It’s Republic Day and that time of the year which makes me very nostalgic of my time at Curzon Road barracks for Air Force Officers in Delhi, from where we children would climb on top of the very precarious walls and watch the Republic Day parade, the Beating the Retreat and the beautifully resplendent jhankis on the 26th of January every year.
What does Republic Day mean so many decades hence is a good question. I think for me (and having travelled the length and breadth of the country recently), the most important aspect of our country is its diversity – and the mellifluously melting pot of diverse cultures with a splendid past and history.
This diversity is a celebration – this is THE celebration. That we have survived as a country many onslaughts, much strife within and without and yet, we are not just going strong but in the reckoning for the next global power as well.
I used to enjoy immensely watching the jhankis that came at the end of all the display of the prowess of our armed forces (which was and is also a treat to watch) in the Republic Day parade. But, most importantly, what still stands out and inspires awe as I travel around the country is the melange of vistas and cultures – which country in the world has so much cultural diversity to offer? This is what makes me feel so proud of and a reason to commemorate now and always.
This is the spirit of India – whatever else happens to us in terms of economic development or scientific advancement or social changes – one thing that would stand eternally tall would be our cultural diversity and wealth. People’s faith is bound to be shaken a little by any prevailing chaos but India is not in the momentary newspaper headlines – India is in the resilience of the lives of people who have withstood the test of time through invasions and a multitude of onslaughts.
Starting a magazine on travel, food and culture – I think what piqued my interest most was a celebration of cultures. We have it all under one roof – we gorge on the misal pav in Maharashtra and the makki di roti in Punjab, dig into the dhoklas and undhiyos in Gujarat and devour the Pongal in Tamil Nadu.
We enjoy the Kanjeevarams and the Patolas and the Kanta and Bandini sarees. My love for saree shopping is slowly gaining fame. I love my diverse saree collection and, in fact, just bought two more in Bangalore today just as a Republic Day gift to myself – and the beauty of this south Indian saree retailer was that they had a huge Mahalakshmi idol in their shop and a practice of offering the saree in a pooja to the deity before giving it to the buyer. I think it is the beauty of these quaint rituals that win my heart more than the actual product.
Which country would have such immense geographical wealth? The one and only – (THE) undulating Himalayas, the soothing waters and beaches (we are surrounded by the oceans and sea on three sides), the desert (Thar), the verdant hill stations (we have so many we can lose count), and numerous big and small rivers and rivulets?
Which country in the world could boast of so many dance forms and classical music gharanas as India has? Which country in the world is the birthplace of three religions – Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism?
Which country in the world has so many types of attires – the lungi, dhoti, achkan, ghagra cholis, sarees, sherwanis, sharara, kurta pyjamas, puanchei…? Which country in the world can boast of some of the most famous monuments, places of worship, forts and palaces? We love and celebrate our rich history – with so many great and talented men and women having walked on the soil.
We are a nation that is the mother of spiritual life and yoga. Where else in the world would you find so many great men and yogis? Which country in the world has taught and preached renunciation and non-violence?
Is this not reason enough for a celebration? Where is the debate?
I love my country and if I were to be reborn, it would be here. Let’s celebrate. Happy Republic Day everyone – with all my heart’s wishes to all fellow countrymen, to all men and women who toil each day and add to the beauty of our diversity.
I remember the soulful song from Roja in a composition of AR Rehman’s – Bharat Humko Jaan Se Pyaara Hai; Sabse Nyaara Gulistan Hamara Hai – We love Bharat or India more than our lives and we have the most unique garden (referring to India).