In all these years, tomorrow's going to be the first Independence Day I will spend away from India. I don't know if I am missing my country. But I am missing today my home, my family, my people. I am missing my wife's chatter about her college lectures, my son's little antiques. I am missing the exhausted sigh I heave slumping down on the sofa on returning home from office after a heavy day, as if to breathe out all the tensions of life. I am missing the evening tea which, for me, stands as a pinnacle of affection and pampering care from my wife.
May sound melodramatic, but today I have been listening to the National Anthem since morning. It's bringing moisture to my eyes. I am even playing aamaar shonar bangla again and again. The images of rural Bengal, the ponds, the green fields, the mud huts, the palm and coconut trees -- the environs which I have never lived within, but have only visited and seen in pictures -- and those words of Tagore! Could a national anthem of a country be any more unassuming, any more innocent? It just says, 'I love you my Bengal!'
These tears of ecstasy aren't about patriotism. They flow in thankfulness for that divine blessing we humans have got which allows us to be aware of all the beauty that surrounds us. It needn't be for the richest nation of the world. It needn't be for the most popular tourist destination. It needn't be for the most beautiful person in the world. That beauty may lie in our poverty: in how we share our scanty provisions and help each other out through difficulty. In the sweat with which we build something together, however insignificant. That beauty could be in every little thing which makes us all happy and sad together.
Yesterday afternoon, I was walking through the university town of Ann Arbor. The fall semester is starting. I could see students moving into their apartments. Their parents helped them with the luggage. For fleeting moments, I could feel what they must be feeling. The nervousness and anticipation in the young heart. The strong pain of separation in the parents. The dirt in the new apartment. The chores of setting everything up. The experience of getting acquainted with a new roomie. There were students sitting around a table somewhere, doing their assignments probably. And there was a senior giving some orientation tips to freshmen at some street corner. The place appeared to me the most beautiful little corner of the world. It reminded me of IISc, Roorkee...and all my friends and all the good times.
Some time back, there was a brief phase when I almost believed that 'Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious' (Oscar Wilde). But he must have been talking about its bellicose variant which drives people to wage wars on others. Probably, that variant happens only when you think your nation is great and it needs to be greater still.
Love doesn't arise from the sense of greatness of the object of love, but from the fineness of our sensitivity for little details of beauty. Your beloved mayn't be the most beautiful in the world; but it doesn't diminish the truth in your saying you love her. Your child mayn't be cutest; but that doesn't reduce the satisfaction you get from embracing him. Your life mayn't be a shining example of success; but you may still serve it, love it. When someone builds a house, he falls in love with it, however small and dingy that house may be. The love resides in his awareness of each brick he has laid, each ounce of mud he has used as cement, each straw he has collected to make the thatch.
The ability to be aware of the all pervading beauty also serves us to stay away from becoming overly footloose. If there is something specific that takes us afar, well and good. But if the absence of something here takes us there, we will probably never stop shuttling here and there. Before setting out on a journey to faraway lands, it's good to make sure to some extent that the absence, the void, is not within ourselves. It takes effort to grow the ability to find that thing you are looking for right where you are, preferably within yourself. That's love. That's patriotism.
This day, I am separated only for a brief episode from my wife, my child, my country. Tomorrow morning, for the first time in life, I will not hear the Independence Day celebrations and National Anthem playing at some nearby school. But, I am happy I played the national anthem today. I am happy I am thinking about my dear ones today. I wish I could preserve those two drops that escaped my eyes today. Because they are full of love. Those precious two drops are full of the feeling of being alive.