National Anthem in movie halls

I was in a movie hall last week in Bangalore and before the movie was played, there were several social advertisements from the government. Finally, the screen had a text asking people to stand up for the national anthem. It was good to see people standing up and even, be quiet to my surprise. But is this symbolism really needed?

The question above doesn’t need any research to answer. We just have to look around to say without hesitation — ‘NO’. Just immediately after sitting down, the people started behaving so badly. The guy who was sitting next to me was attending a phone call every two minutes. There were so many people who came late and they were disturbing the proceedings. There was a lady who was sitting diagonally in front, who kept watching her phone and that was troubling me. Then, there were people who sat in the wrong seats who had to be pulled out so that the latecomers can be accommodated. A mother was trying to console her newborn baby who was screaming not able to withstand the 3D digital surround sound. The theater staff was helping their cause — searching seats for latecomers, unearthing people who sat in the wrong seats and even, allowing that mother to come into the hall fully knowing that she was carrying an infant whose tender ears cannot withstand the hard sound.

As we can see, there was no need to do any research to conclude that the national anthem at theaters is not having any effect. But I also noted that the people were behaving really well when the national anthem was played little earlier. During the interval time, I sent a message to my friend saying ‘why do we have to stand for the national anthem?’. His reply was ‘Respect’. Are we really respectful? Is standing up for national anthem respectful? or Is it behaving responsibly that is respectful?

A flag is a symbol that reminds us of the values on which the country is built upon. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, the great philosopher and our second President explains the significance of the flag in the following fashion: Bhagwa or the Saffron denotes renunciation or disinterestedness. Our leaders must be indifferent to material gains and dedicate themselves to their work. The white in the centre is light, the path of truth to guide our conduct. The green shows our relation to (the) soil, our relation to the plant life here, on which all other life depends. The “Ashoka Chakra” in the center of the white is the wheel of the law of dharma. Truth or satya, dharma or virtue ought to be the controlling principle of those who work under this flag. Again, the wheel denotes motion. There is death in stagnation. There is life in movement. India should no more resist change, it must move and go forward. The wheel represents the dynamism of a peaceful change.

How are we going to educate our people to ‘really’ respect the flag? The real respect is when the people follow the ideals for which the flag is a symbolic representation. Unfortunately, as a country, we have lost all these ideals. Our soil, water, and air are polluted beyond imagination. Our roads are full of trash. Our trees are felled. Our animals are treated cruelly. There is complete indifference to privacy and respect. If you have money, you are given respect. If you don’t have money, your existence is a question mark. No driver cares about an elderly person or a pregnant lady crossing the road. We see indiscipline of every kind — speaking on a cell phone while driving, cutting the queue, throwing litter in the streets etc. Our kids are consciously or unconsciously learning from all of us in the way we deal with our own selves, with others and with the world in general.

So in no way, we are honoring or respecting our flag and in the process, we don’t respect our nation. There is nothing wrong in making people stand up for the national anthem. We can do that everywhere — in offices, schools, colleges or every public gathering. But it is not going to help. We need to be thinking about how we can make our people follow the ideals that the flag represents.

So, what is the solution?

I have one regular solution and one slightly different solution. Make this as part of school every day where kids are exposed to the understanding of the values of our national flag and nation, in general.

For the second one, I would use the example of low-cost airline, Indigo and the airport system in India. These days, it is common for airport staff to decline Check-in if the passenger didn't turn up at the airport 45 mins before the departure. Indigo was religious about it and today, it is common for passengers to reach the airport on time. Why can’t we bring this discipline in every area of our life? We could start this with movies. Once the film starts, nobody will be allowed to enter or they will be given seats where they can enter without any disturbance. If theaters start to follow this rule religiously, then, people will turn up on time. If that happens, we can all stand up for our national anthem in pride with the hope that the discipline will spill over to every other walk of life.

The question is whether people will take going to the theater with the same seriousness as going to the airport. From north to south and from east to west, in spite of our pluralities in culture, there is one thing that is so common and so Indian. It is our indiscipline. It is the same wherever we go to in India. How did this indiscipline originate? Prior to independence, we were the most disciplined society. We didn't hit back when someone hit us. It is the highest form of discipline. We set the example for discipline for the whole world. It is time to set an example for our next generation.

Writer, எழுத்தாளன்