Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Flags & Anthems

I thought the Supreme Court verdict passed on Republic Day, five years ago, in the famous Naveen Jindal case would put an end to our hypocrisy on flags, anthems and such. However, the two 'controversies' of the past week surrounding SRT and NRN quickly burst that bubble!

The "anthem" controversy has hypocrisy built into it. Pray, can someone explain to me what an 'instrumental version' of a national anthem is, in the first place? Logically, if the instrument starts playing, the crowd starts singing - without any prompting! It's only in India where people are either too embarassed or ignorant, that we need to arrange for a choir of school children to sing, while the rest mumble or just ... stay mum! Whether it's a movie theatre or a stadium, a function or a felicitation, one never hears a thundering anthem being rendered with gusto. Infy had arranged for a five person choir and then apparently dropped the idea because "foreigners might be embarassed". I think the foreigners would have been rather puzzled to see no one on stage or in the crowd singing! We just don't like singing our own anthem for some strange reason.

While the Infy incident raised some hackles because of Chairman Co-Chairman Narayana Murthy's explanation (which he has since apologised for), the Sachin incident is just downright comical. Agreed, whoever decided on the theme for that cake had poor taste (seriously, saffron icing?), but why blame Tendulkar when the Indian High Commissioner himself was looking on approvingly? In any case, when it's quite clear that the intentions are not malafide in any way, why resort to grandstanding and jingoism?

I am loathe to admit that I draw intellectual inspiration from mainstream Hollywood but a few lines from an otherwise trite scene in The American President, sum up my thoughts perfectly:

"You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free."