The mighty fall

A tryst with the Indian National Flag under two different circumstances during the preceding few days has had me thinking about the significance and meaning behind this symbol of national pride.

The first occasion was the hoisting of the National Flag at an office function where some political ‘dignitaries’ were to be present.

Having occasion to go through the Flag Code of India, I was struck by the opening lines of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the philosopher statesman, one of the greatest intellectuals to have adorned the office of the President of India.

He perspicuously explains thus. “Saffron colour denotes renunciation or disinterestedness.

Our leaders must be indifferent to material gains and dedicate themselves to their work. The white in the centre is light, the path of truth to guide our conduct.

The green shows our relation to soil, our relation to the plant life here on which all other life depends.

The Ashoka wheel in the centre of the white is the wheel of the law of Dharma. Truth or satya, dharma or virtue ought to be the controlling principles of those who work under this flag....” The second time was during the launch of a book of musical compositions.

Among the 19 composers featured therein is the name of Mayuram Vishwanatha Shastry.  
One of the eminent composers of Carnatic music of the later part of the 20th century, Shastry is especially noted for his soul stirring nationalistic songs, a call from a soul deeply embedded in the cultural, spiritual and philosophical ethos of ancient India, a wake up call to Indians to sing the praises of this hallowed land and revere her.

A free verse translation of one such Sanskrit song reads as “Salutations to the Flag of India. The flag that confers all prosperity. The flag that teaches us to think about the welfare of our fellow men. The flag that removes all differences of caste, creed and gender. The flag that impels us to think about higher (spiritual) matters... ” A perfect example of great minds thinking alike, syncretic in their sweep of thought. 

What do we see today? A political class that is the very anathema of all the glorious values envisaged by men of principles and ethics. A class for whom public money is no different from their personal money. For whom venality, misfeasance, pomposity, ostentation and egregious conduct is ‘the’ acceptable way of life. They make high sounding, pedantic speeches on Independence day. In the hubris of their invincibility, they march unchallenged. 

Long before ‘environment’ became a fashionable word, Radhakrishnan spoke of man’s relation with the earth.  If Tagore were to be alive today, probably he would have said “where the mind is full of greed, but the head is still held high shamelessly...” Thus ends my soliloquy.

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