…if I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country. — E M Forster

I am not proud of being an Indian. I did nothing to merit Indian-ness. I didn’t choose to be born in India. I do feel very fortunate to belong to this great melting pot of cultures and influences, but that’s just about all. Nationality — mine, yours or anyone else’s — is a matter of chance and it would speak poorly of me if I were to be proud of a coincidence.

Patriotism is something those born before us feed us. We are taught to wear it on our sleeve, coat it with layers of rhetoric. We shove it in the face of anyone who comes close enough to notice and in the process, effectively eliminate any chance of sense prevailing.

Patriots grow, from being schoolboys who sing of deshbhakti with such gusto that you sometimes wish they actually knew what the songs meant, to being loud but good-natured citizens who know no other way of solving a problem other than by rallying and campaigning. In their heads, Bharat Mata is armed for battle and everyone and everything is a threat.

Needless to say, such ones have little clue about how things work and why they work the way they do.

Mohandas Gandhi was against British tyranny, not the British themselves. He felt violated because he saw one man claim superiority over another, not because he saw a Britisher pummel an Indian. In South Africa, the purpose of Satyagraha was the triumph of truth and what is right, not to claim a victory over the British.

In other words, he thought it was wrong to attack people who can’t defend themselves. He realised that no consideration can outweigh what is right. He preached that the righteous need fear no force.

What Bapu did that no one else did was realise that all this didn’t apply to him alone. It is a simple fact that strangely, everyone goes blind to. He was against ‘demonising the British Empire for faults that we all possess’. It was the faults he was after.

Isaac Asimov, in his autobiography talks of anti-semitism:

Such is the blindness of people that I have known Jews who, having deplored anti-semitism in unmeasured tones, would, with scarcely a breath in between, get on the subject of African-Americans and promptly begin to sound like a group of petty Hitlers. And when I pointed this out and objected to it strenuously, they turned on me in anger. They simply could not see what they were doing.

Asimov was a Jew who saw this in spite of having gone through what Jews traditionally went through. He was never roughed up, though I doubt that would have changed anything.

I find the unfriendly neighbourhood patriot very amusing and pity myself for not sharing his gusto. He is blocking the traffic, disturbing the peace and crowding the airwaves with rhetoric. All under the fond impression that he is doing it for his love of the nation, even though he has no idea how its going to work out.

Sadly though, even when I strain my eyes, I can spot no threat to Bharat Mata except one. I haven’t the heart to tell the patriot that it’s him.