynical towards our country. The reasons can be many: our needs and desires have not been met leading to anger towards our country. Some of us might be disillusioned but we adjust with the thought that it is not the country which is to be blamed but the leaders who are not able to deliver. Human beings are frivolous by nature. If we get what we desire, we praise and appreciate and if we don’t get what we aspire we are quick to criticise. Feelings for the country also fall in this category.
There are the very rich who sit in their plush, luxurious drawing rooms and criticise the country and there are also those who do not have necessities and thus, feel qualified to criticise the actions of the government. There are others who praise the country despite the drawbacks. There are the richest amongst the rich who swear by the country. So, a lot depends upon your nurturing as well as your personal experiences. But by large, a big chunk of the population believes that India is a great country which will only rise to further greatness.
There are a lot of cases where young boys and girls are returning from foreign shores to serve the Motherland. It is amazing to see them work in rural areas to uplift the downtrodden and the poor. It is surprising because these young boys and girls could have made a fortune abroad, but decided to come back and return to their country, which had helped them stand on their feet.
There are other people who have done remarkably well in their life and have returned to their roots after making it big in the Western world. They are contributing to the country by sharing a huge part of their earnings for the development of their neighbourhood village or the community. These all are diverse shades of nationalism.
What prompted me to think on this issue were two stray remarks which I came across in the past few months. I would like to talk about the first positive comment on nationalism which gave me goosebumps.
For the past few years, I was seeking information on the martyrs who have laid their lives in the service of the nation. I would leave comments so that I would get more information where I lacked any. One day I got a phone call from a stranger who wanted the address of a particular martyr who hailed from Punjab. It took me some time to understand the intention of the caller. As he talked about himself I could only listen in awe.
The caller was one Jitendra Singh from Surat, Gujarat. He worked as a gatekeeper in one of the prestigious private universities. As to why he wanted the address of the martyr, left me dumbfounded. He told me that since the Kargil War he had taken upon himself the task of writing a letter of condolence to the families of all the martyrs. He said that while he could do nothing else, writing that short letter was his way of saluting the martyr and the sacrifice of the families.
He also praised the young boys and girls of his college who, when they learnt the intentions and the work of Jitendra Singh accumulated money and bought a cart load of postcards so that Jitendra Singh could write without any hiccups. He told me that the young did not run away from the nation and they not only got postcards for him, which lasted for years but also went around the town collecting money to be sent to the defence fund. Classic example of one man inspiring many others.
The other example, which I am going to mention here, left me very angry and sad. On one of our visits to the parliament in Delhi a comment by a relative of a student left me numb. It was an educational tour and most of the students were excited and happy to visit the parliament as well as the museum at Rashtrapati Bhavan. But some of the students wanted to have a good time by visiting the market. As we had gone from Chandigarh to Delhi, time was a constraint.
The students also wanted to go to the National War Memorial if time permitted. But going to the National War Memorial would mean skipping the fun time at the market. When the students insisted that they wanted to go to the National War Memorial one of the relatives of the student said, ‘Why go to the War memorial? It is only some pieces of stone.’ I was shocked. The useless pieces of stone were not just stones for each stone had the name of a martyr inscribed on it. Ask the families of the martyrs the memories which are invoked when they see the name of their dear one on that lifeless wall. The wall does not remain lifeless but comes alive with memories which are both happy as well as sad. The moment I gathered my wits and rebuked him, the boy,who was running a business tried to make amends. But the damage had been done. I would never be able to respect him again.
Thus, nationalism reflects in actions as well as in our thoughts. You will hear people compare India with the Western countries and lament its lack of development. You will also hear people criticise the citizens of this country. Well then that is where you and I come in. We are the population of this country, and we can make a difference. And remember, we are a young country when we compare ourselves with America or the United Kingdom who set their house in order many centuries before us. So it’s that time of the year when you can promise to serve your nation to the best of your abilities.
Congratulations on this pious day and for being citizens of this huge, beautiful, diverse country which is developing despite innumerable hurdles. Let us hope and pray that better sense prevails and each of us does our duty religiously.