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Standing during the national anthem when no one is watching is nationalism

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Nilanjan Basu
Nilanjan Basu
I am a researcher, working in the field of condensed matter Physics .currently working as a postdoctoral fellow at UNiST, Ulsan South Korea.

Let’s be clear there is no physical reality that is called a ‘Nation’, nationalistic swashbuckling might be visceral but it is in part exercising an imagination. So, the imminent question that follows is what is a Nation then, well there is no nation to point at. We can point at the Sanchi Stupa and the Taj Mahal and proclaim what they are but can we point at the paddy field and call that it India? Well, paddy fields are fairly common in a dozen of countries, it can be Laos, Vietnam, and another couple of dozen countries.

Nation, the very idea of nation is an imagination, a shared imagination of what we live and die for. No matter how many ideas, laws, and constitutions you synthesize this very crux of the matter is that a nation is an imagined reality that will never change. If tomorrow by any magic 8 billion or so people vanish all nations will cease to exist, but the Ashokan pillar as well as the Paddy field will still exist. Here lies a wee problem, an imagination by definition is unbound and is susceptible to change with time.

The nation that built the Pyramids both in Egypt and Mexico ceased to exist long ago. Their gods, language, traditions, customs almost all anthropogenic elements are not practiced by the current-day population residing in those geographical locations. One can argue that their ancestors built those and although the political, religious, and cultural entities ceased to exist they are still the same nation with a little bit of ancient reminiscent still prevailing in their societies.

Well, all our ancestors originated from Africa, so are we an African nation now and the Egyptian national emblem is the Eagle of Saladin, signifying Arab nationalism not the eye of Horus from ancient Egypt. A real problem it seems how they will celebrate if they win the FIFA World Cup, as Arabs or as Africans. Luckily for us Indians if we the cup we shall celebrate as Indians only. It seems odd and counterintuitive but the same geographical area can give rise to many different nations over a span of a few millennia, this is particularly visible if have a glance over the North or South American nations. Almost all the elements of the pre-Columbian nation are absent in the present-day Americas.

The point is that you are what you practice, not what your ancestors did a few thousand or a few million years ago Modern-day Iran, Iraq or Syria is diametrically opposite to the nation that the Sumerians, Akkadians and, Babylonians lived and died for.

We are really lucky India is saved in this context, the culture, philosophy, and most traditions are still living as they lived a few thousand years ago. Nevertheless, in the first place if the idea of nation is so lucid then how anyone a child, adult, middle-aged or octogenarian shall practice nationalism?

What is a nation?

Popular culture depicts some professions are full of nationalism to the brim, like the armed forces. It is true servicemen live and die for the flag. Then what about the illiterate janitor or the sweeper, some of them may not know the national anthem or the philosophy for the adoption of the Indian flag. I bet some privileged and so-called educated Indians are too ignorant about the philosophy part. So how this janitor who doesn’t have any influence over the discourse of the culture, language, politics, or economy and can’t write his name will practice nationalism?

Will he ever have the courage and confidence to call himself or herself a patriot? Off course he can, it is cynical to assume that only and only sacrifice alone is the benchmark for nationalism. What is a nation? Whatever we practice is a nation. The food we eat, how we eat, how we talk, what language we use, what gods we pray to, the traditions, the attire we use, what philosophy we uphold, everything anthropogenic constitutes a nation. It is safe to assume that a Nation lives if and only if the adherents and the practitioners of its ideas, values, customs, religion, and traditions still believe and practice all these elements.

The city of Rome and Athens is still alive and kicking today, but nobody pray to Jupiter, and Athenea, the nation that prayed to those gods are extinct. We Indians should be proud of ourselves that we kept our gods, customs, and traditions alive millennia after millennia, invasion after invasion. To define a nation a temporal threshold is important, the time from which the journey of a civilization commenced. The current-day Indian civilizational philosophy can be said at least 5000 years old, which commenced with the birth of the Indus Valley civilization. Since then, a continuous and similar anthropogenic activity has existed on Indian soil.

The Pashupati Seal discovered at an archaeological site in Mohenjo-Daro is dated 2350-2000 BCE, and the analysis of the seal’s iconography is widely associated with lord Shiva. People who think the Indian nation was born on 15th August 1947 are ignorant as an iron nail plain and simple. In every aspect and perspective of the definition of a nation current day India is an ancient nation.

Practicing nationalism

An Indian living in Uganda can be a true Indian nationalist whereas some left-liberals living in Howrah can just be pleasure seeking selfish and self-centered being, who has no respect for Indian culture let alone proudly practicing it. Most of these liberals at the slightest chance will renounce their Indian passports for more comfort and pleasure. It is the core values, respect for the customs and traditions, and proud practicing that make us a nationalist.

Speaking the mother tongue be it Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, or Urdu, eating with hands, wearing Indian attire, and so on. Mere reading the newspaper can be a small but sincere gesture of nationalism. As the urge to be informed about the people and the nation and having a conscious interest in their well being is what nationalism is. Practicing every anthropogenic element that the indopsphere offers are true nationalism.

Practicing the idea is the first step, you will only defend what you practice and what you believe in. This exactly happens with the Bangladeshi liberation war. The proud Bengalis of now Bangladesh had a very sensitive pride affixed to the Bengali language and when the Pakistanis tried to eliminate the influence of the Bengali language by employing a systematic subversion of the language the populace reacted vociferously. This created the seed for the liberation war.

Had there been no practice and no pride embroiled in the Bengali language there wouldn’t have been a Bangladesh. Selflessly practicing with pride, the idea of a nation that constitutes the nation is what makes anyone a nationalist.  Standing during the national anthem when no one is watching is nationalism. Mocking it while smoking is utter disrespect and a display of pathetic ignorance about the nation. But it shall be idiocy to blame these girls, it is the diminishing but still prevalent Nehruvian-Marxist paradigm of self-loathing and disrespect about the elements of Indopsphere that gave birth to such actions     

An illiterate janitor, a soldier, a doctor, or a teacher can be equally a nationalist. One may not sacrifice, and may not contribute to the economy but one can still be a true nationalist. It is the selfless respect towards the core values and the unapologetic gesture to defend those values when the occasion arises it what nationalism is. Visiting the Cellular Jail and paying homage to this national pilgrimage site is nationalism.

At this point, the reader might think all these are just verbosity and rhetoric, but we should keep in mind that the very idea of a nation and nationalism is just a shared imagination that can only be practiced by means of a collection of all these small gestures and acts. A wee act like Celebrating any good news with sweets is upholding a little bit of Indianness and a bit of nationalism. All these small steps culminate in the shared idea of Nation and Nationalism.

The pride and confidence among the current generation to practice Indianness and Indian culture will make the bedrock of the New India. Whoever be it a Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, or Christian proudly practicing the cultural elements of Indopsphere is a proud Indian and a nationalist. Many Indians think that Indian Muslims are some sort of a different race, they are not, they are Indians and from one perspective they are ‘Hindus” who just seem to follow a different way to reach God. Allah is related to the Aramaic word Elah which means ‘The God’. Be a proud Indian and be unapologetic while practicing it.

Dr. Nilanjan Basu.

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Nilanjan Basu
Nilanjan Basu
I am a researcher, working in the field of condensed matter Physics .currently working as a postdoctoral fellow at UNiST, Ulsan South Korea.
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