Vande Mataram

Why a mother? I’ve always wondered why India is a ‘motherland’, while some countries are ‘fatherland’s. The land as mother is not an unusual image – nourishing, mysterious, the womb that accepts the seed – there is much to link the land with motherhood. The state as father is not new either – the paterfamilias, the all-powerful lawgiver, he who holds life and death in his hands.

What then, is the nation? Neither land alone, nor state by itself. In fact, neither is essential to its being. The nation neither nurtures, nor controls. It wields no power in relation to those that constitute it, but it has a hold over their imagination – create overpowering emotion, and spur revolutionary action.

Hm.

My salutation today, then, is directed to that amorphous Indian nation. The collective imagination of those who cried Vande Mataram as a protest, who used prayer to rebel. The goosebumps millions of people feel when they hear that particular combination of lyric and music that make up the Jana Gana Mana, Saare Jahan se Achcha, or, as the case may be, Vande Mataram (or even Maa Tujhe Salaam!). The doodle of Gandhi that made its way from Doordarshan screens through notebooks and notepads across the country to a cloud-formation in a movie poster. The spirit that moves us to make little gestures against unfairness and injustice – against the government and against our fellows.

Vande!

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