Pariotism?

This was meant to be a comment to Jithesh’s blog, but it ended up so long, I decided to turn it into a blog post… this also is the first time I have blogged extempore!

On my earlier question in a comment to the last blog, I asked readers what they would think if they saw somebody burning the Indian National Flag. The intention behind the question was to ignite a thought process that I went through myself… how much do we know about the Tricolor?

The Flag Code of India expresses a preference for disposing of the national flag through the process of burning… if I hadn’t read that, I would consider it disrespectful to burn the tricolor, I’m sure most of you would feel the same way…

When I first saw the photograph, my mind went through the usual “Insult to National Pride” emotional trip, but I decided to place my judgment and emotions in cold storage until I learned more about it, and I did…

Thanks to Jithesh’s blog, I learned more about the Indian National Flag in one day than I have in my entire life. I read about the Flag Code, the Naveen Jindal case, which legally endorsed the right of every Indian citizen to fly the Indian Flag, I read about it’s origins and the whole process was humbling… I ended my brief study feeling angry and disappointed at myself for not knowing an iota of what I read, before I read it.

But apart from all the enlightenment, two facts shone through…

One, was the fact that in the photograph in question, no law was broken and the only violation of the Flag Code was the fact that the flag is dipped at a downward angle…If you think I’m justifying the act, read on…

The second realization was connected to something I have always done in my adult life, but never completely understood why, until today, that is: I have never bought one of these miniature paper/plastic/fabric toy flags that are sold on every street/store around Independence/Republic Day commonly used as an excuse to assuage the guilt we feel in the patriotic parts of our collective conscience during the remaining 363 unpatriotic days of the year. What has that got to do with disrespecting the flag? Allow me to explain…

Let’s for a moment, hypothesize that at the cost of that miniature flag (maybe 10 bucks), I would be able to buy one of my dream cars(Ridiculous? I know, but humor me while I make my point :-)), and I know fully well that I would not have a place to park it safely, in the pristine condition that it deserves to be kept in, and maybe not even afford to drive it with the respect it deserves?

Should I still buy it? Perhaps not…

Will I still buy it? Hell, yes I will… at 10 bucks, who wouldn’t?

If I get one day (or even 5 minutes!) to drive around in a McLaren SLR, it’s worth a lot more than 10 bucks, isn’t it? The National Flag is a symbol of National Pride. Why do we buy it if we cannot give it the complete unconditional respect that it deserves, even in disposal? How many of the people who have bought the millions of flags sold on our streets for two days in a year even remember what happened to those flags after those two days had passed? Now, all of us know about one of those flags and one of us was perhaps unfortunate enough to have been reminded of the sin by the photograph… what about the rest? I don’t intend to come across as preachy or “Holier than thou” here, but I never buy a flag, simply because personally, I don’t think I can give it the respect that our soldiers do when they give their lives up for it… For heaven’s sake, it took me all of 32 years, 5 months and 15 days to discover how to “respectfully dispose” of my National Flag! I realized today that I am as guilty of disrespecting the Indian National Flag as the person who left it in the spot captured by the photograph in the previous blog.

Borrowing a theme from Viren’s comment earlier, I leave you with several questions… feel free to discuss your thoughts on them.

How many people in the country refuse to stand in a movie theater when the National Anthem is played?

How many people who stand in that movie theater also stand when they hear the national anthem playing on TV, when they watch the Independence Day or the Republic Day ceremony?

How many of us agree with, and resent the notion that the National Anthem is forced on us in movie theaters by politicians in an obvious attempt to “Educate us”?

How different is forcing these “patriotic” norms on us, from the “religious” norms that several fundamentalist cultures force on their citizens?

Are our opinions about enforced patriotism different from our opinions on religious fundamentalism? If so, why?

Do you think, now, that you are as guilty of disrespecting the National Flag as I am, along with the person who was responsible for the scene in Jithesh’s photograph?