Friday, January 25, 2008

How old is my country?

What is it about me that make people believe that I am patriot? Do they see tri-colour in my eyes? Or a rhythmic march-past steps in my movement? Or does my speech resonate with voices of ‘inquilaab zindabad’? Or the fact that I am single gives the idea that I have placed country first and foremost in my heart? Beats me! I prefer cotton for the simple reason of comfort. I hum along whenever national anthem is played lest I forget it entirely (1). I don’t like anybody speaking against the country, ‘coz I don’t like any kind of negativity. But that does not mean that I am somebody fiercely in love with the idea of India and my sole purpose in life is to discover and understand the country in all her shades of color. You know, if at all there was a rule which could dismiss a government servant for not knowing certain fundamental things about the country, I would be gone in a jiffy. See, of all the people in the world, this confused man (TCM) from railways has zeroed in on me to get ‘authentic’ age of India. So I have no other alternative but to come to the conclusion that the entire universe is conspiring to expose Me to myself. This TCM is highly convinced about my 'nationalist' knowledge. It has happened not once or twice but thrice. The first time was in last January and the conversation went on somewhat like this:

TCM– 'hello..he he he..good morning madam…'

Me: 'Morning, pls tell me'

TCM: 'Madam..he he he..I wanted to know whether it is 57th or 58th Republic Day that is being celebrated now'

Me: *flummoxed* 'What? I didn’t get you! Can you come again pls!'

TCM: 'No madam, the department wants to place an advertisement to greet the nation on Republic Day. So should we be saying 57th or 58th. We are a bit confused about it.'

Me: 'Huh..Okay. Not a problem. Follow whatever other departments or PSUs are doing. That way you wont be committing a new mistake, if at all it’s a mistake.' (this was meant to end the conversation, but such hints are never taken by people).

TCM: 'But we checked, and it is not uniform. Some people are putting it as 57th and others are saying it as 58th.'

Me: 'Hmmm. In that case you should do whatever majority is doing. But, wait. We became a republic in 1950. Presently we are in 2007. So, *I do quick maths* it is 57. I think you should greet the nation on its 57th Republic day.'

CM: 'Oh, thank you madam. I knew you would know.'

Me: *still more flummoxed, resist the temptation of asking why he thought so* 'Errr…thanks. Anytime. Bye'

I thought this man would never call me again for any information whatsoever because as it happened President delivered his 58th address on the eve of Republic Day and many private bodies and others had put full page ads on the occasion of 58th Republic Day. But I was proved wrong. He called up last August displaying his immense (mis-placed?) faith in my knowledge about India.

TCM: 'Hello madam, this is me…*introduces himself, though I know ‘coz it’s on the intercom* again. How are you.'

Me: 'Fine. Thanks. Tell me pls.'

TCM: 'Madam, Independence Day is coming. Can you please confirm whether its 60th or 61st.'

Me: *with the voice of an injured ego* 'Look, its all over the media. We are celebrating India’s 60th Independence Day.'

TCM: 'ohhhh…I know, I know… sorry to disturb you for such a trivial thing but I just wanted to confirm with you madam. Thank you so much.'

Me: Yes. Bye

So few days back when I saw the invites for the R-Day parade, I somehow knew that this man would call up again. He is a familiar figure in our circles, ‘coz the office letters for EQ release goes to him for final processing. So yesterday once more I got his call.

TCM: 'Hello madam. How are you doing? I have called up to find out about the Republic Day.'

Me: 'Ya. I know. Wait. I will check it on the President’s website and tell you. See, here it says,The President of India will address the nation on the eve of the 59th Republic Day. So here it is. Its 59th R-Day. * after few seconds* But, tell me, what did you do last year?'

TCM: *sounds puzzled* 'Last year? Yes. Last year, we had put it as 58th Republic Day!'

Me: *trying to sound extremely annoyed* 'Then wouldn’t it be 59th this year? Why are you keen on confirming it with me?'

TCM: 'Yes, you are right madam. Logically speaking, that is. But it is always better to confirm things like this. Thank you so much madam'

Me: 'okay'

I know, he will definitely call up in August, so I have already thought of a reply. I would say:

“Don’t you know? She is no longer in service. She retired from service after attaining the age of 60! No office keeps record of people after their retirement, right?"

(1) Actually, it has happened once during those compulsory flag-hoisting ceremonies organised at office premises. And I was so amused to see the look of horror on the face of one of my friends as I fumbled and mispronounced few words in between.To tell you the truth, I get confused over few words even to this day. The Anthem is neither in Hindi nor in Sanskrit nor in Kannada and those were the languages I was taught in school. And moreover I don’t even recall of having been ever told the meaning of the Anthem during schooling and when I grew up and found out, I found it quite inane, not worthy of remembering (remember, those were the times when you revelled in the sadness of the patriotic songs).

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