I don't usually own up to patriotism. It seems so old-fashioned and déclassé. I resent the very premise that my country might be better than yours. I reject tradition and doubt the oft-extolled greatness of India - or at least the argument that its greatness in the past should make me any more proud to live in it now.
Yet, my heart skips a beat whenever I hear the Jana Gana Mana sung. I have dearly wished, these last couple of years, to have a tricolour to unfurl in my balcony or hang in my living room, to be put aside carefully for next year when the day ends. Sadly, I have not obtained one. My fault for not trying hard enough, doubtlessly, and for not remembering early enough before the holiday - yet it makes me wonder why we don't have them selling at every store, at the swanky malls, at the modern superstores. All you see are the horrible plastic versions selling at traffic intersections: none of those full-sized, sedate khadi ones. We had one of those in my parents' home. We used to bring it out religiously every Independence and Republic Day morning, unfurl it in our garden or balcony - a family ritual as strictly followed as my mom baking a cake on our birthdays. I remember standing in front of our building and looking in pride at our balcony which was the only one with a flag fluttering conspicuously - and perhaps dangerously in a state where the ULFA inevitably declared a bandh on the day and violence sometimes disrupted celebrations.
My dad used to wake us up - if we were lazy enough to be still in bed - to watch the official ceremony on television. Later, he would make sure to hoist the flag at home before going out to attend the hoisting - or to do it himself - in a more public venue: he was a professor at a government college for most of the years of his career and a principal at another for the remaining few.
Is all this emotional legacy the reason why I want to put up a flag at home? It is uncharacteristic of me to want to display any traditional symbols: I tend to believe that what is, is inside you and outward manifestations are usually a sham. Yet, putting up a flag seems a blow against convention in a world where patriotism is unfashionable and boring.
I wonder if my mother will dust out the old flag again this year. I know my day will seem a little empty without singing Jana Gana Mana under the fluttering tricolour.