If standing up for the National Anthem in a theatre makes me a patriot, the Supreme Court is right. Bring it on.
It is similar to, as some priests and pandas will tell you, taking a dip in the holy Ganges: Just one act of symbolism washes away all my sins.
I can, still, nonchalantly walk past victims of road accidents (74 percent do that), watch quietly as women are harassed in public, stay silent when female foetuses are killed (2,000 daily), not pay my taxes (only one percent pay their taxes religiously), ignore the Army's calls for recruitment, spit my paan-gutkha in public and take a leak wherever and whenever I want.
But, as long as I am willing to chant the National Anthem, I retain the right to call myself a patriot.
Thank you, my Lord, can we now go back to Grand Masti now?
But why restrict this idea just to cinema halls? Why can't it be made mandatory to sing Jana Gana Mana when we enter malls, restaurants, pubs, offices, metros, buses, planes, hospitals; at homes, in bedrooms? If the objective is to give everyone a dose of patriotism, why leave it only for the theatre-goers?
In my humble opinion, every person has just two moral obligations in life:
One, to be a good human being.
And, two, be a good citizen.
These two attributes are the building blocks of any civilised society. Love and respect for fellow humans, country and the moral, ethical and legal laws that govern societies come automatically from these basic traits. The point is, only a good human being and a good citizen can be a true patriot. So, the focus of any civilised society should be on character building, helping people become conscientious humans and citizens.
India needs a culture of patriotism, not patriot-isation of culture.
If we have come to a stage where theatres need to remind us of the value of patriotism, the Indian value system has failed. If our homes couldn't teach us the right sanskars, if schools and their curricula could not instill in us the right civilisational values, and if we now have to depend on the banal symbolism of imbibing crash courses — a sort of forced group therapy in patriotism before three hours of entertainment — god bless the Republic.
Those who are dancing in joy because of the Supreme Court order, ironically, end up underlining this failure. Their argument is actually an indictment of the Indian society and its values. Think about this, if we need to be forced to respect the National Anthem, if patriotism is to be force-displayed because of fear of the law, it means deep down we lack it.
Writing for The Wire, Lawrence Liang talks about the perils of turning sentiment into law. He also poses an important legal question: How does not doing something — not standing up for the Anthem, in this case — count as a crime. Especially when the law is clear that "whoever, intentionally prevents the singing of the National Anthem or causes disturbance to any assembly engaged in such singing shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which extend to three years or with fine, or with both."
Love and respect for the country, its Flag and the National Anthem are natural reactions of a civilised, conscientious mind. They are natural reflections of the emotions we feel. Let me recount a story to explain it.
In August 2008, all of India woke up to an unusual sight: The singing of Jana Gana Mana accompanied by the rising Tricolor at an Olympic Games after 28 years. At Beijing, when an Indian made us proud by winning an individual gold, gave us the rare pleasure of watching the entire world stadium stand up to Jana Gana Mana and salute our Tiranga, I am sure every Indian watching would have felt patriotism singing in his veins, pride and joy dance about in the arteries.
India needs such moments of genuine pride, glory and happiness to relish the sight of the Flag, thump chests with pride while chanting the anthem.
But, Jana Gana Mana before Dirty Picture? Sorry, my lord, with due respect, I disagree.