The 65th Independence Day is done and gone. But all through August, the nation celebrates by posting extra guards at rail stations, offering green, white and orange garments on clearance sales, and protesting against any public issue affecting more than ten Indians.
To keep up the spirit, dear reader, here's a quiz cum survey on our national emblems. Not sure if it's topical or relevant, but that's what democracy is all about.
Q. What is our national fruit?
Yes, we actually have one. It's mango, or as the India.Gov website defines: 'a fleshy fruit, eaten ripe or used green for pickles etc., of the tree mangifera indica…' So the next time you bite into one, do it with reverence. To feel inspired, watch Katrina in the fruit juice ads.
Our question: What is the most patriotic fruit? Mango or banana? Maybe pineapple? What about jackfruit or guava? Do you think the mango is still just as charming? May be it's not 'in' anymore, in these times of imported kiwis or healthy aloe-vera. Aam admi, as you know, indicates someone who, shockingly enough, may not even have a car. Dear reader, do you still want the aam, with all those calories and a tendency to introduce impolite habits such as finger-licking, to be our national fruit?
Q. What is our national tree?
That's the banyan. Almost a garden by itself, it's been around in myths, has something to do with village panchayats, and the 'gaon sequence' in Hindi films.
Our question: Has your child ever seen a banyan, forget about playing in its shade? For that matter, do you have any memories either (a visit to the Botanical Gardens does not qualify)? Builders of Metro cities, especially Kolkata and Mumbai, certainly do not respect the banyan, which is why they are intelligently clearing banyan growths and mangrove marsh lands to erect beautiful, barely legal high-rises. So how about a slim eucalyptus or a pretty bougainvillea as our national tree?
Q. Everyone knows our national animal is the Royal Bengal Tiger. What is our national aquatic animal?
Platanista gangetica. Stumped? Well, we usually call it Gangetic River Dolphin or susu or susuk. It's not fish, it's a friendly, virtually blind mammal that navigates by a sense of direction and light. Or rather, it used to.
Our question: How can almost-extinct creatures be national symbols? There was a campaign, not so long ago, to replace the national animal with some other, more populous creature. Instead of trying to conserve tigers, wouldn't it be wiser if we allow them to die out, and choose something sensible — maybe buffalo or goat? The current population of dolphins is anything between 1,200 to 1,800. Dear reader, what would you prefer as replacement — the crab — or may be large, delicious Hilsa fish?
Q. Isn't our national game cricket?
No, it's hockey silly, didn't you watch 'Chak de India'? Of course, Shah Rukh Khan didn't go to the London Olympics as our coach, which is why we scored lowest out there. The women's team could not even qualify to participate in the Olympics.
Our question: Everyone knows cricket is the national game, in fact, the only surviving game of India. The media knows it, the politicians and businessmen know it, and so do we. Of course, we have fine wrestlers and sharp shooters, but they are only human, and not immortals like our cricket gods. Perhaps 'hockey' is a printing mistake in the constitution, and needs to be corrected. Dear reader, will you join us in demanding a reprint?
Q. When is New Year by the National Calendar?
This one's a proper googly. It's the first day of Chaitra, by the Saka calendar. Translates to March 22, and March 21 on leap years.
Our question: We have only one calendar, which is the holiday list printed and distributed in our offices. Some folks, like the Bengali and Punjabi, start off another calendar on the first day of Baisakh. How about having a national calendar that begins just about any time, but has 50 mandatory national holidays across private and public sectors? What do you think about that one? Please support this with your comments.