Real patriot? An honest worker

Rajan Kapoor

THE recent tension between India and Pakistan triggered a meaningful discussion on patriotism in my classroom. A group of students hailed India’s muscular approach. Another group remained silent. But there was a minuscule minority of students who did not wish to confine patriotism to defending the territorial integrity of the country alone, and pitched for extending the arc of patriotism beyond arms and ammunition. For them, patriotism was an all-encompassing feeling that transcended territorial issues. When this small group of students was confronted by the advocates of the group that threw its weight behind the tough military posturing, the supporters of the anti-war group gave a new turn to the feelings of patriotism.

They simply opposed jingoism. Blind patriotism would push the denizens of the country to the dark alley of death and destruction. Patriotism stood for scripting the success story of the country — both in war and peacetime. External aggression, if imposed, should be challenged and every citizen should contribute his or her mite to strengthen the armed forces pitted against the enemy. But the same enthusiasm must also be displayed when the country was not at war. Mere sloganeering would never help the country touch new heights of glory. Sincere efforts must be made to achieve extraordinary results. This was their opinion.

But the group that supported tough action disagreed with the peaceniks, dubbing them armchair votaries of peace, unmindful of the reality.

The anti-war group challenged the war mongers in a novel way. They came out with a proposal to conduct a survey to know how many citizens of their own town were true patriots. Both groups then set out to locate patriots. Their first target was the college itself. They put a question to students: How many of them had ever defaced walls of classrooms? A majority of them replied in the affirmative. They proudly answered in the negative when asked if they felt guilty of their act. The staff came next. Did they update the knowledge of their subject? The question left many embarrassed. The next round of the survey was conducted outside the campus. The group visited a number of government institutions to assess the level of discipline that employees displayed towards their organisation. To their surprise, they found that citizens lacked the zeal to work for their country. They were self-centred and grinding their own axe at the cost of nation-building. When a few shirkers were confronted for not performing their duty, they openly spat venom against their motherland and confessed to giving preference to self over nation.

The survey taught the pro-war group a lesson that parochial nationalism is a curse. It can never help a nation move forward. One can serve the nation like a soldier, if one works honestly and with dedication.

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