Albeit late, but it’s better late than never. A week back, a video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09QDY_KtSu0) went viral on mobile and social media, wherein a family was asked to leave a plush Mumbai multiplex as they’d refused to stand up for the national anthem which precedes every film screening in Maharashtra
As it turned out, the family in question turned to be Muslim, and expectedly, it triggered anger among nettizens who wear the tricolour on their sleeves. It didn’t take long for the media to milk this issue. I haven’t watched the news debates, but I wouldn’t be surprised that there must have been strong criticism of the family and alternatively, there must have been secular guests who would have defended the family.
Ideally, not singing national anthem would be deemed offensive and the guilty will be called as anti-nationals. But before we label this family as anti-nationals, we need to question whether mere singing of national anthem makes us all patriots?
What’s the real meaning of our national anthem?
I’d like to confess that there times when I, too, haven’t stood up for the national anthem in cinema halls. I take utmost pride in being an Indian, but I have my reasons for not standing up when the national anthem is played in theatres. Years back, the government in power today and their sevaks had cast seeds of doubt into my mind when I read online how our national anthem may not exactly be what we perceived it to be. The critics were of the view that Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore had written the national anthem in praise of King George V, who is said to be the adhinayak in Jana mana gana adhinayak jaya hey). Whilst I didn’t believe it whole heartedly, it was enough to create seeds of doubts in my mind. Irrespective of the controversy, I began asking myself what kind of national anthem do we have where probably most of us don’t understand its meaning. Right since school, we have merely sung the national anthem as a morning ritual, by hearting it like the way we mugged our text books. Is that how a national anthem should be sung?
Now coming back to the Muslim family. I wouldn’t call this a defence but my issue is do we really need to sing our national anthem in theatres? Is that a way to prove that we are true patriots?
In my opinion we go to cinema halls to entertain ourselves, to escape our from our regular stressed lives, wherein most hours our spent obeying orders. Be it from our bosses, parents, guardian, nagging wives or chauvinistic husbands. Indian cinema is meant to be an escapism from the daily rigours of life. So, when I head to a cinema, I want to stay clear of any obligation inside the theatre.
The moment we place our bums on seats, we are first bombarded with innate advertisements, some of the them, despite carrying a social message (No smoking campaign), don’t exactly make for great viewing. I’ve been been privy to scenes wherein cine-goers, holding onto their popcorn tubs, beverages have baulked at the very moment when some unsavoury image has appeared on the their screen. They have to keep aside their food items, the moment the national anthem begins playing.
My other grievance against playing the national anthem are the many modern versions being played out on the 70mm screens. Most of them are poorly sung, and packed with actors, both Bollywood and Marathi, most of who are merely lip syncing. I’m sure sure if you ask the actors, they too wouldn’t be all comfortable being part of these videos. They have participated purely as they couldn’t turn the government down as that would invoked nation-wide criticism.
There’s every possibility that the Muslim family might be not be feeling so strongly about the Indian national anthem, but there’s also a possibility the family might might have above reasons for not standing up for the national anthem.
Be it any reason, but no way does that family become anti-nationals. Nor do merely singing national anthem makes one patriot. The true essence of democracy lies in freedom. Freedom wherein no one dictates me what I should do. If there’s something which I flouted, then there ought to be laws which should bring me to justice. I don’t think that there is a law that punishes people for not singing the national anthem in theatres. so by that count, the Muslim family has committed no offence. Besides, it’s only in Maharashtra that the national anthem plays out in theatres.
Well, what’s irked me more is how the security at the multiplex didn’t jump into action and averted the ugly confrontation. If I’ve paid a ticket, then don’t I have the right to watch the show. It would have been prudent on the multiplex officials part to have separated the warring cine-goers and placed the Muslim family elsewhere. I do not know whether post their eviction, the family got their refund, but if the multiple didn’t do so, then they haven’t won themselves any brownie points.
The bald gentleman who lambasted and then ordered the Muslim couple should be asked few questions. Whilst I respect his strong feelings for his country and its national anthem, but you are not patriot when you use foul language against your fellow countrymen.
There are crores of us who take pride in singing the national anthem, but at the same time we carry prejudices on lines lines of caste and creed. Can we call ourselves patriots then? The Gandhis, the Nehrus, and the Boses had envisaged and envisaged a free Indian wherein we just didn’t sing national anthem, but they wanted an India wherein each citizen respect one another irrespective of their cast and creed.
While democracy calls for total freedom, but citizens shouldn’t take it for granted. No freedom should be used to disrespect patriotic sentiments. I’m not sure that the Muslim family has flouted any laws, but they clearly seem to have hurt the sentiments of the bald man in the video. If I were in the bald man’s shoes, I would have politely asked the couple as to what is the reason that they didn’t deem it fit to stand for the national anthem? And if not satisfied with the answer, I have no right to abuse them or throw them out of the hall.
Well, I have come not just with minorities but Hindus, too, who don’t feel so passionate about their nation. Most of these people tend to live frustrated lives, often blaming their country for not doing for them. It’s best to let such such people suffer alone. I’ll end this blog with a Sidhuism.
‘Jis hriday mein desh bhakti ki bhavna nahi, woh hriday nahi, patthar hai’ (A heart without a sense of patriotism is no heart, but a stone)
Why don’t we leave it at that and stop crucifying the Muslim family. They know their truth best.