Friday, 17 August 2007

For the Love of a Nation

15th August and 26th January are two special days for me. Two days ago I celebrated the 60th anniversary of my country's independence. Every year I wonder what makes that patriotic feeling come alive with such intensity for those of us who have not fought the battle for independence.

I was born in free India; just that side of liberalisation. My country has not been invaded and I have lived through one war that for me was fought on television. Most of the things that are commonly associated with patriotism have not even touched me. I could live the way I live here in many other countries of the world.

But still the tricolour makes me glow with pride and the national anthem gives me goosebumps. Is it because I was taught that a feeling called patriotism exists? Not really. I think it has more to do with the fact that I grew up here. And with the values and culture that my country stands represents in my eyes - its beauty, its diversity, its tolerance. There is something that is common to the way every Indian lives despite the apparent differences - this is generations of socialisation and culturisation at work! There is an Indian politics, an "Indian-ness" to how we think and react. It is a country of a billion cricket lovers, almost as many movie lovers. It is the Indian-ness that I celebrate on 15th August and 26th January.

Then I wonder, what differentiates this from the patriotism that makes people from one country hate people from another; that creates wars and makes people fight? Where is the line between celebrating and destroying, creating a Sarajevo, a Rwanda that hardly seems human anymore?

I wonder as an after thought, how I would react if my country was invaded or attacked in earnest? But then it is - almost everyday. With guns, with words, with actions. So where does the hatred come from? What is the nature of their love and the nature of mine? Why is one inclusive and the other exclusive? And most of all what DOES a nation and its independence mean?

PS: There always seem to be more questions than answers in my head!

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