AFTERNOON ROAR – i sing to the safe keeper of India

I sang our country’s national anthem everyday at school in Saudi Arabia. We all cribbed about how long it was. It was mandatory that we sang two national anthems (country of origin and country of residence) and a school song. By the time we reached ‘Tava śubha nāme jāge’ students would faint due to the heat. Morning school assemblies were performed underneath the sweltering sun of the desert. To escape the fury of the sun we sang the national anthem in one breath. On most days we would finish the anthem faster than the school choir. Everyone just wanted to sing and get back to the AC classrooms. This is what I remember of the national anthem.

There are numerous controversies surrounding our national anthem. Indian politics thrives on regionalism and religious disintegration. Political parties use the nation’s anthem to create regionalism and religious disintegration.

Goof Up 1/ version (a) – Are we singing for George V or India

Preface – The year was 1911. Tagore composed a poem which was to be sung on the second day of the Indian National Congress convention in Calcutta. This day was also marked by the visit of George V to India. To mark the Emperor’s visit, a song written by Rambhuj Chaudhary was sung praising the British throne. Two songs, two occasions but the “British Indian” media being British reported that Tagore had made a poem especially for the Emperor’s visit and sung it. As usual headlines were blown out of proportion.

Goof Up 1/ version (b) – Are we singing for George V or India

Tagore was asked to compose a poem to welcome the British Emperor’s visit to India. Thus, the national anthem was born. We are still singing acknowledging the British Empire.

Tagore wrote this in a letter to Pulin Behari Sen,

“A certain high official in His Majesty’s service, who was also my friend, had requested that I write a song of felicitation towards the Emperor. The request simply amazed me. It caused a great stir in my heart. In response to that great mental turmoil, I pronounced the victory in Jana Gana Mana of that Bhagya Vidhata [ed. God of Destiny] of India who has from age after age held steadfast the reins of India’s chariot through rise and fall, through the straight path and the curved. That Lord of Destiny, that Reader of the Collective Mind of India, that Perennial Guide, could never be George V, George VI, or any other George. Even my official friend understood this about the song. After all, even if his admiration for the crown was excessive, he was not lacking in simple common sense.”

Obviously, George V did not have the slightest idea of what was happening. It is a pity that we still hold on to this goof up and value both the versions.

There are very few instances I sang the national anthem in college. Multiplexes as PVR and Inox play the anthem before screening the movie. Half of the times, we reach late or just too excited that we actually made it on time. In the face of terror and tragedy, few things rekindle your spirits, singing the national anthem of your own sovereign, secular republic is one of them.

I recall singing the anthem at FAPS for Major. Sandeep’s memorial service. I think the first time I actually paid attention to each word of the anthem. Neither I nor many gathered there completed the anthem. The emotions were too overbearing. I choked by the time we reached, “Punjāba Sindha Gujarāta Marāṭhā Drāviḍa”.We don’t sing to or for George V or Queen Elizabeth or her grandsons. That day I sang the anthem to the safe keeper of India. To the same person whom Tagore composed the poem – to God…..

“Held steadfast the reins of India’s chariot through rise and fall, through the straight path and the curved”….

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