After two score and eight years of living as Indian I am still not sure if I am a patriot. If patriotism is saluting the flag, I do, and being an ex-soldier, know well how to do it, but if patriotism is singing jan-gana-mana, I am not, for I find the salutation long-winding and lacklustre whereas the Vande Mataram is far more succinct and short, musical and meaningful. If patriotism is watching television during Indo-Pak cricket wearing a fun mask, again, I fail to qualify.
I am talking about the patriotism born of a sense of belonging and a national pride. I am sure no right-thinking man can have a clear notion as to how exactly the one born in India should show his or her love for the country.
What made me thinking in this vein was the Sunday’s launch of ISRO’s 100th space mission. We make astounding achievements in some quarters and appalling failures in others.
We have moon mission and mars mission and we may soon have inter-stellar travels too. India has the largest constellation of remote sensing satellites in the world and is a major player in vending such data in the global market.
The ISRO has developed self-reliance in space tech. It launched 27 foreign satellites successfully (no mean task) and the Sunday mission would take the tally to 29. India began launching commercial rockets since 1999.
In April this year India had developed the ‘China Killer’ 5000 km Agni V rocket. India thus became a member of the elite six-nation club that can deploy intercontinental ballistic missiles. The five other countries are the US, China, Russia, the UK and France. But in the process India spends some $38.6 billion on defence, more than quadruple of what is spent on health care for its citizens.
I can’t understand, like majority of the country’s citizens, how do we make flashes of brilliance and achieve great feats amid bone-chilling corruption in public life and general inefficiency. While we are making long strides in science and technology, we are miserably lagging in rain forecast and natural calamities. Our weather bureau still ladles out shop-worn laughable phrases like ‘likelyhood of scattered rains” and do not venture out to see the next day! How come we are still steeped in poverty? Our billionaires are growing at an amazing rate while people even in cities go panic-stricken at the first rumour that comes along. Despite our technology prowess we could not prevent the N-E exodus, nor could we persuade people in Hyderabad’s old city to ignore the atrocious claim that a divine baby was born.
We produce the highest number of medical professionals who are unable to diagnose common cold. We have engineers who build world’s engineering marvel — the Konkan Railway (salute E Sreedharan). And we also have contractors and engineers whose structures come down when someone coughs nearby.
We have the most selfish political leaders. who would light a beedi when their beards are on fire. It is this curse that is dragging the country back. Look how our regional leaders look at every national issue from the communal, caste point of view. Can we claim that we live in the modern world considering the way we conduct our business?
There is an apocryphal story of Hitler’s Germany. When the Fuehrer was trying to make a strong nation infusing patriotism, he ordered that all public programmes, entertainment or serious, must begin and end with saluting the Nazi Germany. To ensure that citizens really follow the instructions, Adolf Hitler himself used to go around in disguise to check. Once when the signature song of patriotism was being sung, he prodded the next man and commented on his patriotism. “Not patriotism, I am afraid.” Why afraid? You can slink through the rear door and nobody will know, suggested the Fuehrer. “Hush,” said the man, “that devil (Hitler) may be around.” This is some patriotism!
About the Author (Author Profile)
PK Surendran is senior editor at Postnoon.