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Sunday, August 19, 2012

A day for soul searching

Mid-August is a time India and Indians take stock of their country and often also of themselves – what we achieved, and what we should have, but didn’t. The generally fractious Indians come together for a day, and feel good about their nation-in-the-making

Till about 15 years ago, I made it a point to see the live telecast (on Doordarshan) of the Indian Prime Minister’s Independence Day speech from the Red Fort, always comparing the successions of prime ministers that followed Indira Gandhi on how they matched her in getting the audience to respond to “Jai Hind!” at the end of their speech.

Nobody could. I’m sure nobody will, for a long time.

Sometime in the late 1990s, I stopped listening to these speeches because of the repetitive nature of the inanities.

From a distance that Toronto enforces, India on August 15 looks and feels inspiring, hopeful; even if one acknowledges its quintessentially chimerical nature.

This year, for the first time, I attended the Independence Day get together organised by the Indian consulate. It was – expectedly – an impressive event. And the one memory that will stay with me for long is my friend and his wife singing both the Indian and the Canadian national anthems flawlessly. Not many in the gathering that evening could do that.

There is an undeniable surge of patriotism and nationalistic pride that comes with singing the national anthem, and waving the tricolour whether it is in your apartment block’s cooperative society (as I did in India) or on the Dundas Square (as I do now in Toronto).

In Toronto, I have many friends of Pakistani origin, and I realise that the surge of patriotism, nationalistic pride on Independence Day is a shared sentiment.

But there’s also a growing weariness and disillusionment – both amongst Indians and Pakistanis – that people’s zeal and enthusiasm have been exploited for myopic gains, and that they have been cheated of the real value of freedom by successive leaders over the last 65 years.  

Here are links to two articles from The Times of India and Dawn that do a bit of annual soul-searching.

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