Friday, August 17, 2007

Jana Gana Mana.

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.)


God said...

Very, very nicely written.
Keep the good work coming.
Yeah, I luv the Jana Gana Mana too!

priya said...

i think Independence is overhyped. in the jingoism that ensued after independence, the accounts of real people have been forgotten. Im not sure EVERYONE had tears of joy in their eyes when it was announced that we're 'free'.
read Shashi Tharoor's 'The Great Indian Novel' for a hundred years of Indian history, all parodied-sorts.
but the national anthem.... it for some reason makes me stand up in respect, dont quite know why. so does the national song. I guess Rehman's version had something to do with that, but Lata Mangeshkar should stick to singing romantic songs.

Adorable Pancreas said...

Same sentiments here. Used to think of the national anthem as a waste of time in school, but yeah, now it's different. Nicely written. :)

Prakruti said...

Very well written. I share your sentiments too. I liked your earlier posts about Harry Potter, Fragile, your prof etc better though!
But overall, nice nice blog.

Spunky Monkey said...

@ God(?) - Why, thank you. Finally, blessings answered. Victory jig time. Yipee!
(Mind your spellings though, God)

@Priya - Oh no, independence I don't think is overhyped. Sitting in India, we don't realize its importance, us the younger generation at least. But having watched documentaries about the snatching of very basic rights in other countries, I have begun to put things in perspective.
Rahman's version was awesome, but I wish people would stop thinking he composed the song. No, he did not. And not Vande Mataram either.
Lata should sing. Period. I'll listen to anything she sings.

@Pancreas - Thank you. And I am glad you feel differently now.

@Prakruti - Nice name, first of all. Thanks for the compliments, and Aw for these posts not being that good. I am not at a very writing-y place these days.

AnSVad said...

Nicely written. Totally agree with you. Very true about the cliched jingoism of some people when they say jai hind at the end of a speech...

TS said...

Jana Gana Mana was written to welcome King George to India on his first visit.

And also, the Airtel ad, despite the fact that its very moving and makes you swell up with pride, is quite the advertising gimmick. They have no business to be playing it on National Telivision where, for all you know, naked people are sitting eating chanas off their pot belly.


My point of view apart, this is a nice space.

Malaveeka said...


Chai said...

Very well written. Jana gana mana never fails to give me the goosebumps.
As an aside: i love the fact that movie halls in mumbai play the national anthem before the film starts!Its a strangely nice feeling to see people stand up in attention inside the dark auditorium.

Spunky Monkey said...

@Ansvad - Thanks for stopping by.

@TS - First up, NO, it wasn't written to welcome King George to India. A little wiki-ing regarding the matter would solve the misconception.

Second, I really don't find it sacrilegious; I have always believed us Indians are a little too touchy about symbols of National Pride. It's our anthem, for crying out loud! If the Union Jack can make appearances on flags and underwear alike, I see nothing wrong with tastefully done renditions of the National Anthem.

And, thank you!

@Malaveeka - Hmmm back atcha.

@Chai - Thank you.
Much as I like the feeling of everybody standing up for the National Anthem (despite having come to the theatre to watch crap films like Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna), I do find it a little distressing that one is considered unpatriotic when one doesn't.
Much cliched as it may sound, isn't patriotism a thing of the heart and not the limbs?

Trois Coleurs said...

We all stood up when the firang kids sang Jana Gana Mana in K3G years ago. Cut to 26th, last week, I woke up and my brain's consciousness-mechanism had just about rumbled into action when I heard the national anthem being played on t.v. I was lying on the bed like a drunk sloth bear. (Don't ask me how that happens)


PS-As an afterthought, this might be bad for me if some CNN IBN journo digs this up months after I've been made the HRD Minister, 10 years from now. So I post in Anon.

PPS- In a dance on stage, a girl wielded a huge tricolour and waved it dramatically in the end. Yours truly was crying in seconds. I don't know why. Still.

swathi said...

i love the national anthem too. like really really. :)
I do think it was originally written to eulogize and express complete allegiance to that british king. there's a nice, interesting possibility that its original tone was satirical.

Also,there's no saying that wiki articles are written by scholars of any matter in question; so i suggest you look further. :)
but beautiful beautiful poetry, even when translated.

Oh, and somebody referred me to your blog. And man, its so popular! :)

Anonymous said...

is it just me or did you _not_ get that link?
er. since i'm not doing much anyway.

Anonymous said...

is it just me or did you _not_ get that link?
er. since i'm not doing much anyway.