Growing up in a fairly urban environment in the ’80s and ’90s, the only times I heard the word “Nationalist” were when my history teacher was in a particularly good mood and we were in for some lessons on the Indian struggle for independence. And the only times the word “Nationalist” was uttered in heated conversations, was when my friends and I pretended to be Moderates and Radicals and dressed up as freedom fighters. Good old days, indeed.
Being a nationalist these days can mean a whole lot more. It could indicate your choice of meat, your political fervour, your religion and choice of God, your tendency to communicate in shuddh Hindi, or even your decision to attempt a few twisty ‘Surya Namaskars’ in the name of Yoga!
India is a land of many different languages. But some languages, some words, are more unequal than others. Like, the word ‘nationalist’.
So this summer I decided to look a little closer, dig a little deeper, and discover what it is to be a nationalist.
Summers bring on their quintessential brand of insanity. When we, the nationalists, indulge in our darkest vices – country and environment be damned.
- Each year, air-conditioner and air cooler sales set new records. While the sale of 40,00,000 new AC units (in 2016) may not come as a surprise, nationalists should perhaps consider the impact of these energy-guzzlers on the energy sector, and on already scarce natural resources. So I decided to turn nationalist and set my aircon temperature to a comfortable 22-23°C instead of choosing to sleep in blankets while my unit spewed the cold winds of the Arctic regions.
- Each day, my newspapers are full of valuable suggestions– from what foods to avoid to having foods in summer that could fix the body-heat problem. Come summer, though, my nationalists throw caution to the wind and stock up on videshi brands amidst a raging debate between ice-cream, frozen desserts and what not. So I decided to turn nationalist and turn to the age-old chaach, lassi, and shikanji routine instead. These drinks help you beat the heat and cool down your body naturally.
- While online retailers like Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal, Jabong, and Myntra battle it out to bring home the latest in summer fashion, my nationalists can’t resist the urge to dress up like fashion victims. So, this summer, I decided to turn nationalist and said ‘No’ to denims (and denim-flavoured products) – even those endorsed by popular Yogis. I now buy my cottons and khadis straight from the handloom artisans who are struggling to stay in business. What’s more, it’s also a perfect fashion hack to feel a lot cooler this summer.
- My nationalists worship the cow. The mynahs and sparrows and pigeons and the strays that live with us in our cities, shrivel in envy and die of thirst. I decided to turn nationalist and set up my own watering hole – a free for all birds zone, even the cursed crow.
- Each day, a farmer dies and millions wait for water tanks to get their share of drinking water, when city lakes burst out in flames and natural lakes run dry, my nationalists discuss the El Nino and government relief schemes. I look only at my water-guzzling washing machines (fully-automatic, thank you very much) and my bubble bath tubs that take up hundreds of litres of water a day. Being a nationalist, I pledge a hundred bottles of water to a drought-struck village this year.
- Each plant that dies takes with it a piece of my country’s soul. My forests are neither Hindu, nor Muslim, or Sikh. They claim no quota, seek no reservation, lodge no protests. That is perhaps why my nationalists let them die a silent death and quibble over weighty issues. But I’m a nationalist too, I plant a few saplings, I nurture them with love and hope. And I dream that thousands, nay millions, shall join hands with me.
That my country shall wake up to true nationalism. This Summer.