There is something remarkable that struck me after reading your blog post, which has also now evoked many comments, critical and quite jingoistic ones too. You, through the entire length of your blog spoke with great veneration and gratitude for the soldiers guarding our frontiers. Your words and phrases often moistened my eyes. Dear Lal, your heartfelt sentiments is what many of us Indians hold close to our bosom. No commoner would asperse and belittle a soldier. But what was alarmingly outlandish in your post was this deft innuendo, the urbane aspersion, the allegation that many of us have no regard or gratitude for the Lance Naiks, the Subedars and the officers who brave weather and the tempestuous climate, the terrain and the enemy munitions and isolated from their loved ones man the frontiers against adversaries and foemen from across the border. I wonder what provoked you to display such naïve and bizarre opinion.
Before I go further what I must say is that I and many who hold an opinion similar to mine on the vitiated social fabric in the country, about life and what we call social relationships etc do not repudiate your right to comment and opine as you wish and as you did. We do not demand you be jettisoned to an alien country for expressing your right to opinion. This, I hope you will appreciate, is unlike the forces that are at play in the country now in the name of patriotism, nationalism and culture.
You indignantly ask if we, Indians had even an iota of humane consideration and feeling at least of that the Pakistanis' expressed for the entrapped soldiers in the avalanche in the Siachen glacier. Pray, what has the plebian got to do with an expert manoeuvre and rescue operation that had to be organised by the political establishment and the military? You seem to be directly alleging that Indians collectively lost sense of gratitude and patriotism and we were only concerned about the right to voice our opinion on trivia ( as you opine) such as freedom of expression, disregarding the freedom we have; the freedom safeguarded by the uniformed men manning the borders of the country.
Yes, now I can guess, I have understood what you euphemistically addressed. It is not the avalanche in Siachen or the precious lives lost there that is as troubling to your conscience as the persistence of enlightened noises made against fascist tendencies that we have been seeing for a while.
Dear Lal, tell me what do you think- you, me or the man on the street got to do with the la affaire Solar , the bar sleaze, the corruption, political horse trading and pimping, calculated cultivation of divisiveness, the communal and ethnic cleansing, xenophobia,the distaste for what is different, that are now facts of life? Do you think we don’t have our lengthy shadows etched in all that? Yes, you and I are equally culpable, for us as a society and electorate vote rapscallions and people with tainted past to power, to rule over the country. But do understand they are just the reflection of us – you and me. We deserve the rulers we get! I would now ask you to go back a few decades in our little lifes' span, to the Model School era. Where our minds defiled by caste and religion, by faith, by race, by language? Certainly not! Abdul Harris was equally dear as a Srinivasan or a Jose! So do not hold any fancy notions of washing yourself free off the grime or harbour hope of redemption and absolution from all the sins.
You touch upon very passionately about patriotism, love for the motherland and as some call it nationalism. You state that apathy to the motherland may only make one an intellectual but not a patriot. Your metaphor of the despicable act of casting away aged parents to the disaffection to the motherland may collect basketful of applause for you. But what is pity is that your understanding of nationalism or patriotism is naiveté, it is myopic, dangerous and lopsided. Lal, jingoism is not patriotism and the former is a hideous concoction, a brew that has brought about untold human tragedies throughout the history of mankind. What I would like to remind you is that none of the votaries whom you subtly and so nonchalantly trivalised- the intellectuals, or the students of universities (which you were one few decades ago and I can talk about that first hand) defiled the motherland. There may be cases of renegades, turncoats, quislings , troublemakers and felons and they must be dealt under the law of the land. All that we say is that we disagree with the culture the acclaimed patriots in the government and their nationalist (sic) cahoots have all these recent times being trying to pile on us. If you deny that fact under the guise of patriotism, if you intend to hide beneath the apron of what you call nationalism well that must be a very sorry state of mind that you are holding now. I hope not!
Blind acquiescence of authority and a blind belief in a system of government or an “ism’ is dangerous than walking into a tidal wave. Germans understood that and in a very bitter way in the 1940s. We Indians understood that in the Emergency era. Beware, those who forget history are condemned to repeat it!
Mr. Modi reportedly said a few days ago in an address to students at the Benares Hindu University, "Don't let the student in you die.We want BHU to be like Nalanda and Takshashila". Certainly a high ask in the current context. What Modi forgot was that Nalanda and Takshashila thrived as great places of learning for the World itself was because of the great Indian tradition of argumentation.They thrived on the freedom to think and express.
Feeling the breath of great men and in it their thoughts through their literary creations is something of which I need not tell you about. The quest for knowledge that should keep us alive! I suggest you make little effort and get to feel the words speaking to you from the writings of Bertrand Russell, Bernard Shaw, J.Krishnamurthy, Mark Twain, Nehru , Tagore , Osho to mention a few. Watch in silence the resistance organised by Medha Patkar against the grandiose schemes in the Narmada valley that was ostensibly done for the “greater common good” or read the exemplary analytical essays of one of our contemporary Arundati Roy. You may hate her, but you may not succeed in foisting a valid argument against. Lal, the essays of J.Krishnamurthy on nationalism and patriotism are simply inspiring and beautifully- beckoning you to be part of a better world. In passing let me quote George Bernard Shaw’s very simple, but emphatic expression on the subject “Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it....”
