The National Anthem is not About Religion or Class - Why the Fuss?
All you need to do is stand up for 52 seconds, watch the Tricolour fluttering merrily on the screen, to the strains of a pleasant and inspiring song, which happens to be the National Anthem of India.
Difficult? Strenuous? Even so, how many times in a month are you being asked to do it - twice, thrice, or maybe less or more, depending on how often you visit the cinema.
Why a cinema hall?
When the brouhaha about the National Anthem started, I felt bemused. In my own experience, I have always felt a sense of pride, standing up in a cinema hall for the anthem and seeing the rest stand at attention too. It felt like a shared moment of collective pride in being part of a nation.
We are not talking about religion here, nor class. There is no discrimination of any class of people or intolerance of another's religious beliefs here. This is not about some devious indoctrination or conversion. It is just about a small shared token of acknowledgement to your nation.
It appears that the National Anthem has no legitimacy beyond sporting events and 15th August and 26th January. If the anthem is played beyond these boundaries, and, more so, horror of horrors in a cinema hall, it is strangely a case of 'force-feeding' patriotism.
In my childhood years, a cinema hall was an appropriate enough place to play the anthem. In fact, memories of watching movies in those days are inextricably linked with the standing up at attention for the National Anthem, after the show. Was it a big deal? On the contrary. Everybody stood with respect and there was no intellectual angst or questioning of the rightness or wrongness of the gesture. For ultimately, it is just that. A small gesture to acknowledge your country through the symbol of its flag. Why was this sort of nationalism acceptable then, but is objectionable today? Because a war had been fought recently then, and the qurbani of our soldiers was fresh in the mind? Well, can only wars justify patriotism? Is it silly and irrelevant to nurture patriotic feelings otherwise and keep in mind the sacrifices it took and takes to be independent and free?
Another mock query. Why, in a cinema hall and not malls, clubs, restaurants. Simple. A cinema hall has one unique quality that marks it out as being different from all other places cited. It is the one spot which cuts across all class lines, for here you have under the same roof, all classes of people, and all creeds. This makes it a perfect place to run the anthem to gently jog the sensibilities of the crowd, and stoke the ember of patriotism.
Also, let's get one more thing clear - patriotism is not only about borders. It is about the soil that has nourished you, (Mere desh ki mitti), and which has granted you the right to call it your own. It is about the free air you breathe, the patch of sky that is rightfully yours. And, it is about your heart swelling in pride and gratitude at these supreme benedictions. These bounties have not come cheap. They have been fought for and won by the constant 'standing at attention' (in peace-time and war) of our Armed forces.
Ask the homeless refugees of the world, what it is to have a homeland you can call your own. Then, reflect on the value of patriotism and how it can never be force-fed. For, ultimately patriotism is the most natural thing, being as it is, about pride, gratitude, and thankfulness.
In the Ramayana, Lord Ram has praised love for one's Motherland as the highest heaven. There are certain noble emotions in human beings which if properly manifested create a sense of inner effulgence and well-being. Patriotism is one of them. It is as natural as breathing. Where's the question of being forced?
Hearing the Jana Gana Mana - even in a cinema hall - reminds me of this debt I owe my nation. This debt - to the nation and its Armed forces - is something we should never forget. The Anthem, reminds me each time, of how hard-won freedom was, and to be continually grateful for it.