If the media hyperbole over India entering her 61st year of independence has resulted in anything besides people denouncing the Emergency all over again, it has been to make me realize how much I love the National Anthem. Many people have written about the anthem, written beautifully needless to say, and I thought it would be hubris to add to the set of distinguished posts.
But, despite myself, I am.
I listen to the re-released album Jana Gana Mana and stand so stunned at the various unbelievably beautiful interpretations of the simple melody, that I brought myself to write about them. (This, when I had decided that this space would be for flippant discussion over things that don't really matter to any of us.)
Drawing artistes from across the country and her various forms of music, the album is, as was intended, an amalgamation of all things musically patriotic, or patriotically musical. Every Lata Mangeshkar is represented by a DK Pattammal; every Bhimsen Joshi, by a Balamuralikrishna.
Each showing to us, using the same swaras, the same taala, the same words and the same bhaava, all that is diverse about their chosen streams of music, yet proving to us all too conclusively that Jana Gana Mana is the great unifier. Note how each of them interprets even the smallest of murkis differently, sounding so different from each other, and still sounding so alike.
I get gooseflesh when I listen to that great doyen, part of the female trinity of Carnatic Classical music, DK Pattammal singing the ode to Dispenser of India's Destiny; or when Lata, that picture of greatness, negotiates the high note of Jaya he, when she was a ripe 70.
The tune itself is very simple; based on Bilaawal/Shankaraabharanam (wherever your affiliation lies), raagas that have been used so often in popular film songs. Yet, with this song, it evokes something so dormant in most of us.
I am not a very patriotic person, if jingoism is what is construed to be patriotism these days. I do not end a speech/performance on stage with a Jai Hind, or stick a plastic tricolour to my bike on Independence Day, or insist on standing up while the national anthem plays. I do not.
But this song, much cliched as it sounds, makes me very proud. And very happy. It makes me want to go back to school and sing it out loud with hundreds of other kids, each one holding a pitch ranging from A to Z and then some.
While being in school, singing the National Anthem, 'wasting' 52! seconds seemed like a ritual as dreary and ill-gotten as getting the school diary signed, or wearing polished shoes, or attending Moral Science classes. It had been over six years that I had last sung the National Anthem before the TV invasion of the anthem happened, and since then I must have sung/listened/hummed it enough to make up for all the lost years. May be it is the innate pride over how far we have come since 1947; since the day when a Line killed millions, fractured an entire geography, and threatened to put the subcontinent back to the days of uncertainty, despite the 'independence'. And look where we are today! If this isn't a giant leap for mankind, little else is. Agreed the country still has the corruption, the dowry, the redtape, and the works. But, if we have achieved as much as we have in as little as 60 years despite all these impediments, imagine what the Indian spirit, alive in every one of the billion, could achieve in the next 60.
We, as the citizens of the country, are in that sense, the true Dispensers of India's Destiny; and I am inclined to believe that Tagore thought of this very thing while he penned the anthem.
As Independent India turns a glorious 61, glorious visions of the future hold me in thrall. And I stand an excited spectator in my little corner and watch the spectacular symphony as it unfolds, note by note, movement by movement, over the whole of the country.
This got too pedantic, I know. So, I stop.
You, all of you, go listen to Jana Gana Mana, or better still, sing it out loud.
(It doesn't have to be Independence Day to, you know.)