Making R-Day more relevant

January 27th, 2012

By the time I woke up on Republic Day, some part of the money I had paid as tax last year was wasted by Indian President, Pratibha Patil, on checking out well-built soldiers of armed forces that turned out in full battle regalia.

The nation did a lot to impress her: An endless procession of regiments, bands, cavalry, antiquated artillery tanks and modern missiles, interspersed with school children and tableaux. I won’t be surprised if it turns out later that some of the tanks and missiles do not even work.

It is beyond my comprehension why this elaborate extravaganza is made part of Republic Day. Such military parades used to be a regular feature of communist countries. But even they got bored of this and discontinued it long ago. For some reason, India refuses to grow in its thinking by letting this go on.

My point is that if the government really has a very compelling reason to let this continue, then the least it could do is revive the raison d’être of this custom. Originally, the parade was started to instil a feeling of pride among Indians. But now the purpose is missing. Most Indians care little about it. There are people who oppose it primarily because a substantial proportion of the armed forces budget is diverted for the preparation of this mammoth exercise. But defying all clamour, India has retained this practice. If the exercise cannot be discontinued, at least the government can make it a little more relevant.

And why only blame only the government for not thinking enough. The we-won’t-change mindset is just about everywhere. Take our TV channels for example. When I switched on the box on Republic Day, the ones that looked the most insane were the movie channels. They were all showing “patriotic” movies such as Karma,  LoC, Kargil and Gandhi. I mean, come on! Why “patriotic” movies on R-Day only? Do people really wake up on Republic Day or Independence Day with a sudden rush of patriotic fervour and take delight in watching movies in which virtuous India trounces devilish Pakistan? Isn’t that ridiculous?

But there is some history behind it. This is the Doordarshan (DD) legacy, which the new movie channels have been carrying forward. Years ago, DD would show movies with a holi song on Holi, a brother-sister love song on Raksha Bandhan. I don’t know if they still do it because I don’t watch it anymore.

Clearly, the DD guys lacked imagination and were too lazy to think of something more interesting. For them, a special telecast or programme was just about connecting an occasion with a related song in a movie. But what are these highly-paid producers of these new-age channels doing? They are just sticking to a trend set by DD many years ago. And why is that? Because breaking away from a trend would require them to use their mind. And obviously, they are too reluctant to do that.

The two instances prove at least one thing: We need to do more thinking in order to be in sync with today’s world. Things that worked well in the past may not do so in the future. And if this is the lesson each Indian has to learn then the beginning should be made first by the First Citizen of the country.

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