THE START of TIRANAG STORY.
2004, I resigned from Mudra and was all set to join Dainik Bhaskar at Mumbai. It was during that period a few of us decided to take an all-male trip to Naukuchital, Nainital. All of us were from Mudra; Arun Mahajan, Ajmer Singh, Maan Saab, Manoj Papneja and me. It was going to be my farewell trip with the gang.
We started in the morning of 14th August. As we had a delayed start and it was raining, it was late in the evening when we finally landed at ‘Kumaon Vikas Mandal‘ Guesthouse. It is right at the edge of Naukuchital.
It is a place you can fall in love at first sight. There were three rooms for us on the second floor, which was also the top floor. Thanks to Arun Mahajan’s ability to easily connect with people, we got an additional room. This room was under repair, but the sweet talker Arun managed the front-office to give it to us for our evening drinks. We were all set.
It was a perfect place to enjoy our drinks. There was a large majestic window opening out to a grad view of the lake and surrounding hills. This is where our bar was set.
We carried our stock from Delhi. The glasses were out in no time. The kitchen at the guest house was instructed to provide for mixed pakodaas and ensure they were served hot. The Bhaiya ( help), the helper-waiter all rolled into one was sent to the nearby market to get some nankeen. A 100 rupee note suddenly making everything happen.
We were sure that with the number of snacks being consuming, dinner was going to be unnecessary. Drinks were more important. I do not remember what time we went to sleep that night. But sure enough, we never asked for dinner to be served.
THE MORNING AFTER.
I was woken up in the morning with a hesitant polite knock at the door. I was irritated at being woken up early after the last night drinking. I opened the door to find it was the front-office manager. He was wearing starched white Kurta Pyjama. I was confused. Maybe there was some festival. I could see the faint hint of a forced smile on his otherwise un-welcoming face.
My first reaction was almost to close the door or ask him ‘Now what’. Then I realised that he was really smiling. Direct inference, there was nothing wrong.
He with hands folded in a namaskar mudra requested if I could come down and hoist the Tiranga. ‘National Flag Hoisting – Tiranga- me – why’. I was confused, but I was slowly coming back to reality when he explained. Sir, today is 15th August (How could I forget and that explained his kurta pyjama), and as you are the only guest in our hotel, we want you to do the national flag hoisting- Tiranga lahrangey sir’.
‘Oh, no, no, I can’t do that’.
For some unknown silly and till date unexplained reason, my refusal of his request was an almost involuntary response. I was just not interested. There was absolutely no reason for me to act in the way I did. It was not a standard request. I have never before been honoured with a request to hoist Tiranga.
I suggested that he could try with my friends in the other rooms. The reaction was no different. Every one of us behaved in the same way. The same set of people who buy the double taped plastic flags at traffic red light and put them on the dashboard of our cars, as a symbol of patriotic impressions did not want to hoist the national flag.
He moved from door to door. I dread to think, what he must have been thinking. However, Arun Mahajan jumped at the opportunity. He requested for five minutes to get ready and join them at the flag-hoisting site.
Arun soon joined the hotel staff at the lawns. He was wearing his white Kurta Pyjama. It looked as if was aware that such an opportunity to hoist the Tiranga may come his way.
Some more people from surrounding shops joined the guesthouse staff at the lawns. I remember, we stood at the big window on the upper floor looking at the activity and never thought of going down to join the assembled crowd. We were reluctant to leave the comfort of our rooms. And we call ourselves patriotic.
That year, Arun hoisted the Flag Hoisting at ‘Kumaon Vikas Mandal’ Guest House. He saluted the Tiranga and joined rest of the crowd in singing the national anthem. We on the balcony provided him with the encouragement he never needed.
IT CHANGED THE MOMENT THE NATIONAL ANTHEM STARTED.
Each of us had our own silly excuses for declining the opportunity to hoist Tiranga. Every one of the excuses was completely stupid and irrelevant. However, the moment the national anthem started, we stood up in attention to join them from the upper floor.
I know I was wrong.
There is no explanation or excuse for the behaviour.
Deep within me, it is something that I will never forget and forgive myself.
It was an opportunity and honour I missed. I am not sure if I will ever be again invited by complete strangers to hoist the flag.
Today, I am hopefully wiser. I am reasonably logical in my approach; the patriotic feeling is no longer dependent on the 26th January or 15th August to demonstrate. In fact, it is not something you can prove. It is not a ritual to complete. Whenever the Anthem is played anywhere including in the movie hall, or I can hear even a faint impression of it, I stand up in attention and sing it loud and clear.