It was a theatre in London, somewhere close to the wembley stadium, where me and my cousin were watching khabhi kushi kabhi gham. I was enjoying the crowd reaction more than the movie itself. The women sitting next to me would cry at every emotional scene, discuss the costumes, react to the mood swings of the characters, sing along with the songs and so on so forth. Not to mention, the Bachan’s, who the audience completely loved and adored.
Then came the moment that caused some discomfort among the audience. All though this happened more than a decade, I still remember because not all movies played national anthem and I never saw the audience feel so conscious and unsettling while watching a movie.
I didn’t stand for the national anthem, but I wasn’t the only one. And then there were also those who did stand up.
I didn’t stand because I saw this as a pure entertainment and the movie makers were using this to score browny points for their characters. I overheard the people next to me discussing whether they should or shouldn’t stand up. But why this uncertainty, when the same audience was reacting everything that was going on in the movie.
In my naive understanding, emotion is a very natural reaction. Standing up for national anthem at such a forum is not natural simply because we are not used to this and don’t necessarily know how to react, especially when the context is entertainment.
For those who did stand up, may be they perceived it as simply as the national anthem is a national anthem is a national anthem.
Amidst all this, if anyone would have forced me to stand up, may be I would have refused too, since I had formed an opinion about the situation and I mentally convinced myself. So my ego would have stopped me from going against my conviction. Or may be I would have gotten up because I felt threatened but It would certainly not have been out of respect. As a matter of fact, back then, I was a bit hesitant to show my emotions and my respect for the country in the public.
A group of us took part in the Independence Day parade in New York almost every year for the past 5-6 years. And by taking part I mean we walked in the parade. Every year we would walk with a theme – farmers, RTI, sexual harassment, clean politics, caste etc. During the parade, we would hold slogans, raise slogans, handout leaflets in an attempt to raise awareness in our own way.
But we would often be overpowered by the huge floats carried by the sponsors of the parade, some of which include all the TV channels, advertising companies, travel agencies etc. who would be playing films songs at maximum volume. Songs which are chartbusters to the item songs, mixing it with some popular songs related to independence.
When I took this issue with the organizers, one person responded quite patiently and at the end of it, admitted it has to be done this way otherwise the parade will not be financially viable.
Independence day parade became a means to highlight and showcase the sponsors and their floats.
In Edison, NJ, where for many years, the Independence parade was being organized on the popular Indian Street (Oak Tree Road). For the past 3 years or so, 2 parades were being organized, one which would immediately follow the other. Two different celebrity guests, two different timings, two different organizations. Yes, two different organizations, because the then organizing team had a fight and they were not able to reconcile their differences and ended up doing their own parades.
I tried to talk to both the organizers and even spoke to the Mayor of Edison but only in vain. I even started a petition, collected about hundred signatures at an event and could have pushed more, but the Luke warm response I got, sort of forced me to reprioritize what I was doing.
Independence day parade became a show of power and ego
What is the point?
Well, the constitution, in one of the sections called “Directive principles of State Policy” highlights exactly how we can pay respect to the constitution, the people and the country. Although this was meant for the state, this also is very much applicable to us individuals.
(a) that the citizens, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood;
(b) that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to subserve the common good;
(c) that the operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment;
(d) that there is equal pay for equal work for both men and women;
(e) that the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength;
(f) that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.