As would be the case with most Indians ‘Saare jahan se accha Hindustan hamara’ is my all time favourite. And it is just not Iqbal’s beautiful lyrics or the uplifting melody but its association with India’s freedom struggle which makes it special. It has been used on many occasions and I was filled with pride when Rakesh Sharma said it from outer space. But my heart broke when Sartaj mouthed it recently, to affirm his loyalty to the country. That he felt the need to do this just days after his father,Akhlaq had been brutally lynched in Dadri showed that we had failed him as a nation. Somehow, I would have felt better had he quoted from my other favourite ‘Jinhein naaz hai Hind par, woh kahan hain?’ . He should have felt free and safe to express his anguish, his dissent. In a secular, democratic country no one should have to constantly prove his patriotism.
Sahir’s critical analysis in this song from Kagaz ke Phool was a constant point of reference during my sceptical years of disillusionment as a young adult. I felt the song wasn’t about brothels alone, but the general state of rot in the system. Loving the song doesn’t make me less of an ‘Indian’ though, because patriotism is not about blind, chest thumping national pride alone. It is also about questioning and criticising, which leads to introspection and perhaps improvement.
I couldn’t decide which of the two songs is ‘ nuanced and profound’ enough to describe a country as diverse as India and my evolving feelings for it. I think I have the right to feel proud or ashamed, hopeful or disillusioned, grateful or disgruntled depending on the circumstances I find myself in. I shouldn’t have to choose one song and one sentiment alone.
(Wrote this for a Hindu readers contest ….a better one was selected!)