Happy 72nd Indian Republic Day! May the love and pride for our nation keep soaring high amongst all Indians, much like the Tricolour!
I have been living abroad for the last 20 years and have just moved back to India from Dubai in October 2020. For those who may be expecting with fluttering hearts that the decision was initiated by a patriotic call to my roots, the country where I belong… the Bearded Biker got a transfer within the organisation that he has been working for many years. We were very excited as both our parents live in Kolkata and the last year was witness to the havoc it created in our minds not being able to travel to Kolkata, if and when we wanted to. We opted for Chennai in a heartbeat. Excepting for a short stint in Frankfurt, we have always lived by the sea. Living in Dubai always felt like an extension of India. The only conscious decision that I have maintained all these years, was that I was never going to give up my Indian passport.
Definitely not because of patriotism.
What does patriotism mean to me? I can’t pinpoint. What is it to be born an Indian? I can’t pinpoint. How does it feel to be a non-resident Indian living abroad? Again, I can’t pinpoint. Isn’t it better to be a first -class citizen in India rather than living a life off a second-class citizen elsewhere? I definitely can’t pinpoint. How do I inculcate Indianness in the Z-Sisters? Well, I don’t think I do.
Now, may I ask you a question? If you have an answer to that, I may have an answer to all the above questions. What does being born in a particular family or having certain individuals as parents mean to you?
That is exactly what I feel. I have never questioned the family that I was born to, or the surname that I inherited or analysed the nature of my parents. If I didn’t like any behavioural pattern in them, I have been conscious not to have imbibed that. While I don’t deny that I have been raised with certain values or I am guided by ethics and principles that have been passed on by them, I also have my own value system and my own ideas and ideologies that have been shaped by my own journey. I may have tried to change a few things that I haven’t liked about the environment I grew up in, otherwise retained everything that I loved about it. Yes, I have been lucky to have had a happy childhood with a lot of happy memories, a safe upbringing and a life of relative ease. However, I am very different from each of my parent and I lead a different life. There are arguments and our opinions don’t always match. It’s quite obvious that I try to shake them up, make them see my viewpoint. I may or many not succeed – it all depends upon each case.
One thing is certain though, no matter what, I will never give up on my parents. Or leave them for any other parents.
My emotions for India are pretty much the same. I am proud of India’s achievements, I am saddened at her failures, I scream at her frustrations. I bask in her glory and fade when she’s ashamed. But I have always stood by her, will always stand by her and will never bash her.
Neither, my emotions were magnified when I was living the life of a non-resident Indian for two decades, nor have they been sealed with a ‘high-level of patriotism’ certificate, now that I am back. Like I wished at times that Ma or Baba would behave like a certain friend’s parent, yet I have never felt that urge to belong to any other family but my own, my feelings for India has been the same.
I have never discussed Indian politics not because I don’t understand politics, but because I understand how it has the massive potential to incite us and divide us – both in an ongoing party happening at the world stage or in a living room.
I only discuss food. I only discuss travel. Out of choice and out of faith. For I believe, these are the two things that connect people and their hearts across different religions, regions, generations and mindsets. Also sports, but only when the nation is playing against another.
I don’t know whether the hoisting of the Indian flag is poignant to me because of what we were taught in school or because I have always associated the Tricolour with Baba hoisting the flag on the Republic Day, the Independence Day or Gandhi Jayanti as he carried out his roles in his respective government postings. I had the privilege of seating at the front row, seeing him take the gun salute. As the Tricolour unfurled, I had goosebumps all over. To be honest, it had less to do with patriotism and more to feeling that Baba was a superhero and all the parade and drama unfolding in front of him, were directed towards us!
The Z-Sisters have been studying in a British school all along and after moving to Chennai, they are now studying in an International school. I have no qualms admitting that they may or maynot know the Indian National Anthem by heart. I have never insisted and I have never imposed. Just like my Ma never insisted that I learn Rabindrasangeet although she was a Tagore aficionado and had the tutelage from the greatest exponents on RabindraSangeet like Kanika Bandopadhyay, Nilima Sen and others. In my life’s ups and downs, I often wake up humming a Tagore song, its lyrics reflecting exactly the emotions I am going through at the hour. As if, they have seeped into my subconscious. With the viral video doing the round today in WhatsApp groups, about a four year old girl Esther singing Band Mataram, I did feel a little tweak inside … should I have insisted? There was a community flag hoisting ceremony in the morning which I didn’t sign up for, as I felt that we should still maintain a certain amount of social distancing. I have tied up an Indian flag in our terrace after reading up the dos and dont’s of hoisting the Tricolour. After all, we are in the home turf now and we could end up hurting someone’s sentiments or sensibilities (if we stood taller than the flag and other criterions), considering we are in the world’s largest democracy with approx 1.38 billion people, each having their own sentiment. Today’s plan is to sing the National Anthem together and maybe learn a bit on what the terms like republic, democracy and others mean. Also reminisce on our very privileged visit to the Governor’s House in Kolkata where we saw one of the original copies of the Constitution of India while sipping on Darjeeling tea in a cup which had the proud symbol of Ashok Stambh on it.
I haven’t imposed any Bangaliana on the Z-Sisters, yet they are the ones planning our traditional Bengali menu for our Bijoya get togethers at our home. My heart swells when Big Z declares that I make the best mishti doi in the world. Similarly, I am accused by many of not having imposed any Indianness on them.
What is Indianness? Can there be really one definition? Excepting the emotion that is in unison as was recently witnessed when India won the India-Australia test series. If showing the Taj Mahal or knowing what each colour in the Indian flag stands for, I think I have passed the litmus test, so have the Z-Sisters!
I have already mentioned that when we were discussing our move out of Dubai, we chose India as we didn’t ever aspire for a different passport or wanted to move westwards. As I have already mentioned that it’s got nothing to do with patriotism. Or I am writing this blogpost just because I am back in India. The sights and sounds of India have always rejuvenated me, although I recognise that living in India after twenty years may be different from the romanticism of travelling through India on our family vacations… although we have broken through the comforts of the typical Incredible India routes for the NRIs and foreigner tourists by exploring the rough terrains of Leh and Ladakh following the bike trails. We are the kind of family who gets as excited eating in the streets of Lucknow as enjoying the colonial flavours of Windamere in Darjeeling. There’s a lot to learn and unlearn. The Z-Sisters haven’t for once questioned our decision to move to India. Li’l Z asked me the other day… ‘you are privileged and have a voice Mama, so how are you going to use it?’ That’s serious food for thought though, but for today, I will simply dress my part and celebrate Republic Day by doing the best I can… cook a simple tricoloured food and write. By the way, we live very close to the backwaters and the canal that flows by is called the Buckingham Canal. Guess, even the canal in this Muttkadu backwaters knows that we will probably be excited by that… so what if it’s alibi a canal’s name?
My ethnic kaftan has a few more colours than the tricolour, but quite representative of the Indian flag really. Our lunch was spot on though!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
Some posts from my recent Chennai Chapter: Finally calling Chennai home Homemade spicy Chicken 65 Chicken Chettinad cooked in a claypot
Disclaimer: This isn’t a sponsored post, nor are there any affiliated links for any of the brands that may have been mentioned in this blogpost. The subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and all images are from my personal album. While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts.
Below are my Independence Day pictures from my Kolkata visit in 2018. Every year, around July and August, we used to visit Kolkata – a period I term as my ‘summer hibernation’. I missed out on my 2020 summer hibernation and am looking forward to my frequent Kolkata visits from Chennai.