This was the Independence day long week end! So the media was full of themes related to patriotism etc..After reading all those pieces, i started wondering what patriotism means to me? What makes me a patriot? Why should i be a patriot?
Patriotism is a difficult idea to define. If i call myself a patriot, so will a naxalite deep in the jungles of Andra Pradesh, so will a devoted RSS worker somewhere in India, so will a soldier who is fighting a meaningless war somewhere in Kashmir. But are our ideas the same? Definitely no.. our ideas of patriotism is as different as is apples from pears. Patriotism just like Bhagat Singh can be claimed to their own by people of all political colours!
If i look at all these ideas of patriotism, each one is true in that particular context. So what is it for me?
Is patriotism limited to standing for the national anthem? hoisting flags? or is it something greater?
For a long time patriotism was for me more of such symbols. Flags, the national anthem, hating Pakistan (which i feel is ingrained as a necessary symbol of patriotism after learning Jan Gan Man!!!).As i grew older, my ideas went on to mature from these symbols to love and appreciation of my country. Our democracy, our fundamental rights even if we manage to forget our fundamental duties most of the time..
Now in the prime of my adult life, i feel patriotism today is about doing our duties to the nation, contribute in a small way to the betterment of our country, Not that i need to be a rocket scientist or a civil servant, but being myself. I can do a difference. Just by doing something like not dirtying our roads, being responsible when using our public transportation, not dirtying up our buses and trains.. and biggest of all, Stop complaining about our corrupt system, pothole ridden roads, and not resigning to the 'nothing can change India'
After having come across Atlantic ocean, i figure out, my India can still hold its head high. The United States being the oldest and most powerful democracy is not free from flaws. Only 40% vote to elect their president, the candidates spend millions and millions on campaigning, there are poor and homeless, the system has its own problems, the income inequality and the liberal gun laws which makes the frustration of being poor even more dangerous. And of course on the more bread-butter level of life, there are traffic jams, there are frauds on scales we can never imagine (think of bear and sterns & Enron)
On the contrary in India, we are so many people, it is definitely not easy for the machinery to be up and running with so many of us, so many of us not even bothering to pay taxes, so many of us just trying to make ends meet, so many of us having no access to medical and health facilities as well as education, employment and at times food. The number of starvation deaths have gone down (even if malnutrition prevails on a large scale.) We have a decent infrastructure given our resource constraint...our sound constitutional right, All these make me hold my head high up in the air.Make me proud of our country.
What pains me the most is our ability to appreciate such good things in our country, our culture, our heritage,our religion,our values...if we are to appreciate it and cherish it, is there any better patriotism than that?