A Conversation About India

As I entered in Café Coffee Day with some friends, music boomed in my ears. It was the title track of movie Rang De Basanti. I see, the patriotic spirit is always awakened among citizens near Independence Day. As we sat down, my eyes darted to a poster on the windows of the café. Apparently a leading clothing chain of country too aimed at celebrating the spirit of independence by giving their customers 50% discount on their clothes if they buy on the eve of Independence. Nice. I shaked my head in half-amusement and half-contempt when my friend asked me what it was. “Nothing”, I brushed the question away.

“Still?”, she probed.

“Look at that poster, 50% off on clothes if you buy on the eve of Independence. How idiotic is that?”, I asked.

She giggled in response.

“Hey do you people know why was 15th august chosen as Indian Independence Day?”, Kush, the quiz whiz in the group asked all of us.

“It was the anniversary of Poorna Swaraj declaration by Congress?”, I answered disguising my confidence with doubt.

“No, it was actually more of a whimsical decision by Lord Mountbatten. But it was also the second year anniversary of Japan’s surrender after defeat in World War II on 15th August 1945. And by the way, Congress declared Poorna Swaraj on a 26th Jan. Hence, the republic day.”, he quipped.

Shit, I cursed. Almost got it right and yet I didn’t.

“Okay so we owe it to Japanese?”, I asked.

“I guess! And yes contrary to the common misconception, Jana Gana Mana was not written in praise of King George V. It was written in praise of God only.”, the quiz master continued.

“Seriously?”, this piece of trivia got to me. I had received an email some 5-6 years back which said that the anthem was written in praise of King
George V on his coronation day. Since then every time the anthem would be played in school, I just stood up in an upright position with my fists tightened but I would never actually sing the anthem. That became my way of respecting the country. I guess the mail was really just spam then. Silly me!

“Yes, it was a mix up by press”, he told.

“Damn the press! They are always mixing up things”, Sameer entered the conversation. He was dead against the Indian press and was always cynical about the way things were reported. Personally, I thought he took the news a bit too seriously but then I didn’t follow news much because it was common knowledge that most the channels of press were anyways biased towards one political party or the other.

Rahul Gandhi“You know CNN-IBN and Hindustan Times conducted this poll where most number of people would prefer Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Minister.
I mean, just how much dumb do they think the people are?”, Sameer said in an accusatory tone.

“Arey the poll must be 99% false, only 1% reliable!” I interjected and all of us burst into laughter.
While we ordered our drinks, Sameer was still talking about how media twists the truth and presents it to suit their interests.

“But then you need to see the other side of the coin too Sameer! Like in case of Commonwealth Games, media went all over the place crying foul about the corruption that took place in the whole process and now Kalmadi is in jail. A Raja, Kanimohzi, some top corporate executives who were involved in 2G scam are in jail too! Sure it took some time to indict them but atleast they were indicted! That has rarely ever happened before! What’s more, media didn’t spare their own people too, like Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghavi”, Aditi pointed out.

“Yeah but that’s mostly because of the judiciary and CAG. Anyways I just love the way Supreme Court and CAG is kicking the UPA ass”, Sameer grinned.

“I agree! And with Anna Hazare being adamant over Lokpal Bill, tough debates in Houses Of Parliament, this whole revolution against corruption has made the democracy come alive over the past couple of years”, i said.

“But still guys, India will always be India. All this activism will cool down after a while and no one would care about corrupt politicians or biased media persons or corporate lobbying! Do you know the current food inflation rate? 9.90%! People care about roti,kapda and makan! Not politics! Which is why when it comes to voting , they bring back the same government. I mean they forget the terror attacks, they forget the high prices and they forget the corruption. They earn for themselves, go on holidays with their families, watch movies on weekends, eat out, pay their taxes and all this while they complain how useless the government is. But when it comes to voting, they forget everything! ”, Kush lamented.

“Well, we can only hope it’ll change in future!”, Aditi said.

“Yes, I’m sure the about the change in government. I don’t think people will ever change though. They will just go out to buy clothes at half the price because some stupid marketing manager thought that it’s a great way to celebrate the “spirit of independence!”, Kush said with contempt.

“Or maybe they will tune into FM to feel Indian by listening to songs or watch Independence Day or Swades on television”, I said with obvious sarcasm.

“Hey Swades is a good movie by the way. An NRI returns back to home because of a guilty conscience and stays back to put his skills to use for the benefit of his own nation and not as some arrogant idiot who has come back to tell his villagemen how depraved they are”, Sameer said.

“I know, it’s so irritating to hear them talk about the great Uncle Sam and how everything is so hunky dory out there! I tell you, we Indians suffer from serious inferiority complex! I find it so stupid when media goes gaga over some Indian origin person being included in Obama’s kitchen or someone becomes the dean of an Ivy League college out there and nonsense like that! Why do we have to revel in their success because we share our roots with them or because they lived here until it was their time to give back to the society?” I said.

“I think that’s because now tv is 24×7. Now they do have to run their business, don’t they?”, Sameer explained.
We sat there for a while, watching the light drizzling and talking about everything and everyone else. As we walked out, my cellphone buzzed and I read the text message I had just received. It talked about how so many people died and fought for Independence. So I must do my bit by forwarding it. Right, that’s the most our generation can do? I deleted the message and walked on when I nearly stepped on an Indian flag made of plastic sheet and wooden straw. It was lying down on the wet floor like disregarded waste paper. I could clearly see footprints on it, some kid must have bought it and dropped it without knowing what the little plaything meant. But adults walked over it. I picked it up and stuck the wooden straw in a rope tied around a pillar nearby. The wind blew the flag. I hope it doesn’t fall down again and if it does, please pick it up.

P.S- Happy Independence Day :)