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The indomitable emotion that makes a nation- Celebrating the 72nd Republic Day of India

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Dr. Biplab Chatterjee, my brother sent me a picture of a kid basking in the warmth of the pleasant winter sun in Shillong, Meghalaya lodged on his father’s back. A kid who was oblivious to all that was going on around him and all that he cared for was getting his meals on time and everything that his heart desired and that he could cry his way into. One look at his dreamy eyes and a flurry of emotions crossed my mind. I asked myself what would be my answer if this kid magically developed verbal skills and asked me where he was born and what he could expect from the land that he was all set to grow up in.

The first words that came to my mind were from Swami Vivekananda’s speech from the First World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago. He would grow up in a country that was built and nurtured by the oldest order of monks in the world. No matter what religion he belonged to he will enjoy every festival and the splendid and mouthwatering delights that come with it unhindered. He will get a chance to enjoy a belly full of Biryani (Eid), a healthy serving of delicious cakes (Christmas), and also a sumptuous serving of Khichdi and tomato chatni (Durga Puja) within a few months of the year. If he chooses to, he could go ahead and help himself to 7-course meals at Sikh Langars 365 days a year without ever being asked his name or religion.

No matter his religion, cast or creed, he will be almost invariably be treated with equal disdain by the computer system and Artificial Intelligence system of the Indian Railways and will most definitely never get a confirmed berth on a train until he becomes a Senior Citizen. He would be lucky enough to grow up in a country where there was no concept of arranged or forced marriages as here we refer to it as just marriages. He will, until he is old enough, refer to the moon as mama. If he is born in Guwahati, then Mama would mean the city Police or Dr. Himanta Biswa Sharma (Our Health Minister).

He will most definitely get the first taste of melody and the folk tales of the country from his mother or grandmother. As he grows up, his life will definitely get tougher but he will never feel his spirit detached from the spirit of the land. There will always be someone more frustrated with his life than him. No matter how battered and alone, he will find company in strangers during a cricket match or Bihu dance. There will be at least one friend who will always tell him to drink off all his pains even if he has no money to buy the drink. There will always be a large assortment of mohalla wallas who will go berserk if he stands in “matric porikha” but will almost equally lambast him if lands 3rd division with compartmental in the same exam.

There are many emotions that are specific to being an Indian and these emotions transcends all religions, economic and social boundaries and it is these emotions that make us Indian. The Republic Day is the celebration of one such indomitable emotion that makes us who we are— the emotion of being the nation that is India. 

It has been 71 years since our elders decided and propounded how we would see ourselves and the society in the years to come through a document that supersedes — in power — every other document in this country. The Constitution of India is in many ways the soul of the nation that not only drives its massive engines by keeping it level headed and enabling its thrusters with the necessary fuel to push forward but also ensures that that the onward surge of the nation is never at the cost of the lives and liberty of its citizen. 26th January 1950 was the day when this historic and decisive document came into force. It was also the day when the great nation of India truly took over the reins of its own fate into its own hands. Ever since the 26th of January has been a day of celebration and fanfare for the nation and it is often on this day that the entire nation — that is on so many other occasions divided and tormented by its own diversity — comes together as one even if it is for 24 hours. It is this day that the tri-color dominates all other colors whether it is saffron, green, white, or red. It is this day that the entire nation shuns most of the swanky new channels and switches back to the old and euphoric Doordarshan. It is to watch the Republic Day parade on the Rajpath immersing their senses and the nation as a whole back in the memories and glories of the nostalgia of its past and the colorful diversities of its existing culture.

As a nation, we have come a long way. We started off as a nation of 37 crore souls and we are now a nation of 140 individuals. We have made rapid advances in the field of science, technology, culture, defense, and education. From a nation that was robbed of its identity and respect under brutal British rule, we have become a beacon of hope and inspiration for the world. My pride knows no bounds when I realize that even after being subjugated to 200 years of British rule that was marked by looting and pilferage of our resources to the west, we are still a country rich in resources, wealth, and culture. We still hold our own at the table of the nations of the world and have been over the years influencing generations with our cultures, religion, and way of life. While a large chunk of the citizen of our country looks to the west with awe and reverence, they still remain oblivious to the greatness and varied and rich culture of their own great nation.

The greatness of a nation is not just weighed in by its achievements in terms of all that has been mentioned above. An incredibly important aspect of it is how well the nation can guard its borders. The country has fought 6 wars with Pakistan and China since its independence and has been successfully fending off terrorist attacks and other similar aggravations on a daily basis. The herculean task of safeguarding the independence and sovereignty of the nation not only underlines the prowess of the country’s defense forces but also in their tales of bravery and sacrifice we find the true essence of the spirit of India. In the immortal lines of Kavi Makhan Lal Chaturvedi — even a flower that blossoms on this land desire to decorate the path that is taken by the brave to defend their motherland. Such is the respect and aura of the Indian defense forces. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the Indian Army has come the farthest from being a colonial army that was used to occupy its own people and had to engage in battles against its own men and women. Today the army is not just mighty but also the most humane. But as the towering, Param Veer Chakra Winner late. Captain Vikram Batra gleefully put it, “ye dil maange more”.

