The Indian prime minister Mr. Narendra Modi’s statement “I am a Hindu nationalist” had created a lot of controversies once. People had started asking each other, “Are you a nationalist? What kind?”
There have been many debates about nationalism on TV news channels since then, and still, the answer to who is a nationalist and who’s not is still to be found.
Let’s keep the politics behind nationalism aside. The fact is that most of us take pride in calling ourselves, nationalists. But have you ever thought if you really are a nationalist, or just pretending to be one?
“What do you mean by ‘pretending to be one?’ Are you questioning my nationalism?”
You see, questioning forces you to clarify your thoughts, values, and priorities. When someone asks, “Are you a nationalist, do you even think for a second before answering, or do you just blurt it out, as if the answer was sitting right on the tip of your tongue?
Does being a nationalist mean chanting “Bharat Mata ki Jai”, “Hindustan Zindabad”, and “Tera vaibhav amar rahe maa, hum din char rahein na rahein?”
And what actually is “Nationalism?”
Now, since I am the one questioning your nationalism, it’s my moral obligation to clarify my definition of nationalism. And what better day to talk about nationalism than the very day when India had earned her Independence – 15th August?
I shall begin with an incident happened in 2006. I was working as a TV host for a health and lifestyle TV channel in West Delhi; I used to commute by Delhi Metro.
One day the Metro got delayed. There were some technical glitches and the Metro was running a bit late than its scheduled time. The issues could not be resolved and the Metro services had to be canceled. The passengers were asked to de-board. The station where I de-boarded was jam-packed.
I noticed a bunch of people shouting slogans, “Delhi Metro hai hai” (Down with Delhi Metro). And I wondered if people had forgotten the times when they had no option other than Blueline buses?
Oh! Those were horrible times – overcrowded buses, usually ill-mannered conductors along with “gutkha chewing” helpers, and on top of that – impatient drivers. At times you had to yell at the driver to get him stop the bus at your bus stop. Have you forgotten? I haven’t.
Even if you left on time, there was no certainty you’ll reach your institute, college, or office at the time you’re supposed to. Just imagine traveling in a blue line bus in scorching heat in the month of May. I still remember the sweat, the stink, and the helplessness while traveling in a blue line bus. It was nothing short of hell. The mere mention of those times makes me shiver.
And then came Delhi Metro. Initially, people were skeptical of its services, but by and by, more and more people started using it. It was air-conditioned, convenient, and free of unexpected stops (unlike blue line buses). The best part was that people started getting certain about the time of journey. People started leaving home by calculating the time required to reach from station A to station B. Peace of mind was in plenty. And since then, Delhi Metro has been serving us in the most professional way possible.
I personally am grateful to Delhi Metro. It’s because of Delhi Metro that you’re reading this article. I started this blog in 2011 after my PD classes in Subharti University got over. And it was Delhi Metro that made commuting from my home to Meerut possible. I was supposed to reach Noida City Center Metro station by 0700 hrs. daily. Had Delhi Metro not been there, I couldn’t have said yes to that assignment.
Why did I start this article with praise for Delhi metro? What does it have to do with nationalism? Both topics appear irrelevant, except that they aren’t.
The concept of nationalism says that one must be grateful to the nation he’s born in. “Nation” is an intangible word. It cannot be touched or held in hands. Nobody is the nation and yet everyone and everything is part of a nation (and it includes public transport too).
A large number of people residing in Delhi are immigrants – people migrated from other states (including myself). I came to Delhi in 1986. I was born in Western UP; from there my family went to Haridwar, Uttarakhand. I had just passed 4th standard when I came to Delhi, I was kind of a stranger in a city I had no idea about. My old school friends left behind, I was resentful towards Delhi because it had snatched away the golden period of my childhood. But then, the more I experienced Delhi, the more I started respecting it. What did I have when I came here?
All the skills I learned, all the opportunities I took benefit of, my schooling, my college, and everything else was a gift from a city that had openly welcomed a stranger years ago.
It’s Delhi that had given me a roof over my head. I have a respectable employment, decent clothes to wear, food on the table and a fairly good life. Could it have been possible had Delhi rejected me? I doubt it.
I am a blogger and a voice actor. Had I been in my old city – Haridwar, I doubt if I could ever become a voice actor. I know this because many people from smaller cities phone me to ask how to become a voice-over artist. Most probably they can never become one because the city they live in does not have the kind of opportunities required. They are talented, they have the skills, but what would you do with a skill if there were no opportunity around to showcase your talent?
And it hurts me the most when people call names to the city, which has given them a respectable life. Just put the hand on your heart and ask yourself, “Could I have been what I am today, had it not been for this city?” And you’ll get the answer.
Yes, there are problems – corruption, horrible traffic, congested roads, crimes, etc. Things are bad enough to make any responsible citizen edgy and concerned. But, is calling names to the city, which provides you with bread and butter justified?
Let’s say the roof of your house leaks and in the rainy season the water gets accumulated inside. Would you go out and start shouting, “My house hai hai?”
For me, nationalism means having respect for the city I live in. Our nation is build up of cities and villages. Every inch of the land you step on is India. And you truly can be a nationalist by respecting the city you live in.
A person who cannot respect the city he lives in, can he be respectful towards the entire nation, can he be a “Nationalist?”