While in school, it was mandatory to sing the national anthem at the school assembly at least once a week, but the song and I became virtual strangers after I started college. I must have heard the anthem about half a dozen times, and sung it not at all till my son started attending school a couple of years back. Now, I definitely hear it twice a year – on Independence Day and Republic Day – and since I insist on my children standing to attention whenever it si played on TV, I end up hearing it a lot more than I did previously.
And somewhere along the line, while mechanically going through the words, I discovered that the national anthem had the power to move me to tears. I am definitely not one of those people who wears their patriotism on their sleeves, but there is something in the song that resonates inside me, and makes me proud of the nation that I am a citizen of.
It was, however, a purely emotional reaction till yesterday. While singing the song yesterday at my son’s school, I was acutely aware of how much has changed since Independence Day when the same song was sung at the same venue by the same set of people. This time round, I was reveling not in what my country has accomplished, but dreaming about what she can do once people like me start taking ownership for steering her destiny.
There is nothing tangible that I can put my finger on, but I sense the coming change. I can see people thinking about India as a nation, and about what we can do to make a difference. Small things make me optimistic – last year, at the Standard Chartered marathon, people were shouting ‘Run Mumbai Run’. They did so this year too, but much more than that, people yelled ‘Go India Go’.
A cynic may dub it as token symbolism, but I think it goes beyond that. People are willing to invest time and effort in determining the destiny of India, and while change may be late in coming, I know it will.
Maybe the next time I sing the national anthem, the hope for a better tomorrow will be seasoned with the beginnings of concrete changes.
Who said I was not an optimist?