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  • Anushree Malpani

True Patriotism

It was a warm day a year ago. The entire locale was decorated with the tricolour. The orange ribbons, white flowers, and green leaves covering the walls and doors grabbed everyone's attention. I had enjoyed this day since I was a toddler as I would have no school and delicious delicacies which were shared with everyone. Years have passed since I was a toddler but nothing has changed. I still love this day because of the feel it provides to all of us.

I stood near the grand flag grinning, thinking about doing a lot of things during this holiday. I remembered how the flagpole usually looked like an extra element in the lush green garden without the flag, but today it was the centre of everyone's attention. A beautiful rangoli surrounded the flag and flowers decorated its post. It looked no less than a victory sign for all of us who stood there saluting, while it was finally hoisted. It scattered the prettiest flowers I had ever seen. Nonetheless, after seeing the fluttering flag in the big blue sky there was nothing grander we Indians could witness on this day.

I had read about the importance of this day in books. I had also heard stories of the freedom struggle from my grandfather and as a consequence of this, I admired those freedom fighters. I believed bravery and patriotism had never been shown in a better way than by them. Patriotism was valour and gallantry for me. People who lay down their lives for the people of their country in wars and fights were true heroes. I thought normal people like me could only be citizens with nothing to offer to the country. Nonetheless, I remember how that very day I met the true patriot who showed us the real meaning of patriotism.

I was inside my car with my parents going out for lunch since it was a holiday for all of us. My dad being an admirer of our country made us play patriotic songs throughout the ride. By the time we reached the restaurant, I only had nationalistic songs playing in my head. As we entered we saw how magnificently the place was decorated. Tricolour balloons and streamers dominated the entire area. Yet the thing that suddenly caught my attention was how tables had been moved from their regular places and joined together to form an abnormally long table as we were about to reach out to the waiter the room burst with laughter from a lot of kids. They were all of different ages, wearing dusty and torn clothes but each of them held an Indian flag proudly in their hand. Behind them came a middle-aged man wearing a white kurta. He had a faint smile on his face but the wrinkles near his eyes showed that he smiled a lot. He was talking to a man in a black coat who was most probably the manager of the restaurant. After a few minutes of trying to interpret what was happening, we decided to reach out to the manager, but before that, the middle-aged man saw us looking clueless and came toward us.

“Hello, I am sorry for the trouble I might give you all, but I booked this place for the kids,” he said. My dad then replied by saying, “Oh no problem, we would go elsewhere.”

However as we turned around the man said, “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.” My dad turned around, “Sorry?”

He smiled and said, “The world is one family, why don’t you join us?” We looked at each other trying to figure out if we should but before my dad could refuse I prompted and said yes.

We sat together, it felt so lively to eat with so many people that I was overwhelmed. Every child had his own very special story. Some did not have enough resources to study but through classes in the night, they had won various awards in different fields from education to sports to arts. I could see how each of them was proud of their achievements. The middle-aged man had been a family to these kids since they were toddlers and had spent most of his time turning them into better human beings.

He was the most insightful person I had ever met. He shared how he was a professor at a prestigious university but most of his holidays and free time were spent with these kids. He had considered this world his home, sharing most of his salary with the deserving and doing whatever he could to protect its pureness. He was a god-sent angel to restore faith in mankind.

Suddenly, I found myself asking him what patriotism is for him. I was surprised by my own unexpected question. He remained quiet for a bit that I thought he wouldn’t answer but then he spoke again and said that he believed it was simply love. Love for people or land. If you are ready to protect a place that has given you everything, you show determination to safeguard it but that also does not mean that people who don’t die for the country are not a patriot or don’t support patriotism. The moment you do selfless service for society you are a patriot. A boon to everyone around you. This priority to secure and shelter those you love is nothing but patriotism. I started to ponder on his words when he spoke again and said, “You know… when you get something that you did not work for, you would not know how to value it or maintain it. However, we Indians have struggled and seen dark and darker days just to live on free land and hence we value freedom the most.

His words made more sense than anything I had ever heard about patriotism. It made me realise I could be a patriot too. Let us all think of patriotism as not the right to do what we please just because we love something but as the opportunity to do what is right for what we love.

So today, a year later, I am here with a few of my friends at the beach, cleaning. We come here every weekend. We all can be patriots of our nation, working towards making a place we love an even better place. I believe the best way to show true patriotism is through love and this love can be shown through selfless service to your society. Every human present on this land deserves love and respect no matter what his colour, caste, or religion is. So this Independence day let us spread the message of true patriotism - love and respect.

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