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Patriotism Inc.

Juhi Chawla and Shah Rukh Khan in 'Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani.'

What do you name a concept that is so rampantly used to sell and endorse an idea or a product? A marketing strategy? An advertising gimmick? Or clever selling? Well, anything but surely not nationalistic feelings.

Ahh, but one must admit that in these economic recessionary days and idea-starved times, 'desh-bhakti' feelings have come in as a fresh bout of oxygen. At least for these dream merchants. But then, dream merchants are supposed to sell dreams, aren't they?

Dreams of love, laughter... or even patriotism.Now, there is nothing wrong in spreading the feeling of patriotism amongst people (not that they've doing a good job of it). But what is wrong is the commercialisation of a virtuous feeling. It is something which one feels towards the country, not uses it to sell scooters and mobile phones.

Patriotism today is just one more marketing gimmick being used to hard sell products. And what is even more disgusting is for people to capitalise and loot people for such feelings.

Though nobody will admit it, it's a known fact that crores of rupees have been swindled by people who took money on the 'Kargil' factor from donors and the funds never really reached the soldiers and their families.

And co-incidentally, the half-century celebrations of our Republic Day happens to coincide with the Millennium celebrations which means one more marketing gimmick.The concept of patriotism has undergone a sea-change over the last few decades.

From 'Mere Desh Ki Dharti' in the 60's to 'Pop-Patriotism' today, patriotism surely has a different meaning. And does pop-patriotism today arouse any nationalistic feeling among the generation today.

"Not quite", say the majority.Can't blame 'em either. After all, a 'Vande Matram' by A.R. Rehman sounds more appropriate in a fast-paced high-tech mood where patriotism is the last feeling which comes to your mind. Surprising as it may sound but the Lata sung 'Aye Mere Watan Ka Logon" sounds more patriotic even half-a-century later.

And the dream merchants? Well, the dreams haven't been exactly bad except for an occasional one here and there.

One of the first patriotic movies of this decade was the Kashmir-based Roja, a runaway hit. One of the reasons possibly could be that the Kashmir problem was still new and the feeling of love triumphing over militancy was something every body wanted.

Then followed the usual masala movies that focussed more on the 'jhatkas' than the emotions. Of course, one did have some good sagas like 1942: A love story or a Tirangaa but they were far and few.But today, patriotism is big time stuff.

The current 'desh-bhakti' dream merchants spend crores of rupees to show their patriotic feelings. Production values, you see. So after seeing a 'Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani' and a 'Hey Ram!', you end up feeling good watching the lavishness rather than feeling patriotic.

But then, if India can be corporatised, can't. Patriotism be branded! Nothing else sums us up better than this song: 'Hum logon ko samajh sako to samjho dilbar jani... ulti seedhi jaisi bhi hai apni yehi kahani...After all, what we want are Dreamz Unlimited!

'Ab Yahan Se Kahan Jaayen Hum...'

A famous writer once said: It's not the quantity of years that matter but the quality which separates the average from the extra-ordinary.

After a half-century time span of our Republic Day, an introspection is something that would be the most spoken and the least done thing. And somehow, co-incidentally, the half-way mark happens to coincide with the turn of the century.

Looking at it stoically, let bygones be bygones, though not without a positive analysis about our mistakes and flaws. It would be extremely fashionable to point fingers at the politicians and pass the buck.

But the question arises that are we not all to blame in someway or the other? After all people get the government they deserve! Surely, we the people of India must have done something wrong, somewhere.

But what is more important is to think of the path ahead. Honestly, it's no use crying over spilt milk. Let us start respecting our Constitution than just foolishly celebrating it's anniversaries!

Let us pay more heed to our duties than our fundamental rights. Let us use the Constitution for improving life in India rather than scrupulously using the loopholes in the laws.Bluntly speaking, we have treated half the journey limping and crawling.

Isn't it time we set a definite goal for ourselves at least now? Or are we still thinking 'Ab Yahan Se Kahan Jayen Hum...'

The Road Ahead
By Shekhar Lele

IT is a wonderful feeling to be a part of the celebrations that mark the 50th Republic Day of India. This half a century has seen India break free from the bonds of the British slavery and carve out a distinct niche in the Economic and Political scenario of the world.

We are, after all, a nation of a 100 crore and arguably the world's largest democracy. A recovering economy and a GDP growth rate of over 5% seems to lend credence to the feeling that we are after all on our way out of the recession of the past few years.

A host of foreign majors are already pumping in crores of rupees into the Indian economy in all sectors from Infrastructure to the Service Industry. The latest rage of the software boom is also a strong indicator that India will have a major role to play in the emerging global village.

Companies like WIPRO and INFOSYS are doing exceedingly well not just on the Indian Stock Markets but also on the NASDAQ thus making their promoters billionaires overnight. Information Technology is no doubt one of the major thrust areas for the Indian Economy.In spite of all this, there is a certain gloom prevailing over us as a nation.

Why is it that in spite of all that I have mentioned above, our per capita income is still amongst the lowest in the world? Why is it that in spite of over 2,500 models of televisions and over 70 models of cars, we have a 100 million families without water at home and over 40% of the villages without road connectivity?

The 'interest' revolution seems to have stormed the Metros with the world being just one click away, but we have over 2.8 million people waiting for telephone connections. While we have plush homes with airconditioners in almost all the rooms, we have 150 million households without electricity.

The statistics are almost shocking. What is more shocking however, is the fact that reforms do not seem to have percolated to the grassroot levels. It is, in fact this wide gap between the haves and the have-nots that has resulted in our nation grossly under utilising it's potential to be a world-power.

Over 15 satellites could not prevent the Kargil intrusions and 'Crack Commando' teams could not do anything but gape as the Hijack drama unfolded in Kandahar.

Why do we have to stare at the face of the United States for blood that is being shed on our territory? Why do we give them the importance they do not deserve?Has our nationalism changed its definition?

Or does it merely exist to the extent of flashing the tricolour on cars and our so called cine 'Stars' expressing their passive solidarity with the men who lost their lives on the icy cliffs of Kargil? If patriotism today means a remix of Vande Mataram by A.R. Rehman or musical concert somewhere, I beg to differ. Our nation, especially, we the youth seem to have got our ideas mired in confusion.

If we have come to a realisation that the government is, and will remain of little or no consequence, why do we not take it upon ourselves to make a difference. We talk of increasing population and lowering literacy rates, how many of us, the so called 'Elite' have done our bit to improve things?

How many of us have even taught one child and helped raise literacy levels? We talk of poverty, how many of us have contributed in any significant way to ease the burden of at least one family?

We must realise that there is no use in blaming the system of our ills, that would be nothing but escapism. We must understand that all of us in our own way will definitely make a difference and it is this collective effort that will one day manifest itself on a national level.

We must lay stress on having a vision. Why do we always dream of securing plump jobs? Why do we not take the plunge and become entrepreneurs and in effect not just provide wealth creation opportunities to ourselves, but also the people we would employ? I am not in any way advocating charity or selflessness.

What I am talking about though is collective materialism and an attitude that says 'We can do it, if I can do it'. At least then, our children will be able to say with pride and passion 'Saare jahan se acchha, Hindustan Hamara'

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