Hear out what Amabeadkar had to say about a speech on the nobility of “patriotism” to an untouchable (ostracised by virtue of birth over which he had no control), or what would you say in recent times to a dispossessed tribal in some remote village in central India. Do you know that in this great country of ours there are villages and hamlets where dalits are prohibited from drawing water? To them what patriotism, nationalism or love for the motherland can you sell? To a family whose breadwinner was lynched by mob pressed on by macabre thirst for blood and driven by fanatic religious agenda, can you sell patriotism? The artificially controlled, pleasant air inside your study in which you may have penned this post of anguish is not what is out elsewhere. But remember, that the privilege you have and the comparative comfortable cocoon I have is alien to 80 percent and more of the Indian population, Lal. If you are suggesting that they forfeit their voices, their right to protest and even to dissent and to express, for being labeled patriots and nationalist then what do you then make of them? The air and earth that you hold sacrosanct is meaningless and empty to such souls.
If one were to hold your expressions on patriotism and nationalism as inviolable and sacrosanct then one of the most amazing human minds ever, Albert Einstein must be consigned as a renegade and an anti- national by the State of Israel. In the book “Einstein on Israel & Zionism: His Provocative Ideas About the Middle East” by Fred Jerome (St. Martin’s Press, New York), you can see the political views of the great scientist and his objection to the creation of a Jewish State. This was what he said, “I should much rather see reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish State". An opinion such as that on Kashmir or Nagaland, or even the raped tribal belt of central India can be seditious. Voicing one’s opinion on such matters will be classified by you gentlemen as anti- national. By the way would you recommend that brave soldiers on the front in Siachen, in Ladakh, in the Rana of Kutch , in Arunachal Pradesh be given a choice between maintaining the man made political borders or shelving them to strive towards the oneness of human race? Indeed, today it may seem an utopian gibberish but the every thought that had brought about tectonic shift in human lives were ridiculed and thrown out as blasphemy and ranting of lunatics. All the great thinkers whom I mentioned have advocated this half a century and more ago. So please do not glorify jingoism and what we see of that.
You speak passionately about the great country India is, its great culture, its ancient traditions, its natural beauty, its ancient treatise. You plead to make young minds aware of these manna from heaven, introduce them to the “Letters of a father to his daughter”! You rightly say that these will suffice to infuse sense of love for the country.
Dear Lal, what is the India you speak of, you sign off the post wondering what is it there to live when India is no more? When we speak of India we are referring about a political idea that is about a little over a century old in the time span of a less than a score of thousand years since we know that human inhabitants colonised the sub-continent and when civilisation of reckoning came about much later. Hence I guess a more realistic emotion will be sufficient here.
Now, ancient culture is awe inspiring. But tell me, single out a monolithic culture that you can call your own and unique amidst the melee of multiple cultures, ethnicity, languages, dialects and so on? Let me mention a small example here in the context. When self-proclaimed custodians of “Bharthia sanskriti” culture go on rampage protesting against invasion of alien culture, what culture are they claiming to protect. In nearby Tamilnad State a marriage between the maternal uncle and his niece is accepted, while just across the ghats in Kerala that is horrendous – its incest! Can you speak of any similarity of culture in a remote Naga hamlet or a poverty stricken sub-Saharan Africa like village in Bihar and of our Mallapuram? Even Deepavali is celebrated varied in Punjab and the other parts of north when compared to the south. Buffalo or an Oxen is decapitated in the north east during Durga Pooja, while in piety(sic) filled Gujarat that is sacrilege! Can you clear my incertitude here?
MohanLal dear friend, India as we know is not merely a political ramshackle nation created post 1947. Even if one concedes it is so the multitude of diversity- ethnicities, of culture, tradition, languages, dialects, faith, social customs to name a few aspects, are unfathomable to an Indian like me, let alone a foreigner. It is the rainbow effect of the harmony of all this- the sum total that is India to many of us. Even the military is a spread of different colours, ethnicity and language. It is this fabric that many of us long to live for, not the vitiated, divisive, deprived land that is threateningly held in front of our eyes to behold mutely.
As for the majestic mountains and rivers that the sub- continent is blessed with, we can only wish that we can safe keep them for posterity for we don’t own it we are simply trustees, custodians.Aren’t we?But alas I have all apprehensions and with reason too that, that may be a far-fetched dream.But it is likely from what we have noticed in the past two years or there about, the puritanical patriots you seem to speak for do not consider that - respect and care for Nature ,a virtue!
Oh dear Lal, I've gone too far. A commoner like me may not be able to attract readers. You may not even notice this reply. However let me sum up reminding you these lines from Gitanjali. I shudder to think if Rabindranath Tagore would be branded anti- national in the present India we live in for pronouncing these lines.
"Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake .“