…and no Malayalees dead.

patriotic I always used to laugh whenever I listened to the Malayalam news channels. I agree that most of these channels have their audience out of Kerala especially in the Middle-east and rest of India and so the channels are more of a bridge that tries to connect the distance and bring the expats closer to home and vice-versa.

So what was the funny part in the news? Well this is a typical news broadcast:
“Today a massive bomb blast tore the city of Jeddah….early reports suggest it was a suicide bomber. No terrorist organization has come forward to claim the act. 54 people died in the blast. No one among them was a Malayalee!”

Well that is where used to start laughing. I mean I used to wonder, if they were upset that not a single Malayalee (native of Kerala) died in spite of their huge nomadic numbers. I mean was it an indication that 1 in every 5 middle easterners was a Malayalee and yet they escaped or were they trying to reassure that no one that mattered died?

Of course it matters when a human dies, but then who cares. If he is not from our place then he isn’t human enough.

It is so sad that even in times of calamities, we cannot rise above petty issues of race, class, religion or citizenship, but never as humans. Another story reminds me of this is unfortunate habit of ours:

When the tsunami struck the South of India many coastal villages were hit. I overheard this person mentioning proudly about the incident at the famous St. Mary’s Church in Chennai. It seems that the morning mass for Malayalees had just got in after the previous mass for Tamilians (native of Tamil Nadu). So all these tamilians were leaving the church after the mass when they were tragically struck by the tsunami wave (tsunamis generally don’t seem to care what part of the world you belong to). Hundreds of devotees perished. And this insane man was talking about how god saved the malayalees and perhaps punished the tamilians who might have been sinners.

I have nothing against the Malayalees being one myself, but I am picking on them because of my close proximity to the community and the things that I hear. I am sure that this is the case with other communities and race and religion everywhere. I am sure CNN will also always mention that: “The Taliban kidnapped 9 civilians yesterday evening as they were returning from their work. They have been held hostage with no demands made yet. Our sources confirm that no Americans are being held captive”…..and America and rest of the Islamic world will let out a collective sigh. (Though I am not sure on the current government in America feeling too happy about that because it will be opportunity missed t bomb the s**t out of the country).

We always seem to need a reason to feel patriotic. Like the Independence Day or Republic day or some movie. If we don’t find anything then we start looking for people…people who make us proud to be Indians. I mean why is it necessary to have a reason to feel patriotic. Why do you have to search for someone or something to feel proud of when patriotism is a private emotion?

I call this syndrome – ‘convenient patriotism’ which means we are patriotic only if it is convenient for us. When M.F. Hussain paints a picture that sells for millions of dollars, then he is all of a sudden the pride of India, the artist son of India and so on. Salman Rushdie gets a Booker or a Pulitzer Prize and suddenly his Indianess is published though the man must have not seen Indian soil for ages. Same was the case when Kalpana Chawla or when some candidate in the US elections becomes the senator, we start digging up their Indian ancestry and their origins. If we have to we will go back to the Ice age to dig up their origins that prove them to have some Indian connection.

And the moment these artists or cricketers or any such symbols of patriotism messes up in their respective fields, then they are traitors. Like the poor-rich M.F.Hussain who is at one time a proud painter son of India who made Indians proud by painting pictures of Madhuri Dixit besides the ones that got him millions, and in another instance when he painted naked Hindu gods he became a tyrant and traitor of Indianess. I am sure he didn’t bargain for either of the coveted statuses.

Just because you paint your face with the tricolor in cricket matches and let out a bellowing war-cry, don’t make you patriotic but just another crazy fan of the Indian cricket team. Just because somebody went to space after getting themselves trained under a foreign space program, for a foreign space program doesn’t make them a patriotic Indian. Just because you buy a few flags and sing patriotic songs composed and sung more than 50 years ago every Independence Day, does not make you patriotic.

I feel ‘Patriotism’ is about loving your country as your home. It’s about doing what you would do to make your home comfortable, clean and protected. Be it a simple gesture of not spitting in public places or taking that public transport the next time you travel or switching off that light as you move out of the room. We keep complaining about the corrupt governments or the filth in the system and yet vote for the same corrupt politicians and are the first to bribe our way out of a tight spot.

This is why I said patriotism is not something you have to wear on your sleeve but more in your heart. It’s more of a personal emotion. So how will I be celebrating this year? Of course, by renting some movies like the Independence Day or Rang-De-Basanti and buying some flags for my office after I watch the parade at Delhi on TV. Well…Happy Independence Day!