15th August. To anyone in the News business (what else do I call it?), it’s a day of pithy editorials and strong reports, all flavoured with the appropriate degree of patriotism. If it’s a heart wrenching story of a rape survivor, pack in something about how ineffectual the laws are in this country. If it’s a heart-warming rags to riches story, talk about India Shining. Photos of innocent children holding the tricolour or old people showcasing toothless, benevolent grins could come in handy. And of course, there are the celebrations – from the prime minister’s speech – to flags hoisted in every state. Keeping in mind the eternally argumentative Indian, introduce debates around popular keywords such as Anna Hazare, Telengana, Bodoland, human rights and attacks by Pakistan along the LoC.
I wanted to be wise this time. I wanted to write something more solemn, of historical importance. I had a posse of photos from my travels. Forts, sadhus, hills, temples, mosques, sea beaches strung together into something majestic and mythical and glorious. A piece that internet users generally interested in India would like to see.
By the time I finished my daily online chores, it was already late for lunch. After a meal of mutton and rice more designed for a holiday than a working evening, I found myself staring vacantly at the computer. Any kind of gunfire, real or verbal, is distant on a full stomach.
To give me some ideas, I entered ‘Bharat’ as a search term. Even a page full of Amar Chitra Katha, ayurvedic cooking or crafty travelogues leading to the inevitable discounted package tour would have been welcome. But no, dear reader, this is what I got : Bharat Gas, Bharat Matrimony, Bharat Petroleum and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. Top searches, in this order. Never mind. I tried another browser. This gave me : Bharat Bhushan Share and Stock Brokers Ltd. (sponsored), Bharat Matrimony, Bharat Heavy Electricals and Bharat Ratna. However, wedged between an online gas booking site and some information on our military forces was a Wikipedia entry on Bharat.
I must admit searching by ‘Bharatvarsha’ was more rewarding. I browsed about King Bharata, read a history blog and got totally enmeshed in a chapter-wise rendering of our national history from some government approved school books. The problem was these chapters were in order of popularity rather than chronology. The links led me on a mad journey from the travel routes of Aryans, to King Bharata, a chapter on the Vedas, then something about Gandhi’s fast, followed by a most knowledgeable guide to preparing for the Lecturer Eligibility Tests conducted by the University Grants Commission. I gave up.
Ah but the after taste of mutton still lingered on my palate. I had tried, and failed, to drum up enough emotion for an exploratory essay on our rich cultural past that has anyway been done to death by every writer worth their salt on the subcontinent.
I had written about the Buddha (Goutama Buddha, not the ex-chief minister of West Bengal) sometime back. I had already written on Tagore and Ray and touched upon both Netaji and Gandhi. I’ve done separate takes on Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune, Chandigarh, Delhi and Bangalore, and have pieces on Rajasthan and Orissa. My own teenage memories of Himachal are still too tender and raw to talk about the Uttarakhand flood in legible and emotionally restrained terms. To make matters worse, I had grown up in the blessed chaos of an Indian joint family within a 300 year old mansion, obviously without paying much attention to the living history decaying all around me.
In short, my perception of being Bharatiya is either terribly personal for committing on paper (well, keyboard) or so formal that they would sound as false as any kid with writers block.
And the greatest problem was, while I thought and wrote in English, after a meal I still belched in Bengali. So I was globally parochial or internationally regional – whatever term you might fancy more – dear reader. My perception of India is coloured with a fine subconscious brush that draws upon my experiences as a citizen of this beloved land. Crossing a street recklessly at the wrong traffic signal comes as naturally to me as smiling back at smiling idols in places of worship.
May be I didn’t manage to express much about Bharat on the web this Independence Day. But the stuff in my veins is as Bharatiya as it gets. I can’t help it, and yes, our Bharata Bhagya Vidhata (whoever that might be) sure does know it.
Are you prone to wracking your brain while still trailing loyally behind the Bharat Ek Khoj brand wagon? And can you, like me, read a bit of Bengali as well?
Check out this one :- http://bengali.yahoo.com/bharat-abar-jogotsobhay-085406586.html