Bollywood and cricket have been the two most identifying factors for us the world over. While the Hindi film industry churns out the largest number of films every year the world over, something very interesting has happened over the last few years in the other regions of the country in terms of cinema. The southern film industries have in a way integrated with the Hindi film industry with Hindi dubbed versions of the south Indian films finding their way into northern and eastern markets and this in a unique way unified the Indian film industry in a way that it was never was before. Bahubali wouldn’t have become the highest-grossing film of the country had it not been lapped up universally by all the markets of the country. What that has done for Indian cinema, the world over is, it has opened up the eyes of the foreign viewers to the multiple cultures and ethos of India and even they know what to expect from films of different regions of India. That may not seem like much but we must consider that most people in our country still refer to Mandarin and Cantonese as just “Chinese”. To make the world take notice of varied subcultures in your country is in a lot of ways recognition of your soft power.

Most of the people reading this write-up will know a lot more about cricket than I do. I haven’t been following cricket as much I used to when I was my mother’s company in watching every match that was telecast no matter how inconsequential it was. Whenever I tried to make her believe anything other than the fact that cricket was inconsequential, I was met with furious backlash. While it felt somewhat irritating then, now that she is no more, I sometimes reminiscences those fights and they bring a smile to my face. It also reminds me of the sheer power of the game that is much more than a game in our country.

Cricket started in England and the English brought it to India but now they are forced to watch helplessly as Indians have taken their game and made it a bigger source of income and revenue generation than a healthy portion of their overall economy. Such is the power of numbers and craze of a nation of 140 crore souls. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has grown in stature so much that someday we might just call it the Board of Control for Cricket in the world and everyone will agree. It was hilarious to see Shoaib Akhtar crying on an American social media Platform about ICC’s (Based in Dubai) ignorance of not featuring even a single Pakistani player in their world’s best cricketers lists. He was sure that ICC did it to please BCCI. Guess who is the CEO of ICC. It’s a dude named Manu Sawhney. Chuckle! Chuckle!

Few people would point this out but I feel that one of the most defining factors of the Indian culture is something that has over the years become important enough to garner its own show on Netflix. It is Indian marriages. India has always been known for its grand celebrations, spectacles, and elaborate associations and it has only gotten bigger with every year. While marriages still remain one of the holy trinity of interests in India — the other two being Cricket and Bollywood — it has now gone international. Europe, America, Africa —almost every country of the world has been a venue of at least one Gujrathi, Punjabi, Marwari, North Indian, or Bengali destination wedding.

An average Indian Wedding Photographer earns more than a state government gazetted officer legally earns in salaries and perks. Wedding Photographers like Joseph Radhik, Jain brothers Badal and Raja, Lakhbir Singh, Sundeep Singh, Shruti Khanna, and Jayant Chhabra are just as big names as the stars and industrialists they shoot. The take away from all this is the simple fact that these people would not be the celebrity that they are had marriages not been as important as they are here in India and had its reach not been growing as exponentially as it is from year to year. It is only a matter of time before Russians and Americans start choosing to exchange vows with an insane and grandiose Indian marriage theme setting albeit in their cultural ways.   

Doctors on duty during the Covid – 19 pandemic

Having said all that, the true fabric of our republic was not tested as cruelly as it was during the Corona Pandemic. The Covid-19 outbreak in so many ways destroyed the social fabric of the nation and made us unsocial for half a year. We are a warm lot and we love our handshakes, pats-on-the back, and hugs but the pandemic took that away from us in a matter of days. As we got deeper and deeper into the pandemic, we realized the true essence of brotherhood and the unseen bond that we all shared with each other. There were 100s of instances of never seen before goodness and godliness that marked all that is the very best in this country. There were instances of people risking their own lives for the greater good. There were also instances of people endangering others for their selfish motives but I am glad that the examples of goodness far outnumbered the ones of selfishness.

Just a few days back, I heard what was the most uplifting news of 2020 for me. India had developed and successfully tested an indigenous covid-19 vaccine that is now all set to be given to the people of the country and also sold internationally. This essentially means that a large chunk of people who will be saving themselves over the next few months will be able to do so because of the hard work, dedication, and also the sacrifice of my countrymen. In a world full of countries we have once again stood our ground and created something that is bound to help humankind as a whole.

After a catastrophic 2020, as we slowly walk into the wilderness of life in 2021, the Republic Day should serve as a reminder of the fact that we are all one soul and in our goodness and support of the others lies our strength and spirit. This nation moves when we heave each other and pull them out of their drudgery. This nation prospers when we bask in the glory of each other and lend a shoulder or a helping hand to support their weakness. This nation celebrates when the people that it is about flourishes and celebrates in it.

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