‘Dry Day’ admonished the waiter giving me a slightly quizzical look. Realization dawned. Republic Day. Ofcourse. Not just another mid-week holiday. I still could not make sense why it needs to be a dry day though. Oh yes we are a prudish nation who lets Sunny Leone on prime-time TV but cracks a dress-code whip on women colleges. As usual I failed to make sense. Like I fail to make sense of the contradictions we accept without batting an eye-lid. For instance why the cow is more protected than women and other animals. Why the choices for drinking water are either packaged bottles that come at a price or contaminated water. Why is Hussain hounded out while Advani can repeat his rath-yatra. Why 600 crore is spent on a Dalit park while 600 babies die of encephalitis. Why is 26th a dry day in upmarket pubs. While hooch-sellers still sell posisoned salvation to the daily-wage workers. “Madam”- my chain of thoughts is interrupted by the well-behaved waiter. The special moktail of the day had arrived – the concoction sported the brilliant shades of the tri-colour. I looked around. The hip joint had brought the tr-colours out in full vigour. Even the back-ground music which usually consisted of Enrique and Shakira, comprised the feel-good patriotic songs. The giant plasma screen played footages of the republic day parade in the capital. The patriotism was too obvious to ignore. Possibly I am the lone sceptic in a sea of proud Indians. If so many people can find reasons to celebrate 62 years of democracy, so can I.
And ofcourse I did. The very fabric of the world’s largest democracy. Patched, frayed yet held together. By the love for cricket. And the animosity for Pakistan. By the search for a messiah. And the disappointment of being let down by the ones they do. By the rising prices. And the occasional sales. Threads of commonalities in the huge list of differences. Because lets face it – diversity does not unite. Look at the fumbling, bumbling EU reeling under an unequal union. The basis of unity has to be a common dream, a a feel-good factor everyone can share . Standing in the 62nd year of sovereignty this ancient nation does give me some of those happy moments I can share with a Madrasi or a Punjabi without the happiness getting lost in translation. The fact that India shined inspite of the political inertia. The nation now is strong enough to be offering bail-out packets to mightier nations. The progress, the success has come on the dint of the strength of a billion Indians who have risen over scepticism to take themselves and the nation forward. The strength of the democracy. Which can vocally attack the men and women in power without the fear of a backlash. The strength of humanity and compassion. The extra-ordinary stories of courage, conviction and compassion curated from all over the country. A young girl in Bengal who canvasses against child-marriages. A middle-aged man from Chennai who overcame social stigma to manufacture affordable sanitary napkins for rural women. People sectioned into states on the basis of differences. People united into India by a strong hope. Of a better tomorrow. Of a democracy where equality and justice transcend the preamble. Of a republic which respects humanity. The country may then truly evolve to be the nation Ambedkar conceived. A nation which does not require reservations and delineations and segregations. A nation which does not require a dry-day to enforce respect for the tenets of democracy. A democracy of the people, by the people and for the people. Have a meaningful republic day!