Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Flag's on Fire - Guest Article

I bet everyone's on a high since India's victory last night.
And then I came across a fellow blogger's blog on InfyBlogs. And I felt that it just HAD to be shared. So here's presenting to you - Vivek Muralidharan's article: My Flag's on Fire.
Thanks Vivek for letting me borrow your words (and thoughts!)

My Flag's on Fire

As I walked out of my home 15 minutes back, I witnessed history being played in front of me on the dusty highway of Gachibowli. A few thousand artistes, with their vehicles, face-paints and flags, were enacting, with a lot of inspiration, the scenes from the midnight of 1947. Motorbikes with three to four pillion riders carrying a flag each, sped past on the empty, wrong side of the road. On the right side, there were a thousand cars standing still, with flags sticking out of their windows like branches from a tree, waiting for the dance performance in front of them to end.

Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.

I live in Indra Nagar, Gachibowli, Hyderabad. The thousand cars that were in procession on the road were from the Gachibowli stadium, and they had been stopped because a few intoxicated patriots had turned over a barricade in the middle of the road and were dancing over it with their flags in celebration of the Great Victory that had come upon us in that late hour. We just beat Pakistan in a cricket match. 'Wow', I thought, as my nation's flag raced past in a motorcycle in the 'wrong way'.

It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity. At the dawn of history India started on her unending quest, and trackless centuries are filled with her striving and the grandeur of her success and her failures. Through good and ill fortune alike she has never lost sight of that quest or forgotten the ideals which gave her strength. We end today a period of ill fortune and India discovers herself again.

I see what I basically am doing is overlapping the "Tryst with Destiny" speech with the victory over Pakistan. But then the question, is the victory really that big? Can Freedom-At-Midnight be even compared Victory-in-Day-&-Night. I see again the visuals that I saw from my balcony. I see the visuals on TV, from Times Now, and CNN, where they are telecasting various such Independence Celebrations on the streets of so many other cities. I then try to remember the broken, black and white visuals I had seen of the original event, and then I realise, wow, they do look very similar. Maybe I can compare them. And yes, even Indian Cricket's history is more or less like Nehru's description of India's history. Through good and ill fortune alike she has never lost sight of that quest or forgotten the ideals which gave her strength. Wow.

The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity, to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us. Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?

Hmmm. Nehru is probably referring to the game with Sri Lanka. Are we brave enough, I would say, yes. We just sent Australia and Pakistan packing. So the confidence will definitely be there. Are we wise enough? As in, are we going to pick Ashwin over Ashish Nehra. That's a tough one. Because Nehra just proved that he is not another Agarkar in the making. But at the same time, Ashwin isn't exactly a Harbhajan in the making. Maybe we should just leave it to Dhoni. You might not bet on him to do the sane thing, but you can always bet on him to bring the right result.
Freedom and power bring responsibility. The responsibility rests upon this assembly, a sovereign body representing the sovereign people of India. Before the birth of freedom we have endured all the pains of labour and our hearts are heavy with the memory of this sorrow. Some of those pains continue even now. Nevertheless, the past is over and it is the future that beckons to us now.

As I walk past the road through the traffic, observing the dancers, one guy comes up to me, shakes my hand, yells something in Telugu in which I grasp the word India, and goes to shake the hand of another bystander. His face seemed familiar to me. He seemed similar to one of the guys who was shown on TV protesting in front of Dhoni's house during the previous World Cup. I'm not drunk, I'm not joking - I remember the faces and I swear, it is probably the same guy who was throwing stones at Dhoni's house on that day. The resemblance was there. Brown skin, black hair, black eyes, loud voice, aggressive behaviour - hell, it was the same person, it was him, the Indian Cricket Fanatic.

This brings me to a Burning Question (stole the Burning Question tag from The Times Now Channel News Flash Marquee), when we criticize his vandalizing of homes, we do, however, are happy to allow his celebrations on the street. Isn't that like asking that brown skinned gentleman to live two different lives? Isn't that asking him to not be himself when it does not suit your interest? He has been the same person right from 1975 to 2011, voicing all his opinions with the same vigor. What right do we have to criticize him when he throws stones and celebrate him when India wins? That, dear Times Now Editor, is my burning question.

We think also of our brothers and sisters who have been cut off from us by political boundaries and who unhappily cannot share at present in the freedom that has come. They are of us and will remain of us whatever may happen, and we shall be sharers in their good and ill fortune alike.

When we were watching the match, during the midway collapse in the Indian innings, one of my friends said "It'll be perfect if some of their terrorists fly in and drop a bomb on the stadium right now. That'll save us some embarrassment" He was joking, ofcourse.

