With patriotism being questioned, sedition being defined and slogans being the criteria for motherland loyalty, we may have a confused people in the country: My daughter, who stands at attention when the national anthem is played even on TV for the cricket team, stopped me at the door while I was leaving, “You can’t dress like this dad! Very unpatriotic!” she exclaimed pulling the tie of my neck, making me wince with pain.
“Whoa! Whoa!” I said, “I’ve been wearing that tie for decades!”
“So have the British!” she said firmly, “And they left India quite a few years ago, though I guess you don’t know that!”
“I guess it’s my designer shirt next right?” I asked.
“Only khadi!” she said firmly, “I’ve already ordered a spinning wheel online; should be here in a few hours! And in case you’re going to say you don’t know how to spin, it comes with instructions!”
“But I don’t want to spin yarn!” I said.
“Aren’t you spinning one everyday as a writer?” she asked and I saw the faint traces of a smile. “And what’s that bulge in your back pocket?”
“My wallet!” I said simply. “You aren’t saying it’s unpatriotic to carry money are you?”
“Dad!” said the daughter wearily, “Do you know what that wallet is made from? How could you be so cruel? Instead of protecting animals, you carry their poor hides on you? And you call yourself national?”
I pulled out my wallet and laid it on the table. My tie and my shirt stared back at me, and for the first time in my life I felt I had done my country wrong. “I’m sorry!” I said simply and started on my way back to my room.
“Where are you going?” the daughter asked sternly.
“It’s going to be difficult going to work without a shirt or my wallet,” I said simply, “And till the courier boy brings my spinning wheel, I have nothing to do!”
“Sow seeds for your motherland!” said my daughter sternly.
“What?” I asked.
“Are you refusing to call this your motherland?”
“No!” I whispered, as I took the packet of wheat and rice grain she gave me and walked out without my shirt to start work as a farmer in my own backyard.
“What are you doing?” asked my neighbour as he looked over the wall and saw me shirtless, tieless, and sweating as I tilled the soil and planted the seeds.
“Trying not be unIndian,” I said as I looked at my daughter fearfully. “And please don’t say anything funny, we don’t want to be booked for sedition do we?”