Today is practically the first time ever that I’ve felt patriotic.
Yesterday was Independence Day; I slept through flag hoisting in my area. Ate the chocolate my grandparents brought me, but didn’t part, as such. Today I visited the Chennai chapter of the India Against Corruption movement.
I fell in love with my country.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember what we do things for. We ask ourselves what the point was, why people bothered to die for the nation all those decades ago when this is the state of the nation over sixty years down the line. There are more problems than solutions, more things of which to be cynical than proud.
Very similarly, it’s also easy to lose sight of the purpose of the massive swell of support Anna Hazare’s got, why our people are doing the things they do to show that they are with him. It’s easy to think that no one man deserves a full day of TV news coverage to the exception of all else.
It’s a sad world where twenty four hours of continuous reportage can’t tell you the pluses and minuses of the whole business. But confusion is the life-blood of certain people in power, and confusion is a hard weapon to fight against.
This is why Anna Hazare has gained the love and respect of the people: he came in context of a felt need. Before his fast in April, if you remember, was the mess of several dozen scams and the refusal of the Government to take cognisance until the Supreme Court intervened. I, at least, was frustrated to the point of rage. I seriously considered finding a seat or a job or something abroad, so I could get the hell out of this place.
Then came Anna Hazare, and things changed. He came with a message people cared about, which is why people support him. He came at a time when people were ready to kill, and he made sure his movement was non-violent.
The Government seemed to respond, and it’s true, I was impressed by the fact that they took five members of Anna’s choice into the Bill drafting committee.
That was the very last thing they did right, but this post isn’t about Government idiocy; it’s about why I felt patriotic today.
I stood in a candle-light vigil tonight at No.153, Surendra Developers, LB Road, Tiruvanmiyur, Chennai (find the spot here). I shouted Vande Mataram! Acham Illai! Bharat Mata ki Jai! We Want Jan Lokpal! and other multilingual slogans.
I was proud of my people not because I have to be, but because I saw real people caring about real things and trying to make a difference. I was proud, because I’m angry with this Government and I see like-minded people willing to inconvenience themselves to tell the Government that they aren’t doing a good job.
I saw hundreds of people in the quietest city of India come together in protest. I stood with them, and my heart lifted. I realised some small part of what it must have been like during the ’40s, what it must have been like Â during Emergency. I felt proud to be Indian, because my definition of Indian begins with the people I met today.
Today is a red letter day in my life. I believe in a cause, so I took a step towards helping it become reality. And I saw hundreds of others who care much more than I do.
In the words of some man just interviewed on TV, It isn’t about which side you are on the Lokpal divide any more. The movement has become one for systemic changes and against the high-handed stubborn stupidity of the Government. It’s become a movement for democracy – in support of your rights, and mine.
That’s why I was proud to stand in that vigil today. Because I did my bit to safeguard the rights of my people. It was a tiny bit, but it was all I could do today, so instead of beating myself up about not doing more, I’m proud I went at all – and so, so, so proud that there were people there all day, people going on indefinite fast, people signing up in front of my eyes – youngsters, senior citizens, mothers, babies, there were members of every section of society.
I love my country. I came out of that vigil prouder and happier than I’ve ever been before, counting the day I held the first copy of my book.
And really, that says it all, doesn’t it?
Come on, say it with me – Jai Hind!