To which I replied "Dude, even their Prime Minister is in the stadium, they'd never drop a bomb now"

For which he said "Dude, you dont know about them, Gilani is just one life, and they would be more than willing to sacrifice his life for killing thousands of Indians" I looked at him, he wasnt joking. "You dont know about them, they are crazy guys", he said, trying to add authenticity to his statement. I turned back to the screen, wondering who was actually crazy. I was also wondering how many youngsters in Pakistan were watching the match and having a discussion on similar lines.

On this day our first thoughts go to the architect of this freedom, the father of our nation, who, embodying the old spirit of India, held aloft the torch of freedom and lighted up the darkness that surrounded us. We have often been unworthy followers of his and have strayed from his message, but not only we but succeeding generations will remember this message and bear the imprint in their hearts of this great son of India, magnificent in his faith and strength and courage and humility. We shall never allow that torch of freedom to be blown out, however high the wind or stormy the tempest. Our next thoughts must be of the unknown volunteers and soldiers of freedom who, without praise or reward, have served India even unto death.

This sets me thinking, the father of our nation can be substituted for context as Sachin Tendulkar, yes. But how else do I proceed with interpreting this piece in the context of the Indo - Pak match. Unknown volunteers and soldiers of freedom? Raina, Zaheer, Bhajji? Probably. But I look at the procession in front of me and I go into a completely different train of thought. Unknown volunteers and soldiers of freedom. Say did we crowd the streets when we won the Kargil war? I don't remember anything like that happening. So I search for "Kargil War Celebrations" on Google. Search returns that every year, July 26 is the day when the Kargil war was won and that is the day every year when the Jawans are remembered. Boy, I never knew that such a thing happened. How many of us do infact? This leads me to a different question. These patriots on the roads - what do they do on the 26th of July? Or are they actually celebrating something else tonight? Are they there for something other than patriotism? It looked like patriotism because they had their flags out. What else could they be celebrating? The fact that we thrashed Pakistan? Is this a mob with the collective attitude similar to my friend's, who hate Pakistan and want to see them either losing or dying? Then again, the Kargil war has much more to offer for celebrations than a Cricket match, for the Pakistanis lost and died.

Stats from my midnight research :
Number Of Pakistanis Dead in Kargil War : 483 (as per Musharraf), 4000 (as per Nawaz Sharif)
Number Of Pakistanis Dead in Cricket Matches : 1
Abdul Aziz, 17, Pakistani cricketer, hit over heart by ball during a game (1959)

From a Pak-bashing prospect, honoring the War seems much more meaningful than the match. So if you are one who has been misled into celebrating the Indo-Pak match for reasons like patriotism and pak-bashing, please take a look at the 26th of July.

But the actual question still remains, what is it that makes these people go wild all over the streets? I try to think of similar occurences, and the first thing that strikes me is the New Year - the time when masses gather on the streets counting down from ten to one in unison. The time when we start the first day of the new year by setting records for the highest number of men publicly molesting one woman. Hmmm. Are we just a bunch of happy people looking for a reason to celebrate? Is it that the event bears very little holding on our celebrations, and we celebrate because we have the need to appreciate something once in a while?

The future beckons to us. Whither do we go and what shall be our endeavour? To bring freedom and opportunity to the common man, to the peasants and workers of India; to fight and end poverty and ignorance and disease; to build up a prosperous, democratic and progressive nation, and to create social, economic and political institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman.

We have hard work ahead. There is no resting for any one of us till we redeem our pledge in full, till we make all the people of India what destiny intended them to be. We are citizens of a great country, on the verge of bold advance, and we have to live up to that high standard. All of us, to whatever religion we may belong, are equally the children of India with equal rights, privileges and obligations. We cannot encourage communalism or narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thought or in action. To the nations and peoples of the world we send greetings and pledge ourselves to cooperate with them in furthering peace, freedom and democracy. And to India, our much-loved motherland, the ancient, the eternal and the ever-new, we pay our reverent homage and we bind ourselves afresh to her service. Jai Hind.
Vivek works as a Systems Engineer at Infosys, Hyderabad.
*** The article has been reproduced on my blog with permission from the author. Please give the author due credit if quoting or forwarding the same. ***


  1. Vini, i find the sentiments of the writer as sane and sensible and being well-written, it is to be appreciated(convey if u can)!
    and it is nice of u to post it in ur blog :-)

  2. Yes Mridu. I felt it made a point without being didactic. And I knew it had to be shared :)
    He has echoed the same thoughts I had when I saw the hooliganism happening in the name of a 'victory' over Pakistan.

    He was sporting enough to let me publish it :)
    I shall convey your comment to him.

  3. That was one lucid and perfect piece of analysis. Interspersing the Freedom at Midnight speech makes it superlative. Enjoyed every word.

  4. Thanks for your comment Zephyr! I shall convey the same to the author :)



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