The anthem on my lips

January is a special month for me for four reasons. The first two days of the month are special, of course, because of the New Year's Day followed by my birthday on January 2. But my heart bubbles with enthusiasm when I think of the two red-letter days - January 23, the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, and January 26, Republic Day. These bring to me the opportunity to sing Jana Gana Mana, our national anthem, composed by our beloved poet Rabindranath Tagore.

Though I am gifted with neither a sweet voice nor a melodious tone, the two indispensable preconditions for a good singer, I can boast of singing India's national anthem in perfect rhythm, tune, enunciation and duration, keeping pace with the patriotic spirit of the song. Of course, the credit goes to cinema halls from where I got accustomed to the habit of standing and singing the national anthem cordially.

If my memory does not betray, the first film in my life that I as an under teen watched with my parents in 1972 was Satyajit Roy's masterpiece Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne released in 1969. I can still see the colossal Rupkatha Cinema Hall -which recently became famous for Koushik Ganguly's award-winning film Cinemawala - packed with audience standing and singing the national anthem at their highest pitch with the national flag fluttering on the screen. The marvellous sight with live rendition influenced me a lot as a little boy, ingraining in me an immense affection for our national anthem.    

Hardly have I failed to attend the flag hoisting on Independence Day or Republic Day or on the birth anniversaries of Mahatma Gandhi and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose observed in our schools, colleges and now in the club premises of our locality. I cannot resist any chance of singing the national anthem with others; that way, it still remains an obsession. I know well, however, that people laugh behind my back as my enthusiasm for our anthem seems quite gaudy to them.

Above all, I can rightly boast of my accuracy with regard to the duration of the national anthem. Every time, I sing it in perfectly 52 seconds, thanks to my innumerable times of practice. But, when actor Amitabh Bachchan took more than 52 seconds to sing the venerated anthem before the India vs Pakistan T20 World Cup match in Kolkata on March 19, 2016, it vexed me so much that I shot a protest letter which was published in the 'Letters to the Editor' column of a daily.  

Of late, a question often stirs me. Why are only moviegoers targeted for singing the national anthem in cinema halls? Most single screen cinema halls are already contemplating composing their own dirge in view of golden days past. Unfortunately, many MPs and MLAs, who are supposed to be the merchants of patriotism, are often found fumbling when asked to sing our anthem. One should not forget that patriotism should be instinctive, not imperative and coerced.  

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